I had a phone conversation last night with BB1 (that’s baby brother #1, for those of you trying to keep up). One of the things we talked about was how he felt about dating. It was interesting to be on the other end of this conversation. I mean, I give random advice from experience, avoidance, and learning from others all of the time to all of you in cyberspace and friends in general, but it’s…weird to discuss the nature of eighteen year old women with BB1. He’s a BB, after all.
After I unstuck myself from the wall at the thought of my BB1 having relationships (or, God forbid relations), I thought about the unique problems of the teenaged dater: transition to adulthood, hormones, masks, limited exposure to your “boo”, teenage angst, and living (and dating) in a small pool (especially if you’re a big fish). What could I say to BB1 that wasn’t useless warnings, parental advice (which he could have gotten from mom), projection, insinuation, or censure? This is, partially, what I came up with.
My brother, like me, is someone who thinks deeply about things and tries to figure other people out. He also feels deeply and struggles with reining in his emotions (like me, and, I would venture to say, most teenagers). He thinks, like many teenagers, that the things that are happening in his relationships now are how things will always happen in relationships. He thinks he knows a little something about everything. He thinks he is grown.
I told my brother what someone should have told me when I was his age (even though I made an OK job of it without it, and I suspect he would have, too): most people at the age of eighteen aren’t as mature as you are and aren’t as committed to a relationship as they should be. They love too quickly and fall out of love just as quickly. You can’t give someone your whole heart after a few months. Take your time and really get to know the person. Have fun. Don’t take everything so seriously. Have plenty of friends. Don’t let your feelings and life revolve around another person.
Also, any time you can say “I don’t want to say she’s crazy, but,” run. Do not pass go and do not collect $200. Female hormones are confusing to men at any age, but this is red flag territory. We women can be hormonal or emotional at times, but crazy is never OK. Neither is a ManBoy who can’t control his temper and punches things–or people.
Relationships probably won’t get better until you’re around 23. People won’t get better until around 23. I came to this magic number because of what it signifies. You’ve either been working 5 years or you have a bachelor’s degree and are working (or working towards a Master’s). You should be out of your parent’s house and not in a dorm. You have your own space, and the bills that come with freedom. You have a job you can’t afford to lose, so you think twice about “jumping stupid” out in public. You have matured as only being responsible for yourself can mature many people. If you’ve been paying attention in your relationships before now, you have a slightly clearer picture of what you are looking for (in other words, not just anyone who’s fine will do). This is when you start to develop more discernment, because there’s more to lose.
I didn’t tell him he couldn’t find true love before 23. I didn’t tell him to wait five years to date anyone. What I did tell him was that if he just accepted it will take most people until then to emotionally even out and be as mature as he was, his life would be a lot happier. In the meantime, enjoy and improve your life. Take relationships slow. Learn yourself. Have fun with your friends and family. Don’t get invested in people prematurely. You’ve seen a lot of examples of relationships, good and bad. Learn from the relationships you see as much as the ones you’re actually in. Do all of this, so that when it starts to count, you can be in a position to accept the quality of person you deserve.
At least that’s what I tried to say. What advice would you give an eighteen year old about dating and relationships? Do you think I said something anywhere near the right thing?
- Rationality and Relationships (mynamesra.wordpress.com)
- If you really love me, please misunderstand me (psychologytoday.com)
- Coping With Teen Stress (brighthub.com)
- Help Your Teenage Son Become a Good Man. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- The Fall From Perfection and Other Lessons in Raising Teenagers (blogher.com)