Love is not like the movies, until it is.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns 20-years-old this week, and despite all the vampires and demons and angels and witches and terrible 90s outfits, it provided us with some solid lessons on love.
Growing up watching the show, I was heavily invested in the Xander and Willow (#Willander) relationship. Why did Xander keep messing things up with Willow? They clearly loved each other. Why couldn’t they be together?
I had a very similar “will they, won’t they” situation of my own, titled My Sophomore Year of High School. It was a mess and it ended terribly. Now, I wish I could go back and shake 15-year-old me to my senses. I wish I could travel back and time and give myself this article. My high school years would’ve been much more fun.
Here are the 7 lessons on relationships I learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I wish I had back then. Let’s take a stroll down Sunnydale lane. (Warning: major spoilers ahead.)
1. Your first love will be a confusing melodramatic mess.
Let’s face it. Your first love is doomed from the start. Sometimes literally.
A vampire and a vampire slayer in love. In theory, very romantic. In practice, an absolute disaster.
We’ve all started up a thing with a guy you knew would end badly. The high of the relationship makes you skip past all the problems areas and you convince yourself that you’re in love. You ignore the complications and arguments and the fact that your boyfriend is a demon from hell, because you’ll make it work.
No matter how much you love each other, you can’t always get your happy ending. Love is more than just a gut feeling. It’s logistics. It’s work. It’s making sure your virginity won’t reverse a curse a witch placed on your boyfriend a millennia ago that turns him evil the second he climaxes, who then rushes off to kill your high school teacher, leaving you to hunt him down and literally stab him through the heart.
The warning signs were all there. Next time, make sure you really think things through.
2. She’s just not that into you.
Pining is so 1997.
Trust me, it never works. Xander pined after Buffy. Willow pined after Xander. If the chemistry isn’t mutual, don’t even bother. You can’t force it. 9/10, that guy who rejected you won’t wake up one day and decide to be the love of your life. You’ll just end up with a lot of heartache and angst.
Just look how that worked out for Spike. More on that later…
3. Don’t settle.
Oh Riley. Riley, Riley, Riley.
As Buffy moved on from the insanity that was her relationship with Angel and entered her freshman year in college, she wanted a fresh start and sought someone “normal.” Riley was supposed to be her anti-Angel, straightforward and complication-free, but he turned out to be just the worst.
Riley was cute I guess, but that was it. Besides his double life as a military agent who captured monsters, I honestly don’t remember a thing about him. After he had to reenter society as a citizen, he became so dull that even he couldn’t live with himself and had to go shoot up with vampire blood to feel “good enough” for Buffy.
Buffy was comfortable with Riley. The passion she shared with Angel was missing, but she convinced herself that she loved him. They weren’t meant to be.
Don’t waste your time with someone who is okay for now. Buffy obviously deserved better. Riley deserved better. The audience watching at home deserved better. And you deserve better.
4. Relationships aren’t always going to be easy.
You have to work through it the rough spots. You can’t hide from them.
When Willow and Tara began to experience some turbulence, Willow used magic to will their problems away. Obviously, we can’t go around erasing people’s memories, but it’s super common to avoid your problems and hope your issues just disappear.
It doesn’t work. You have to face the problems in your relationship head on, even when it sucks. Especially when it sucks. It’ll save you a lot of anxiety. And if the relationship ends, it’ll save you a lot more heartache.
5. Codependency isn’t healthy.
“I’ll die for you” isn’t cute.
It’s lowkey abusive. No one should tolerate a significant other who relies on their partner for every single shred of happiness in their life.
I’ll admit, Spike is hot af. But there’s this thing called a life, and Spike just could not get one. Admittedly, part of the blame was Buffy, but Spike jumped down that rabbit hole and couldn’t climb out.
Spike did, in fact, end up dying for her.
6. It’s okay to be single and figure your shit out.
If you don’t know what you want after a relationship, take some time to be alone.
Sit on your couch! Watch Netflix! Sleep around! Take some cooking classes! Join a dodgeball league! Remember what makes you happy, and go after it.
Don’t let someone else be your key to happiness yourself. You have to find it for yourself.
7. Friends can get you through anything.
Relationships come and go, but friends are for life.
Willow, Xander, and Buffy are a friendship for the ages. They fought with each other and next to each other, but they always had each other’s backs. Throughout all of the drama, the gang will always be there.
At least until someone has a kid…