love with unflinching honesty and unwavering respect. Here I am, pretzeled up in the family room with Ragnar, talking about our day. (My daughter took this picture).
When we snuggle, we are often like this or some version of it with limbs tangled. I’ve never been able to be >>>THISCLOSE<<< to anyone before. And the interesting thing is that I don’t feel smothered and it fascinates me.
Early on in our relationship, my partner shared with me that he slept with an ex. I could have gotten upset – certainly, the old me would have been bawling and wondering what was wrong with me – but we were so new in our relationship that I just knew it wasn’t about me. So I asked him, “what did you learn?”
There was another situation where an old girlfriend contacted him with the purpose of starting things up again. He told me he was considering it. I knew of this ex; she was recently married and already looking to cheat on her jealous, controlling husband. So I told him that given the circumstances it was not a situation that I wanted to be even tangentially involved. If he wanted that, then go for it, but I would not be around because of the risk. (He didn’t go forward, because duh).
Other couples avoid talks like this because it might make the other person upset. We have mature but tough conversations, not with the purpose of upsetting the other person, of course. But because we treat each other respectfully, like adults who can manage our disappointment and work to repair our relationship
And at the same time, the frankness and respect together contribute to a feeling of security when we are apart.
Besides what he does to make me feel secure, I also attribute this feeling to my own self-confidence and maturity. Twenty-something me bought into all the terrible notions, like conditional love and that “men only want one thing”. Forty-plus me says screw that. I know that’s not true because I’ve had experiences that proved otherwise.
The majority of my relationship years were spent in bad habits or bad relationships. It’s taken a lot of work to unlearn things from my upbringing. For example, needing to be a “good girl,” or acting a certain way, or doing as I was told, or just generally not disappointing my parents. When I was a tween, I got a strong sense that if I didn’t do what mom wanted, that I wouldn’t be loved. It may not even be true but no one told me otherwise. That shitty feeling became comfortable and I chose relationships that had that similar shitty feeling in them …because it felt familiar.
Have you done the same thing? Have you ever found yourself in a relationship where something had to change? Was there an event that “woke you up” to the situation?
Unlearning these patterns and figuring out what healthy relationships feel like is hard work. I don’t ever want my daughters to feel that way nor choose relationships that feel terrible. I don’t want to unconsciously model this in my relationships nor pass my bad patterns on to them. So I do the work.
Talking about dating, love, and relationships with my kids is also tough, but it can be done with honesty and respect. I even wrote a book about it. These items are probably more important than talking to them about sex. To talk only about sex or do that first feels like putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
My dream for my kids – if they want this – is to be in relationships of their own choosing with people they feel safe with, people with whom they share a mutual respect. People able to work through the tough talks because those are going to happen at some point. And people with whom they can go deeper into a relationship because having a secure base lets you venture out into the world with confidence.
And isn’t that a wonderful feeling?
P.s., My course “How To Talk With Your Teens About Dating” (which used to run as a workshop) is coming out as an online course soon. If you want to be notified when it comes out, please sign up here.