I wish I had known that my relationship status has nothing to do with my personal worth. When I was a teenager, I spent so much emotional energy thinking that I needed a boyfriend to feel confident. But it turns out you need to love yourself before someone else can reciprocate.
My short, unpleasant first marriage taught me that there’s no need to rush things. My ex-husband and I knew each other for just seven months before we tied the knot. If we had waited longer, I doubt we would have said, “I do.” Fortunately I’m now with someone who is patient. We dated for 2½ years before getting engaged, and we’re waiting another 2½ years before walking down the aisle.
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self that love is not going to come in the package that you’re expecting. For ages I was set on finding a tall, handsome man who liked to salsa dance and to listen to Spanish music. But as soon as I let go of these shallow desires, I met a man who makes me feel safe, puts me first, and often surprises me with romantic gestures. He doesn’t speak a word of Spanish and prefers country music, but I couldn’t love him more.
Huntington Beach, California
In my early 20s, I spent night after night questioning whether the person I was dating truly cared for me. But after I met my future husband, I learned that when someone loves you, you never wonder if he does. You just know.
Las Vegas, Nevada
A loving relationship gives you strength—even after it’s over. When I found out my husband had died in a car accident, I thought I was going to die myself. But 16 years later, I am still here. I haven’t remarried, but I am raising our son and passing down to him the love that my husband and I shared.
Lucy E. Garcia