That resonates with me, I grew up being the awkward, angsty and extremely closed off girl with barely any romantic or sexual experience and at my age I know I might be considered behind by societal standards but why should that be a concern for me? I'm in a long distance relationship with an amazing guy and it's worth all the years of emptiness or pain. I know my future is with him. It's worth all of my current struggles too.
Some things to remember, I'm no expert but I'll share my point of view:
1- Agreeing on 'don't enter a relationship for the sake of it if you're not looking for something casual' because it's only going to break your heart and harden your shell. Not to mention that it might make you feel empty and not understood, as if you were living a lie and both of you were just tied with a shallow knot. Love can grow with time, even from nothing, but expecting it to happen regardless of the situation is a failure in the making.
2- Appreciate your alone time and your independence, you're not less of a person simply because you don't have a romantic partner to share your daily adventures with. Make sure that being single doesn't translate to desperation or an inferiority complex because you're only doing yourself a disservice by numbing who you are and what you could express through your own interests just because you're placing your own happiness in the hands of others.
3- There's no right age to do things. You can be a virgin at 26 or not one at 14 and it's a personal choice, it's all about your own life experience and all the little steps that took you there and no one can ever take this away from you. People will always find something to criticize, to apply ignorant and unfounded 'red flags' on you simply because your life doesn't match their expectations so don't concern yourself with them and be who you are.
4- I know about insecurity, I know about fear of rejection, I know about feeling like a constant bother and feeling choked by enormity of your own flaws. Even more so when it's the result of trauma or of a lifetime of self-conscious shyness. But you are a person with a lot to offer and you're special because no one else shares that unique set of traits that you posses; it's hard to believe, it's hard to get over but a person who truly loves you will help you walk through the shadows and appreciate those quirks and neurosis that make you, you.
5- Don't fixate on an ideal, knowing what you want is good but life is full of surprises. You might find that the one who you want to share a lifetime with is not necessarily the person you expected it to be or maybe it is but there are obstacles in the way since life is not a romcom or a book by Nicholas Sparks. Limerence makes more harm than good because the key to a successful relationship is knowing that your lover is an imperfect person and that things sometimes aren't smooth or straight up daydreams and yet you don't mind. You love them the way you are and traits that would annoy you in others are something that makes you feel even closer to them.
6- Keep communication open and honest. I know it's hard to be straightforward about feelings and moods, that sharing that kind of intimacy makes you emotionally vulnerable and that often most of those things are just in your head. But nothing will make you feel better than having someone who always tries to understands you deeply and helps you grow without wanting to change you or criticizing your beliefs without any good reason. To love someone is to understand and support them, as well as being passionate about each other and deeply connected.
7- Love should never be a chore, if you don't feel like you can be yourself around them, if you don't feel like what you have is worth fighting for, if you can't envision a future with them, then perhaps there are issues to be discussed and this is not the right person for you. But at the same time, don't expect everything to be easy because nothing worthwhile in life is ever given away on a silver platter. All relationships have dry stages, some might have rocky times, breakups or pauses but if you both genuinely love each other, you'll be able to identify and learn from your own mistakes, explore your boundaries, look for new solutions and genuinely slide back into passion, respect and commitment as improved human beings without losing your individuality.
8- Respect each other's needs, space and interests. As much as you love them, you don't have to see the world the same way, spend all of your free time together or share the same friends and hobbies. To love someone is to trust them and to respect their boundaries as well as finding a compromise when your needs and their own are going in opposite directions. I can understand the temptation of wanting to be with them often, even more so in the honeymoon stage or in a LDR (I'm guilty too) but once you practice my second point and develop your own self and your own interests, things become much easier. You both live different lives with different points of view and past experiences and yet you're bonded together by love, future plans, intimacy, passion, mutual understanding and chemistry, how beautiful is that?
9- Compatibility. Sometimes as strong as the chemistry can be and no matter how romantically appealing the idea of complete opposites is, you simply have contrasting expectations that cannot be bridged. If one of you wants kids and a stable, monogamous suburban life while the other wants to travel the world and practice polyamory perhaps this is not a good match. Neither party should sacrifice their own values unless it's a personal and willing choice.
10- Listen to your true feelings, they don't lie to you.
When you find true love and everything feels just right and free from any idealizations, you'll know.