Growing up, I always thought that the person you're dating should be your best friend. I thought they should know absolutely everything about you, knowing you better than you know yourself. You knew you could always go to them about anything, no matter what it was, and they would be there for you and love you the same.

Unfortunately, sometimes that's not always the case. Sometimes an attempt at open communication only leads to yelling, shaming, and withholding.

I have a tendency to say how I'm feeling all the time, not really having boundaries about my private life and feelings. Part of that comes from my struggles with my mental health and wanting to talk about it to erase the stigma, and the other part of that comes from me just being an extrovert.

In my last relationship, this part of who I was became a burden to him. My feelings and the consequences of having spiraling mental health at the time only made him angry with me. I learned the hard way that I couldn't communicate openly with someone I had grown to love, someone I had thought I could always talk to about everything. I learned the hard way that this was no longer love, that this was no longer healthy.

It got to the point where I just shoved my feelings down inside me. I believed that everyone felt the way he did whenever I would open my mouth about things he didn't like or necessarily approve of. Instead of being the expressive person I was before, I became closed off, only opening up completely to one or two people I felt I could still trust.

Getting out of that relationship was like a breath of fresh air. I realized the toxicity of the way that I was being treated and how open communication became impossible. I realized I shouldn't have to be fearful of talking about how I feel or even just hanging out with friends due to the possibility of being yelled at for seemingly no reason again.

Now, I've learned what a healthy relationship is. When I was younger, I always thought my boyfriend would be my best friend and now he is. We talk about everything, and I know that if I'm feeling like my depression is acting up or if I get upset by something he did unintentionally, I can have a calm and genuine discussion with him. I don't have to tiptoe around my word choices to try to find a way to say how I feel without angering him.

I may get annoying, but he's never once yelled at me or shamed me for how or what I'm feeling. He treats every single thought and feeling I've ever had as if they are the most valid and important things he's ever heard of. He knows that talking about problems and feelings is important to me, and he makes sure that he communicates how he feels to me as well. We've created a safe and healthy environment with each other.

After my last relationship, I didn't really know what healthy love and communication were like anymore. I was very anxious the first time my boyfriend and I had a discussion about something that bothered me because I was afraid of being yelled at again. I thought that was just how people would treat me from that moment forward. He restored my faith in love, and he showed me that open communication is the most important thing a relationship can have. We are so strong and so in love, and a lot of that can be credited to how we talk to one another.

I finally got a boyfriend who respects open communication and it truly changed my entire perspective on dating. I learned that if a relationship doesn't feel like a safe place where you can talk about anything and everything to your best friend, it's not a healthy relationship like you think it is.