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Love. It’s one of those confusing things that you learn more about with time and experience; and then even still, you never truly understand its capacity or complexity. Most of the things I have learned about love are things that older people forewarned me about when I was too young to even care. However, if I knew then what I know now, I would have taken those pieces of advice just a bit more serious.

My aunt always tells me to “let a man be a man.” Until recently, these words just sounded like a cliché phrase that she’d heard from an old Motown record. Now after all these years, I finally get it. Men and women are uniquely different. And those I-don’t-quite-get-it characteristics that most men are made of, are things  women have to learn to just embrace and not try to change as one of our makeover projects.

If he wants to pay, but you think he’s been spending too much money, just let him pay. If he’s too prideful to ask a friend or relative for help, don’t try to force him to do it. What I have learned from my aunt is that you save yourself a lot of trouble, fussing and fighting by often letting him take the lead, and simply by letting him be a man. And no, cheating is not included in this idea of “letting a man be a man”…but that’s an entirely different topic.

Still, it leads me to something else I have learned about love from one of my elders. This is actually something that is applicable in all aspects of life. You train people on how to treat you. While I would love to think that all men were born gentlemen and just know how to treat women, it’s simply not true. Still, even a bad man can treat you right if you show him how, and even a good man can treat you like a character out of a Terry McMillan book if you allow him to.

While it’s important to demand respect from your significant other, you shouldn’t have to be loud or argumentative to receive it. My mother has always taught me that it’s important to choose battles wisely. She says this is especially important in relationships. She and many other married couples I’ve spoken with have expressed that the art of compromise helps them sort out many issues when it comes to relationships. As a woman who loves to have the last word and is usually adamant about getting my point across, I have learned that compromise is essential to a healthy relationship. Ultimately, it boils down to simply choosing battles more carefully.

I could go on and on about the many things I’ve heard and learned from more ‘seasoned’ women; but my best lessons have all been through experience. Until you experience love for yourself, all the lessons that you have heard about merely serve as words. Yet and still, once I finally experienced love, I was able to apply those things I had learned from my elders to prevent myself from making the same mistakes over and over.

There is no custom set of rules for every relationship, but as you grow in yours, try to take heed of the advice offered by those who have ‘been there and done that’. Hopefully, this can save you from some heartache and bad decisions; but ultimately our best lessons will come from our own experiences, which we can eventually pass on to our own daughters and sisters.

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