Sunday, 28 February 2016

Stop Teaching Your Kids That The Most Important Thing in a Relationship is Love

Dear Parents,
PLEASE stop teaching your children that LOVE is the most important thing in a relationship.
Because it isn't
 and I will tell you why.

My son is getting to an age where he is a little more aware of relationships between people.  He will soon approach his teen years.  As a parent you move from reading articles about issues facing young children and instead notice more and more articles and discussions about teen subjects. Young romances, attitudes, independence, learners permits, part time jobs and the nasty stuff like under age drinking and drugs.  As a parent you want to be able to tackle these subjects with your child and you want to give them good advice.

Lately I have read too many times where we are told that the most important thing in a relationship is love.  If you have love then you can work through any obstacle.

Not only is this a dangerous thing to be teaching our children, it is also very wrong.

Sure love is a key thing to have but to grow up thinking its the be all and end all of a relationship is one huge reason so many end up stuck in abusive relationships.  

In a relationship you need TRUST,
 you need to feel SAFE,
 you need to be RESPECTED
 You need these things first and if you don't have them,
 then no amount of love will help.

I want my son to know that any partner he has should feel all these things and he should feel that way too.  Too many of us end up in relationships where we are not safe, yet we love the partner and think we can fix them or can't leave because we love them.  Too many of us are controlled and have no independence within a relationship (either socially or financially).  Too many of us have a partner we cannot trust (due to issues like addiction, affairs, secrecy and violence).  To many of us are not respected and end up with little or no self esteem, often a big contributing factor to staying in an abusive relationship.

Love doesn't make you safe, independent,respected or trusted.  Those things however can make a loving relationship work. I want young people to grow up realising they shouldn't let love alone be the guide to who they date.  Love should be part of the package for sure BUT it should be part of the whole package. 

We all love a good fairy tale movie, we all show them to our children, they are all about love and happy endings.  Then as adults we see the continual rise of dysfunctional relationships and abusive relationships, as well as a rise in depressions, addictions and suicides.  We aren't being taught what we need from a relationship and what we need to put into one.  We are told not to put up with abuse but we are not taught how to avoid it, or how to get out of it.  We are told love will conquer all - but not told that love can be the trap that keeps you in a bad situation.  We are not taught that respect, trust, safety and independence are vital.  

I think as parents we need to put this on the list of life lessons we teach our children. We need to make it a priority along with the puberty talks, the safe sex talks, the drug/drinking awareness talks etc.  

I also want to point out that this is not just something you talk to young girls about.  Yes they need to be educated to make them safe as they grow up and end up in relationships.  But so do your sons
 They too need these talks.
  They too can end up in dangerous relationships, both as victims or as the perpetrators.  Something no mother wants to think about or admit but if you don't start the education during their upbringing then you are contributing to the ever growing problem.  

Teach your children to always have a bank account in their own name with a regularly deposited amount of money to ensure some personal independent financial security.

Teach your children to respect themselves first and foremost but also to respect their partners.

Teach your children to know the early signs of abuse, don't shield them completely from the bad stuff that can happen.

Teach your children not to be controlled, not to accept bullying behaviour, not to fall for the "if you love me you would" type tactics.  

Teach your children not to be ashamed to talk to you about a bad relationship.  Stop the cycle of shame surrounding separations, stop telling your children to 'just try harder to work it out'.   

Teach your children to have a back up plan for any relationship.  We teach them about emergency kits for storms, floods, fires etc but we forget to teach them about personal emergencies and what the steps are if you need to leave. 

What I want to achieve by writing this is not to take the love out of relationships or to make relationship advice clinical.  I want to help the next generation, our children, have a better shot at happy loving relationships than many of their parents have had.  And that starts with us, their parents, stepping up and teaching them there is more to a relationship than Love, and that Love is not the most important thing. 

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