(Guest co-author: Marcia St.John, age 10)
The other day I was surprised by a statement from my oldest daughter. She announced in a proud, but very matter of fact manner, that she had a list to share with me called “Things I’ve Learned From My Mom’s Unsuccessful Dating Experiences”.
My initial gut reaction was to feel a little crushed but I kept that to myself because I wanted to know what was on that list! When I asked her to tell me what was on the list we sat down, we wrote them down, then we broke them down. And here they are:
Things I’ve Learned From My Mom’s Unsuccessful Dating Experiences.
1. Never let your boyfriend go on a spiritual retreat without you.
This one is for comic relief. There’s a back story to this one that I will explain later. Essentially what she is getting at is less about controlling where people go or what they do but saying Never date someone you are not able to trust wholeheartedly! Smart 10 year old, eh?
2. Never date someone who is overly obsessed with how they look.
This trait being not only an indicator of a person’s physical appearance/looks but also an indicator of their own personal, somewhat narcissistic qualities and their relative intolerance of other people. In my particular experience this included judgments by him of how others looked, resulting judgements of how others cared or didn’t care for themselves, how smart they were perceived to be or not be, and tightly held traditional models of gender, masculinity & femininity. These qualities were not admirable and very passe.
3. Never date someone who has annoying children.
An extremely important aspect of dating, especially when looking at potentially blending families, is how all of the players work (or don’t work as the case may be) together. Of course siblings argue! But if you are dealing with a parent/potential co-parent who creates excess drama and/or doesn’t listen and communicate with you in regards to all of the kids involved, it begins to erode at the foundation of the adult relationship. I think my children have figured out that this applies to them as well. And they have been surprisingly agreeable with each other as of late and I wonder if it has something to do with my dating again. Then again, they may simply be maturing. Or perhaps they are just buttering me up for some request down the road?! 😉
4. Never date someone you like more than they like you or vice versa.
This is tricky. There’s often a bit of a back and forth that people do as they get to know each other. Taking note of any serious imbalance as it occurs is important to recognize and deal with before someone falls off “the teeter-totter” (The 10 year olds’ wordage. Have I mentioned how smart she seems to be about relationships?).
5. Never introduce your boyfriend/girlfriend to your children unless you make a decision that he/she is nice and is okay for your children to meet.
My daughter notes that this is *IF* you have children. When I asked her where this point came from, she said it was something I told her a few years ago. (Can you believe she actually listened to me and it stuck?!) I will admit to having a sensitivity to introducing my children to anyone new too soon. Because, for instance, if things didn’t work out with me and said boyfriend early on in the relationship, not having met him would save my children the potential heartbreak of having another person leave their life. As it is right now, my children understand that I am dating and that it is process in which I go out on dates to movies or dinner, etc. In order to get to know the guy we talk, text each other and a courtship of sorts ensues. The girls see my reaction to everything and I’m open with them about how any particular relationship makes me feel. If a man makes it past the screening process, and he and I determine we want things to progress to a more committed stage (however this commitment is defined), THEN introductions to the kids would follow.
(adapted from Sex and The Single Mother).
6. Never date someone who’s overly concerned with keeping you out of contact with other people.
This point is about Jealousy. And jealousy is rooted in fear. If your partner goes so far as to want to limit your time and access to your friends (no matter the gender) or family, then they have serious issues and this is a red flag in the relationship.
7. Never date someone who doesn’t communicate where they are in the relationship.
Communication is a very important aspect of dating and being in any sort of relationship. Whether it’s your friend, lover, or significant other, if one doesn’t communicate their thoughts and feelings then how do they know if they are right for one another? Relationships are work and being able to talk things through is crucial.
8. Never give up too much of yourself to make someone else happy.
It’s ok and sometimes necessary to compromise in some areas of a relationship. But giving up too much of yourself to make a relationship work can build up resentments and it’s just not healthy. You are a whole person regardless of whether you are with or without a partner. Keep in mind that you are not a puzzle and your partner is not the “missing piece”. Make sure you know what makes you happy and always keep that in your mind as a touchstone. In other words, don’t lose your Self completely in any relationship.
9. Never waste your time with people who don’t deserve your time and attention.
Basically, this goes back to item number one. Be very aware when dating that you do not give anyone more of your time and/or attention than they deserve. Communication is invaluable, as is a clear relationship agreement. If you’re with someone who chooses not to communicate and who breaks your trust, then there is a serious lack of respect toward the relationship. And a person who does break or take advantage of your trust and yet believes they did nothing hurtful is likely not the person for you.
10. Be aware of your Self because you will attract what you put out there.
This item comes from a conversation the girls and I had when we went for a walk a while back. I shared with them that I was feeling a little bummed out. I have some girlfriends who seem to be at a really low point and are acting out – doing drugs, drinking too much alcohol, etc. yet they have steady boyfriends with whom they’ve been together for a while. Marcia said to me, “Well Mom, Like Attracts Like and maybe the people that they are attracting are messed up too.” When we discussed this point, she further clarified, “Magnets have a north pole and a south pole. Each north attracts north and south attracts south.” So keep in mind exactly how you are feeling, what you like, and what you’re looking for, otherwise you may end up repelling what you truly want.
It’s probably quite clear after reading that list that my daughters and I have a very open communicative style. We talk about lots of things most parents don’t, namely relationships, dating, and love. And even sex although I don’t share every intimate detail about what I do or who I do it with. I do share some of the what’s happening and how I think and feel about it. I’ve spoken to my daughters this way since they were very young and now a lot of the stuff I’ve said to them is coming back at me when I least expect it and in a good way.
I have to say I’m impressed with the insight of this little being, my 10 year old daughter. She has been able to distill wisdom from our conversations about my relationship experiences without having to live through it or experience it herself. Honestly, when I look back at the items on this list, I can’t help but think how I would have benefited as a young adult from this type of understanding if I had this knowledge when I was her age.
There is no question that divorce can be devastating to the children involved. But I think if there are any positive benefits from my divorcing her dad, it would be these lessons she’s learning. If I were still married to her father she wouldn’t have learned these things by me just trying to explain them to her in hypotheticals. In many ways my embarrassing and disappointing failures have given her knowledge that she will have now and can use for the rest of her life.
It brings tears to my eyes to think this little girl is growing up and learning things about love, relationships, & intimacy that all have an impact on the sexual relationships she will have sometime in her future. But I’m happy she has a good, solid foundation from the start.
Do you know what lessons your child is learning from observing your relationships? Think specifically about love, intimacy, relationships, and sex. What messages are your children deriving from what you say or do? Because trust me they are listening, observing and taking it all in whether you realize it or not!
(c) 2013 The MamaSutra