Healthy relationships

We’re college students and it’s springtime — a recipe for some kind of wonderful. In honor of a time when young love is blossoming like dandelions, I’ve compiled a list of six secrets to successful relationships (10 wouldn’t fit). I’m no Carrie Bradshaw, and certainly no Dr. Phil. I prefer to think of myself as more of an Indiana Jones. Regardless, a 22-year-old undergrad probably shouldn’t be giving advice on anything, much less relationships. Yet mysteriously, I continue. My tips are geared toward men. I presume women will understand.

6. Watch TV shows you both like. It’s a nice gesture if she decides to watch the Sonics game with you, but if it is forced, it won’t last (and shouldn’t). Try branching out. Sex and the City, for example — typically considered a show for women — is great entertainment for men, as well. Though I frequently disagree with its philosophies, it is well-written, usually insightful and always funny. The Sopranos, on the other hand, is not as versatile. I have always had dreams of being a mob-boss, but this idea does not typically lend itself to the female persuasion. I would recommend 24, Lost, or CSI. You will both get addicted, and this is OK. It’s fun to be entertained as a couple. Find shows you both want to watch and you can avoid compromise, and the more compromise you can peacefully avoid, the better. Chances are, you’ll still be able to watch sports, the Sopranos, or what have you, but TV should not always have to be "me-time." It can very comfortably be "us-time."

5. Learn to listen. American Pie’s Stifler keenly noted, "That sounds like a lot of work." For guys like me, it is. The first step is just shutting up while she’s talking and even when she’s through. Some guys feel justified in responding if they can count a full "one-one-thousand" of silence after her last word. If you fall into this category, you are probably already exposed (unless, of course, you are dating a border collie). Humans yearn to be understood. It feels good. There will be time to discuss your 12-step plan, but consider leaving it on the shelf for a little while.

4. Spend time as a couple around other people. It’s fun being a couple around friends. Your friends will get jealous, and that feels good, too. I was once in a bit of a tiff with my fiancŽe while we were on our way to meeting my parents for dinner. Ever heard of "fake it till you make it"? We faked it around my parents, and shortly thereafter, we were affectionate again. Sometimes there are real issues that cannot be swept under the rug, but arguments are often so petty that they can be resolved simply by considering your loving relationship through the eyes of a spectator.

3. Be frugal. It is hard to break a pattern of spending a lot every time you go out. This will not only develop an inaccurate image of your financial situation, but you’ll find that a relationship based on one plush evening after another is not based on much. Dining out is generally expensive, so keep these occasions to a minimum. This will make the pricier evenings a lot more special. This is not an excuse to stay in every night. Be creative. Gather up those favors that you no longer need to use for her unwatchable TV shows and use them here. The everyday stuff has to work for both people, but when you take a girl out, it should be, first and foremost, about making her happy. (My fiancŽe recently surprised me with hockey tickets, so it can go both ways.)

2. Don’t suck it up. Say, for example, she occasionally gets together with a group of friends and one of them is a guy she used to date. She insists there is nothing to worry about, but you’re still uncomfortable. You decide to let it roll off your back. Bad move. The situation will still bother you, resentment will build and communication will diminish. You have a blow-up session in your future and she’ll have had no idea it was coming. If something bothers you, even if it seems petty, be honest. Give her the benefit of the doubt and a chance to explain why she thought it was OK. Hopefully, you’ll understand it better and feel less concerned about it. She may even understand your point and stop spending time around the guy you would be happy to drop a piano on. If she insists it is OK and you are still upset about it, you have to decide if this is an issue you can accommodate. It probably won’t get to this point, but don’t tell yourself you can deal with something you can’t (no matter how pretty she is). The secret is immediate and total honesty. Don’t be a sissy, saying something "kind of" bothers you when it actually drives you crazy, or by dropping subtle hints that make her feel guilty. She’ll start subconsciously defending her actions, you’ll become increasingly bitter, and soon you’ll wake up and find yourselves on opposing teams. The real enemy is the jerk she used to date, not your girlfriend. (You may not want to say this to her, but at least keep it straight in your mind).

1. Finally, love God first. If you don’t have a meaningful, proven relationship with God on your own, you will find yourself woefully unprepared to love or care for someone else. There is a confidence that comes from true faith. This confidence is attractive, unmistakable, and the best way to build a stable relationship. If you love God first, you’ll love her more.

Relationships are, by definition, somewhat messy. A relationship is "a connection by blood," according to But all butchery aside, even peaceful relationships are hard. Maybe these tips will be helpful. You’ll most likely discover, however, that all of us suckers, like Indiana Jones, are just making this up as we go along.

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Title: Healthy relationships | Author: Nathaniel Shockey | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2006-04-26 | Internal ID: 5011