I have friends and family that are in just about every stage of a relationship possible. Although I am single, I seem to be the one that my friends and family talk to about their relationships. Sometimes they ask me for advice or need to vent, but sometimes it's just to share. Sometimes it's girlfriends, but there are also guy friends that seek me out. I am by no means a relationship expert. Some would say the fact that I'm not in one now and haven't been in one for years proves that I don't know anything about relationships. That may be true. But it doesn't change the fact that people come to me often.
I've been thinking about this for a couple of days now and a few ideas have been swirling around in my head. No one ever really teaches us how to have a good relationship. Most of us try to learn by example or learn from trial and error. If you are a child of divorce like myself then learning by example can be difficult. Not that my mother doesn't know how to have a good relationship. It just took her three tries to get it right.
The impetus for those swirling ideas came from a young friend's request for a "guide" to relationships. I laughed at first. Who was I to give anyone advice about anything? Especially considering the mess that my life seems to constantly be in. Then that young friend reminded me that of all the people he knew, I was the happiest. I can't take complete credit for that. I'm genetically perky. Although I'm not sure how that is possible since neither of my parents are of the particularly perky variety. Nevertheless, I am decidedly perky. But I am also happy most of the time.
So in an effort to help some of my friends, I thought I could at least give it some thought. Maybe mention a few guidelines. The kind of things that you think everyone should already know and probably do, but maybe they don't give them the kind of thought they deserve.
I wasn't going to number this list like it was some sort of school lesson, but I honestly do believe that communication is the number one rule/guideline/requirement for any relationship. And by "any" I do mean any, not just dating or marriage. While there are some people in this world that are blessed with the ability to read people's thoughts or emotions, chances are you are not in a relationship with one who is. Don't make them guess because this isn't a game. Your heart is not a prize on Jeopardy. If you feel strongly enough about something to talk to your girlfriends or you guy friends about it, then you need to share that with the one you love. Don't assume they know you well enough to know how you feel. Often that is not the case. Now that doesn't mean they don't love you. It just means they are not psychic or empathic. The reverse side of that is you should encourage them to come to you and do the same.
I know that one seems like a given, but you'd be surprised. Don't say things are all right if they aren't. Don't pretend you're fine if you're not. If something bothers you, speak up. If something inspires you, speak up. If something excites you, speak up. And if you don't know what is wrong then be honest about that too. Humans are very complex creatures. Our emotions/feelings/moods are often connected to our physical states. Sometimes just being hungry can put you in a bad mood. And almost any woman out there can tell you that sometimes being angry/upset/sad can make you think you're hungry. So be aware of what is going on in your mind, body, soul, and environment. It's all connected. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with your loved ones. Heck, be honest with everyone you know. It just makes like easier.
The Golden Rule DOES apply to life after kindergarten or Sunday school. Be aware of what you say and how you treat others. Ask yourself how you would feel is someone said or did that to you. If you would have a negative response then chances are they would too. This should apply to everyone that you encounter in your life, but especially to those you love. If you love them enough to want to protect them then make sure you protect them from yourself as well. And if they love you then they should do the same for you. If you're not sure how you and your loved one are doing in that area, your friends might be able to give you a clue. If they think he/she is the best thing that ever happened to you and that you're lucky then chances are it's true. You should treat them as if that is true. If your friends think that your loved one doesn't treat you well then you might need to take a closer look at how much respect they are giving you. You should never allow someone to give you less respect than you deserve. No one is put on this Earth to be subservient to anyone. Don't ever let anyone make you feel like you are.
4. Love and affection.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to share how you feel about someone as often as you can. Say it often. Show it often. This is the area that my guy friends ask me for advice in the most. I hear from friends of both sexes that the opposite sex is either too simple or too hard to figure out. Here's the thing people, everyone is different. I know some guys that are extremely easy to please and I know some that you couldn't please with every resource in the world open to you. And I know just as many women in both categories. But most of us are somewhere in the middle. Knowing the person you love is the key to pleasing them. Don't do things with or for them that will make you happy. Do things with or for them that will make them happy. If she prefers roses, white wine, and moonlit beaches, don't buy her edible underwear, a six pack of cheap beer, and take her to a wrestling match. If he prefers steak, brew pubs, and action movies, don't drag him to a poetry reading and a vegetarian tea party. Guys, open doors for her. Girls, let him open door for you without a fuss. Girls, don't pretend you only eat salad and watch emotional, foreign films. Guys, don't assume we only eat salad and watch emotional, foreign films. It comes back to being honest. Girls, if you want to go see a "chick flick" then tell him. Guys, if you want to go have a big steak and cold beer then tell her. Do both and then the next night eat where she wants to and go check out that action flick with 18 car chases. You're both in this relationship so you both should participate in it. Compromise and you'll both be happy. Just keep in mind that no one is happy all the time. You're both going to have good days and bad days. But will a little tender loving care you'll have far more good ones than bad ones.
"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." I Peter 4:8