This is one post that’s NOT about my son…yet.
I have a wonderful friend who has a seventeen year-old daughter – and if that isn’t enough to scare you away from reading this post, then this should be – she’s involved in her first real relationship with a young man. Whew…I knew this kid when she was three.
Romantic love is a complicated thing. We wish it wasn’t, but it is. There’s so much more wrapped up in that bouquet of flowers than a bunch of roses and teenagers aren’t particularly adept at understanding that (hell, neither are most adults!). But it got me thinking about relationships and what’s super important in them and I’d like to pass along this advice to her and, eventually, to my son (but not in the near future…we have PLENTY of time for that).
Be yourself…and wait for someone to love YOU, for YOU (even the parts that aren’t so nice) – Many years ago, a therapist that I was seeing asked me to re-read the children’s classic, “The Velveteen Rabbit.” This is a story about being real. About loving, and being loved, when all the not-so-nice parts of yourself have been exposed. This is probably the best relationship advice I’ve ever received – because it’s true. I’m sure you remember falling in love with someone – you saw only the good parts; physical attraction, those things you had in common, maybe a great sense of humor, career success, or charm – and it was great. You put that person on a pedestal – they were flawless. But then reality sets in. Maybe you’re insecure, maybe he’s been wounded. When you reveal yourself to someone – the good, the bad, and the ugly, and are accepted unconditionally, that’s LOVE.
Trust is everything – Trust is the foundation on which everything is built – if you value the relationship, honesty will be a priority because once trust is broken, it’s incredibly hard to rebuild. Dishonesty, in any form, is sure to destroy any relationship (friends, romantic, or family). Think deeply before betraying any trust.
Love does not hurt – Abuse, physical or emotional, must never be part of any relationship. It must never be tolerated – that is not love. If you feel that you’ve being degraded, hurt, or, physically in danger, leave immediately.
Honor your other relationships – I realize that sometimes, when you fall in love, you want to create a little cocoon that envelops just the two of you. Even though you may want to spend every waking moment with that person, it’s essential to honor your friendships and your family and maintain those all-important relationships. No one person can be everything to another.
Be Patient – Patience, probably the most underrated of all virtues, is essential to a relationship. Tolerating things that might drive you crazy (like leaving the cap off the toothpaste or forgetting to put the milk back into the refrigerator) is all part of accepting each other’s limitations as humans – and we are all human, after all.
Keeping score is for baseball games – Who cares who emptied the dishwasher or ate the last Oreo. Sometimes one person picks up the slack in the relationship while the other person has the opportunity to soar. The joy is in having each other’s back – your turn will come.
It’s ok to be angry – It’s healthy to be angry – and to express your anger in a safe environment (see TRUST). If you have trust, patience, and aren’t keeping score, it feels safe to express your anger, hurt, or whatever emotion you are experiencing and be received in a loving, non-judgemental way. This takes time and practice, but can be so fulfilling in a true partnership.
I’m sure there are gobs of other good relationship advice to be imparted, but this is what I have for now…what advice would you give your child about romantic relationships?