Seven Things I learned From My Parents About Relationships

My folks weren’t very forthcoming with relationship advice.  When I got ‘the talk’ from my mother at age 10, I’m pretty sure I had to fact-check it with my friends. Despite this, I learned a lot of things from my parents about how to build a happy relationship, and stay with someone for a long time.
 
Some of them were bits of sage advice my parents my mother gave to me, and other things that I learned from watching their (good and bad) examples.  Here are seven things learned from my parents about relationships.
 
1)     Communication is the most important thing in the world.
 
It is more important than sex and money and children and where you live and how close it is to work and school. But too much communication is a bad thing.  My father refused to talk about anything, ever, and my mother was an over-communicator.
 
She wasn’t able to stop flogging dead horses, and he refused to enter into discussions. I think they argued about what drapes to buy for the living room for a decade.  My mother still only has curtain liner up in there.
 
2)     Mom: “My boy, I wouldn’t date a former lesbian.
 
I mean I maybe would, but you shouldn’t. She’ll leave you for another woman.” (She did)
 
3)     Whatever your passions or the things that brought you together, remember that if you’re not great as friends, you won’t last.
 
After everything else dies down, if you can’t have a good conversation with someone for hours on end, you won’t be able to stand them in ten years’ time.
 

4)     Don’t settle for someone just because they love you.
 
Being the object of someone’s devotion is a powerful thing that will make your brain come up with crazy answers to simple questions.  If you’re not happy with them, don’t stay with them just because you’ll break their heart.  Everyone’s happiness is their own responsibility.
 

5)     Share the load as much as possible.
 
The union of marriage, according to Amy Bloom of Oprah Magazine, is a symbol that means the following covenant between two people: “The world is divided into two spheres. I will take one and you will take the other.”  Barring arguments about gender equality, one of the points of a long-term relationship is to shoulder your combined troubles as a pair, not add to each other’s problems separately.

 
6)     My Dad, giving me the only fatherly advice on sex he would give in his lifetime.
 
“Son, the only thing my dad said to me about sex was that if you go to bed with a woman, she better be the woman you marry.  Screw that.  Sleep with as many girls as you can, but once you find one to marry, she better be the last one.”
 

7)     If it’s over, it’s over.
 
My parents got divorced when I was eighteen, which was probably ten years after it should have happened. The longer a relationship goes on, the harder it is to admit to yourself, and to each other, that you’re not happy.  A relationship’s death spiral is like pulling off a band-aid – it’ll inevitably come unstuck, but you can make the pain last a long time if you’re not brave enough to face it.