Growing up, I had a clear idea of what I thought high school would be like. A close group of friends, hard but rewarding classes, fun teachers and, of course, a cute boyfriend to serve as the cherry on top of this proverbial “perfect life” sundae. Yet, my life was never quite like what I imagined, because throughout high school I never experienced the plot line of every high school movie ever — a relationship. This isn’t to say I was totally anti-dating. I did go on dates with guys, but I never truly felt the need to move into a relationship, and after a couple of dates I would always call it off. This was just the routine that I felt most comfortable in, and I learned some really valuable things from it.
1. How to have fun on my own.
Now this might sound really sad, but it was one of the most valuable lessons I learned from not having a long-term committed relationship in high school. I am a very social person. I would always much rather be hanging out with friends than spending time alone, but that wasn’t always possible when most of my friends had boyfriends. So, I had to learn how to enjoy my alone time, and really find value in not always having to worry about someone else.
2. How to know when a relationship isn’t working.
There’s something really valuable about watching a relationship from the outside. I have listened to my friends complain as they sacrificed parts of themselves to maintain their relationships, blinded by their feelings for a person. I have been able to watch their experience without my emotions attached, and I’ve learned how to pick my battles, and simply when to realize the relationship is not worth it anymore. These are lessons I will be sure to take into future relationships, and ones I'm not sure I would have learned without my objective view.
3. How to balance friendships and a relationship.
This point might sound counter intuitive, but I truly believe that by not being in a relationship I’ve learned how to balance one with my friendships. I have spent all of high school being single while dealing with friends in relationships. This means that I am very aware of how easily one can abandon a friendship for a short-term relationship. So, whenever I begin to casually date a guy, I am really insistent on still maintaining a lot of time for friends. I know that because of this awareness I will continue to prioritize my other friendships when I enter into a serious relationship.
4. How to put myself first.
A lot of my friends used their boyfriends as a kind of emotional crutch, and I never had the opportunity. This means that I’ve had to learn how to truly care for myself more, and I've benefited immensely from that. I take a lot of joy in being independent. While there is nothing wrong at all with leaning on other people, I am proud of the fact that I know I can emotionally care for myself. It gives me a sense of security in my mental health, which is essential going into such an academically stressful time like college.
5. How to be fiscally responsible.
In heterosexual relationships in our society, the male is usually pressured to pay for dates. Even my female friends who try to split the cost find that they often end up saving money on things that their significant other will buy them, whether it be because the waitstaff gives the check to the male, or the male feels pressured to buy the female gifts. Because I pay for everything myself, I have had to learn how to save what I earn more than my friends in relationships had to. And, being fiscally responsible is an extremely useful skill going into the next four years as an unemployed college student.
While a lot of people might find it weird not to have had a boyfriend throughout high school, I am happy to have just casually dated and focused more on my friends and myself. I learned so many things not only about myself, but about how to manage my life when I do decide to enter into a relationship. Even though little-me’s hopes of the movie-perfect high-school experience weren’t spot on, the decision to only casual date was the right one for me.
Lead Image Credit: The Walt Disney Company