I’ve been thinking about how strange dating is in the 21st century. Forgive me if it seems old-fashioned or even irrelevant to your generation, but I love you and want to share some thoughts that have kept me up all night.
Relationship advice for my beautiful daughters:
- Step away from the smartphone: There is something wrong when middle-schoolers are broken-up with on Facebook or Twitter, and twenty-somethings have relationships that move forward, or not, via social networking. I realize that communication happens virtually these days, but I would suggest that even if it starts there, the next step should involve unplugging Take a walk. Share a meal. Go bowling. Or dancing. Do a crossword puzzle together. Allow for nature to take its course. Disconnect in order to connect.
- Laughter is no joke: I have said many times that I married your father because he made me laugh, and he married me because I laughed. Of course there was more to it than that, but our combined senses of humor, I believe, has been one of the major strengths of our relationship. Marriage (life!) can be hard. Find a reason to laugh every day. Your grandmother used to say that it is possible to be a smart person who is not funny, but it is NOT possible to be a funny person who is not smart. Funny people look at the world differently, and sometimes the situation desperately calls for that. So find a guy who makes you laugh- and make him laugh too. (Momedy!)
- Perform the “door test” …or something like it, on him: Evidently, in A Bronx Tale, Chazz Palminteri’s character claims that any girl worth a second date must pass the door test: walk up to the passenger side of your locked car, unlock the door and let her in. Walk around to your side- if she does not lean over and unlock your door for you, she is selfish and not worth a second date. (Don’t quote me on this, as I haven’t seen the movie). Do not settle for a guy who thinks only of himself. You deserve someone who finds happiness in making you happy, and finds pleasure in giving you pleasure. Doesn’t matter if we are talking about sex, where to go on vacation, or how you like your coffee. Pay attention to this. You are worth it.
- Maintain your “shoes-off” self: In my early years, I often allowed my relationships to take over my life. Before long, I was spending time doing things that did not involve my choices at all. Of course, those relationships were doomed to fail. Healthy relationships involve being honest with your “shoes-off” self. I learned this term in my thirties, when I needed to find a second career and went for career counseling. I was given a test and told to take it in my “shoes off” self: that is, rather than being concerned about what the “right” answer was, I should be completely honest about the way that I felt. When your shoes are off, you are comfortable, and at home. When you are honest with yourself, and only then, can you have a healthy relationship.
- Spend time with your friends: Just as you maintain your sense of self, it is important that you spend time maintaining your friendships. Sometimes that means everyone hanging out together, and sometimes that means you taking time to go off with your friends. You need to remember to nurture those relationships, as you will share different parts of yourself with your friends, and they with you. That is not to say that it is always easy to follow this advice: geographical changes can get in the way, and people can change as well. We moved, which made it harder to see old friends. Political differences and family values sometimes changed relationships too. The point, though, is to always be aware of the part of you that needs girl talk.
- Keep learning and foster respect: Interested people are interesting people. Keep moving forward. After my first career, I stayed home with my girls (something that I would not have traded for the world), but I knew it was time for me to figure out my next step once you were both in school. This was something that your father supported. In fact, it really wasn’t just that he supported it- it seemed to him that nature was taking its course: He was, after all, raised by your grandmother, a career woman before that term was coined! I often say that daddy is a feminist because of osmosis: he grew up with your grandmother, so he expects all women to be smart, strong and successful. Find a guy who respects women.
- Practice all of the above, but add compromise and patience: As mentioned above, marriage (life!) is hard. Having a loving partner is a wonderful thing, but compromise will be needed. Sometimes he will need understanding and tender loving care, and sometimes you will. Career, family, financial and health issues arise, and it is sometimes hard work to keep it together. Together, though, is the key word. When asked what was the secret to her long marriage, George Harrison’s wife replied, ”Don’t get divorced”. That’s a funny lady. As for patience, there is no telling when the right thing will happen for you. I know in my heart that it will, though. You are both so young, and I am so proud of how you are living your lives. You are already following much of the advice listed above- on your own- because you both have self-respect, and for that I am so very thankful. When dad and I started dating, I had recently gotten out of a long-term relationship that had hurt me deeply, and I was insistent that I wanted to “play the field”. We agreed to date as long as we were “on the local” as opposed to “the express” train. Before long, though, we were on the express. We were young when we married, probably too young, but I knew in my heart that he was loyal and solid: the real thing. (and, interestingly, very different from everyone I had dated up until then!)
Ours is not a perfect marriage. I don’t know if there is such a thing. I love him with all my heart, though, and he is my soul mate. As I once said to your friends, when I pull into the driveway and see his car is there, I smile because I am happy that he is home. Your father and I are proud of the hard work we have put in together, and of the family that we made. We want the same for our daughters.
Much love, Mom
p.s. oh yeah, and if all else fails, marry an optimist. Even when the chips are down, your father sees the silver lining: “The sun is coming out girls, I can see it.”
[Today’s mom is mother to two 20-something daughters, including QLC contributor Maggie. She resides in New England with her husband and by day is a high school librarian.]