This isn’t a letter sugar-coating today’s idea of a relationship. This isn’t a letter trying to convince you to believe in God. This isn’t a letter about feminism nor is it from a feminist perspective. This isn’t a letter meant to place unattainable expectations on today’s men in a relationship.

Let’s be honest: This generation’s idea of a relationship can be pretty pathetic. However, not all relationships are detrimental. Mine just happened to be. This is simply a letter of empowerment, from one female to another, filled with important reminders we may forget to apply in our life; maybe because we’re the type to tolerate more than we should from others in fear of losing them altogether.

But what we should be more afraid of losing as a consequence is ourself. I am a survivor of a toxic relationship, and you can be, too. These are the words I wish I had been given as advice before I engaged in my first serious relationship. I can’t help but think I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I did if I’d had this advice and applied it.

Love has no rule book. Love has no instruction manual. As hard as it is to accept, love is either a hit or a miss. However, the cracks it can leave on your heart are permanent. From one female to another, here are thirteen empowering reminders to cling to on your journey to finding love. Write them down. Hang them up above your desk. Hold them accountable.

1. Until a toxic man heals himself, he will be toxic to every woman who tries to love him.

As hard as it is to hear, you cannot change someone who does not see an issue in their actions. A man will not act right unless he wants to. Do not lose sleep over things out of your control or jurisdiction. Leaving him could be his greatest lesson and his greatest loss. Remember: God is the only one who can change somebody. This, I can promise: Leave this in His hands, and your anxieties will wither away.

2. A real man will not deprive you.

He is not the one for you if he doesn’t take your relationship needs or wants into consideration. We, as females, need reassurance and validation. This is not an unrealistic demand but rather it should be a more natural desire to do things for somebody. What you ask for will be  ‘too much’ from the wrong person. The right man will go above and beyond and will swallow his pride without you having to ask.

Reciprocation is also fundamental. You should never have to guess or wonder how he feels about you. Failure to see a reciprocation in feelings or behavior unless asked for is a red flag. A real man will show you off – in public, on social media, in front of his friends, in front of his family, and not because he feels obligated, not because he’s trying to prove a point, but because he genuinely wants to.

The man for you is the one who is extremely proud to have you and broadcasts it to the world. Be with the man who randomly compliments you and never fails to remind you how beautiful you are and how lucky of a man he is. The man for you will be in disbelief  he has the honor to call you his.

3. You should not have to change who you are to please somebody.

You are never ‘too much’; your ‘extra’ qualities for one man is another man’s desire for more. Love is not someone trying to change you, whether that be how you look, your personality, your behavior, or your beliefs. The only thing he should pursue  to change is your last name. He should take you exactly how you are, because you are perfect, one-of-a-kind, unmatched, and authentic.

If you want to dress up and wear makeup for yourself today, DO IT. Do not let a man make you feel bad about looking like a ten, even if he’s not around to see it. Remember: Nobody can do you better than you can. If you do feel the desire to work on yourself or see room for self-improvement, a real man will be nothing less than supportive of that.

4. You are worth more than any dollar amount.

You are ENOUGH. Do not give anyone else the power to determine your worth. Just because someone else does not recognize your value does not mean you are any less desirable. If he makes you feel unworthy of love or happiness, he is not the one. Your kindness, commitment to him and unconditional love should not be labeled as weakness and should not be taken advantage of. After giving your all to someone who may not have deserved it, just imagine what you’ll do for the right one.

 

Woman in nature holding a branch

5. You deserve commitment.

Stop making excuses for a man who will not commit to you. A man who wants you will pursue you at full force. A boy is wishy-washy. A man knows what he wants and is not indecisive. There are too many fish in the sea to settle for the one who doesn’t seek to love you correctly. Do not lose sleep over someone who has to figure out if you’re worth it or not. Indecision is also a decision.

Involving yourself with someone without a title yields more emotional destruction than improvement. Do not award someone boyfriend privileges when he is not fully committed to you. A real man will not play with your feelings like it’s a game and will not entertain any other woman who isn’t you. A man who wants you will work to understand every intimate detail of your mind, body, and soul.

Remember: One man’s, “I’m not ready to commit” is another man’s, “She’s exactly who I’ve been praying for.”

6. You should not feel manipulated or controlled.

If he makes you feel at fault for all of your relationship problems, he is not the one for you. If he frequently plays the ‘victim’ card, this is a major indication you are dealing with a toxic man. You are not there to absorb the blame for every fallout. Similarly, believe this: The right man for you will not use your past faults against you, especially those obstacles you have fought so hard to overcome.

Be with the guy who will stick around during the hard times, too, and will mutually work through relationship issues that may arise. Threats to end or leave the relationship are signs of manipulation, and nonetheless are childish. The man for you will not make you feel like there was ‘something more you could’ve done’ for your relationship. In addition, your significant other should not expect you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with and then make you feel bad for it. Do not let a man exploit you in this fashion.

Real men are patient. With a real man, you will feel trusted. He will take your word for it the first time, and your truth will not be a foreign concept. You will not feel afraid to go to him with anything or talk about what’s on your mind, fearing how he’ll respond. This is a trait I think all females yearn for. Most importantly, do not ever let a man convince you that you need him. Do not place the power to walk all over you in someone’s hands.

7. Do not settle for less than you deserve.

You deserve the world and are worthy of being treated like a queen. Choose to be the rare woman in today’s society who is brave enough not to settle for just any relationship, but who seeks the relationship God has reserved for her. Treasure your heart, mind, and body. Be unwilling to so easily give those valuables away until someone more than proves they are worthy of it.

Be strong enough to refrain from giving someone your all until you’re receiving their all. Most importantly, do not settle for less than you deserve just because you fear nothing better is to come in the future. Life is precious, and your time is precious. Do not waste it on someone who does not value you. You are not mediocre, so do not let a man treat you like he treats everybody else.

8. You should feel cherished.

With the right man, you will not have to fight for his time or attention. You will not have to chase after him like he’s a celebrity who barely has time for a fan. You will not feel in competition with other women. Your presence will not be a bother. You will not feel neglected or placed on the back burner. You will not feel average or replaceable. Your efforts will be noticed, appreciated, and reciprocated.

 

Man kissing smiling woman on the cheek

9. Be patient.

One day, maybe not today, everything will work out. Patience is a powerful virtue. One day, God will gift you with someone who gives you everything you’d prayed for in your other half. Choose the guy who is husband material. Be with the man who prays he crosses paths with a woman like you. Seek relationships with long-term goals in mind.

Do not stick with someone just because they’re there. Be selective with who you choose to form an intimate bond with. If you are unhappy now in your relationship, just imagine how unhappy you’ll be 10 or 20 years from now, in a marriage. You are young, with your whole life ahead of you. This time should be dedicated to exploring and discovering the kind of man you desire to be with for the rest of your life. Take out the trash when need be.

See also: Stay Single Until You Meet A Guy Like This

10. Be aware and be honest with yourself.

Do not give chances away like freebies. Allotting a male chance after chance only validates his behavior. He will only hurt you again, whether emotionally, mentally, or physically. Do not let love blind you or fall in love with a man’s language or rhetoric. Hold him accountable by his actions only. Hypocritical men scream of toxicity.

This will only result in emotional anxiety that holds no place in your life. Loving someone is not a free pass to overlook their bad qualities or red flags in the relationship. Be with the man who has good intentions for you. If he doesn’t, accept it for what it is and remove yourself from the equation.

You must respect and love yourself enough to save your emotions and energy for someone who will treat you like the queen you are. The difference between infatuation and a real connection is important to recognize. A real connection will offer endless benefits. Attachment will suck the life out of you.

11. Progress in your relationship and within yourself is crucial.

You should not feel like you’re forcing love or the relationship. A relationship is an investment, meaning it should grow and flourish naturally. Your time and energy are precious. Stagnation in a relationship is a red flag you’re being taken advantage of. Do not stick around for someone who does not offer mutual feelings or does not hold the same, healthy vision for your relationship.

12. You deserve to be supported.

If he does not support your goals and aspirations, whether he agrees with them or not, he is not the one. The man for you will be your biggest fan, will hold you accountable in all aspects, will encourage and inspire your self-growth, and will lead you towards self righteousness, NOT immoral behavior.

In a healthy relationship, you as an individual will artlessly grow and prosper. An unhealthy relationship will hold you back, in many aspects. If you notice yourself withdrawing from other relationships, hobbies, or responsibilities, just to keep him happy, do not ignore this red flag. This is a characteristic of a controlling individual. Do not stay in a relationship where you feel you are being held back. Being in a relationship does not mean you no longer have freedom or autonomy.

13. Your happiness matters, too.

Do not sacrifice your happiness for someone else’s. The right relationship will not cost you friends, family, space, things you love to do, prosperity, or opportunity. Choose yourself. Every single time. Self-love should be at the top of your priority list. One of the most dangerous choices you can make is placing your happiness into the hands of a significant other.

Do not drain yourself trying to make happy someone who does not return the favor. If he is happy, but you are not, do not ignore this red flag. Your happiness matters just as much as his. A real man will not let you go to sleep at night wondering if you still matter or hold a place in his life. If he makes you cry more than laugh, he is not husband material.

If he is the first one you run to with good news or to talk to about your day, yet will respond in a pessimistic manner that makes you feel undeserving of feeling happy, he is not husband material. Believe this: A man who leads you to happiness instead of steals it, is always worth the wait.

You deserve more than the bare minimum in a relationship. Having high standards does not make you high maintenance. Make the decision to refuse to place yourself lower than the highest pedestal. Today, choose you and invest in yourself. Tomorrow, choose you and invest in yourself. And watch the profits multiply.

by Rachel L. Johnson