This won’t be a smooth ride so get ready to hang on, steer, and use your brakes. Know there will be tears and disappointments which, though painful, will make you a stronger and wiser person. There will also be friendships, experiences, and accomplishments that you will cherish for a lifetime. There will be laughter, silliness, and creations you’ll feel proud of.

Oh, and there will be people to fall in love with. And you will fall in love, more than once, in the years to come.

So, before this happens, I thought I’d offer up a few hard-earned words of wisdom. When it comes to relationships and love, always remember:

01 NEVER PUT YOURSELF DOWN

When you are in a new relationship, or in the presence of someone you’d like to be in a relationship with, avoid pointing out personal insecurities or perceived flaws. Don’t hate on any part of yourself in front of them. Hold your head up, and use full eye-contact (no looking at the ground).
Reason being? If you want to attract someone who is respectful, you need to model what you expect from them. You do not expect to be talked down to, or to have negative things said to you or about you, right? So don’t talk down to or speak negatively about yourself. Of course, as time goes by, you should be able to share some of your more vulnerable stuff within your relationship, but not in the beginning.

*Note: When you have insecurities (and everyone does) talk them out with friends or family, instead.

02 DATE SOMEONE YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU’D DATE 

Go on, do it! Even if it only proves you were right, they weren’t the one for you. Spending time with someone really different than you means getting to view life (or at least a few experiences) from a new perspective. Going off your usual path helps you get to know yourself, which is what these years are all about. You can better discover who you are, and what you need, by spending time with different types of personalities and seeing how they impact you.

*Note: Every person you spend time with can teach you something. Keep your eyes open for what you can learn.

03 DON’T LOSE YOURSELF 

This happens when you become more a reflection of your partner than of the person you were when you met (i.e., You take on their style in fashion. You like the same movies, music, and sports. You may use the same words and sayings). Some of this is natural, but don’t forget to stay in tune with your own interests, too.

If you aren’t sure what your own interests are right now, make time to figure it out. Stay grounded in what makes you tick and what makes you, you. Anyone worth spending time with should be open to what you like and willing to invest time taking part in those things, as well. Relationships go both ways and should not be something that you simply go along with.

04 DON’T DITCH YOUR FRIENDS 

Even if you’re in a relationship and you are so loved-up you want to spend every waking hour together, don’t forget to prioritize your own friendships. Because, quite simply, life is
better when good people who get you surround you. In order to keep yourself surrounded by good people who get you, you need to treat people well and be there for them. This means, making time for your friends, no matter what.
*Note: Good friends should lift each other up, support each other’s goals, and have each other’s best interests at heart. Be sure these are the kinds of friends you have. Otherwise, move on and find new ones.

05 THE DECISION TO HAVE SEX, OR NOT, IS ALWAYS YOURS.

Whether to have sex or not is always your choice. When it happens, how it happens, if it stops partway through – your choice. If you change your mind before it begins or you want something different to happen during – your choice.
You are in charge of your body, no matter what the situation is. Choose to be intimate with people who respect you and whom you are comfortable with. Sex, with the right person, can be a positive thing. Sex with someone who lacks respect for you… is the opposite.
*Note: Be safe. (Every. Time.)

06 YOUR MISTAKES DON’T DEFINE YOU.

Now, remember: you will make mistakes when it comes to love, sex, and relationships. But know this: Those mistakes do not define who you are. Those whatwas-I-thinking choices can help you grow. Sometimes, life can feel really hard, and scary, and you will feel lost at times. But, you are never alone.
*Note: Your mistakes don’t define you, but they do help you better define what you want and need in the future.

Shannon Day is coauthor of the funny and heartwarming book/ martini guide ‘Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?!’