Shine A Little Light On The Road

Despite the impression that one might have, based on the fact that I write a blog about my depression, open relationship, parenting, and travels, I am deeply inclined toward hiding. I don’t like for people to know that I feel inadequate in so many parts of my life. I don’t look forward to people asking questions about the nature of my relationship. I really don’t want to be told how to raise my kid. I have a secret fear that sharing my travel plans will lead to stalkers finding me (the fact that I don’t have stalkers is irrelevant to my worry).

But here’s the thing: all of these are realities of my existence. The fact that I live with depression doesn’t make me in any way a lesser person. It doesn’t mean that I have failed. It doesn’t mean that my parents, or my partner, or my doctor, or my peers have failed. One thing that I have learned over and over is that I am not alone in experiencing depression. Depression is a liar; it whispers in our ears, telling us that we’re not like other people, that we should just stay in bed, no one wants us around. It robs us of perspective. As I’ve said before, I think it’s important to talk about it, because being open creates an environment that enables others to open up.

The same idea rings just as true for me when I think about my relationships. I entered the dating world having literally no idea how to proceed. I saw my parents’ marriage; I saw the dating relationships of my peers in high school; I knew that I wasn’t headed for marriage with any of the boys around me. I started out with poor social skills (oh, hey, severe introvert growing up in an unsupportive social environment!), and no one taught me any skills for interacting with intimate partners. This statement isn’t meant as an indictment of anyone; it’s just a fact. Every person has to learn how to have relationships as they go. That being said, I do believe it’s possible to help create a travel guide, if not actually a roadmap, for getting to a place you want to be your relationships. But I don’t think that any one (or two) of us can do it alone.

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Remember that survey¬†about dating we wrote? And the one about family? The purpose behind them, and really, the purpose behind this whole endeavor, is to find the pieces of knowledge that people have that we ourselves don’t. When I started on the road of relationships, I didn’t have a map, and I didn’t know what all the signs meant. I didn’t even really know where I was trying to go. At this point, I know that there are lots of signs out there, and plenty of people who have deciphered them, at least in part. I have no interest in telling anyone how to run their relationships, or saying that one way is better than any other. I’m just trying to get my bearings, and understand the landscape around me. I know that, like my depression, I’m not the only one in this position. The way that I am approaching this problem might be unique, but the fact that I want to do better in my relationships is not.

I don’t think there’s any reason for us to be stumbling around in the dark when there are people around us with lights. I don’t think that there should be shame in talking about the things that do and do not work within the world around us. Romantic and familial relationships make up a huge portion of many people’s lives, and I believe that we as people can do better for ourselves and each other if we acknowledge that they take work, and that we all have things to learn about them. I want to be open about my process for the same reasons that I want to be open in my relationship: There is more, and it is better, when we say yes, instead of no.

 

If I knew then what I know now – Survey Responses

Part of our goal in undertaking this project is to learn about the lessons that people have taken from their own childhoods, and which parts of them they are bringing forward into their adult lives. For better or worse, we are shaped by the ways we grow up. One area that is often sigificantly impacted by our upbringing is how we approach dating and romance.

As part of our survey on family life, we asked the question “What do you wish your parents had told you before you started dating?”

Lots of respondents seemed to think it was for the best that their parents didn’t tell them much:

“I did not date until I was out of the house and living in my own space in part because I did not want to discuss sex, relationships, or contraception with them. I wanted to be 18 and able to go down to Planned Parenthood on my own, and have my own living space before I had any intimate relationships. I lost my virginity at 20 and I am glad I waited, both because I did not have to worry about the destructive influence of my family, and because waiting made me confident enough to have sex because I wanted to, not because a partner wanted me to.

Nothing, they are way too Conservative and prejudiced

I think they provided a very strong example of what not to do. I’m glad they didn’t tell me anything.

Plenty of others felt that they were given plenty of good advice. I counted all the one-word “nothing” answers in this category:

They didn’t miss anything. I felt prepared to the best of a 70’s childhood and 80’s teen years could be.

They told me some things and helped a bit.

They pretty much covered everything

The last group of answers, though, are my favorite. Not all of them are exactly heartwarming, but I think that’s to be expected. A few things people wish their parents had told them:

That there is lots of trial and error, that sex is good as long as you are being careful, that it doesn’t matter what kind of sexuality I end up having…

To take risks and explore. That mistakes happen and there’s lots of fish in the sea. That there’s no such thing as “the one”.

I could write a book about this! I wish they’d told me to listen to my feelings, to demand respect from boys, to use condoms, to allow myself to be the dominant/pursuer if that was my inclination, and that female orgasms exist and are just as important as male orgasms.

I don’t know if I would have heard it at the time, especially from my folks, but I needed to hear about how to pick partners instead of just going with whatever was happening.

Don’t take early dating too seriously. Until you are ready to marry (or establish other kinds of long-term relationships), don’t even think about entering such relationships. By ready, I mean being financially independent and in the workforce.

not to compromise my body with men- to really trust myself and say no and that THAT is totally okay. to this day, i am amazed by my female friends and how many of us share a common story of giving our bodies over out of confusion when that is something we really didn’t want to do. more empowerment.

I wish someone had told me dating didn’t have to look like my parents’ relationship while also not requiring me to completely avoid conflict.

This set of answers makes a lot of sense to me. Despite the huge importance that we place on romantic relationships, we seem to approach them as though they are entirely self-explanatory, or as if there is no skill development necessary to make the most of them. How can we change the attitude that one of the most important areas of our lives is one about which we rarely have conversations with our kids?

 

image courtesy hybrid nation