What Makes A Relationship Work?

As Valentine’s Day has come and gone this year, I’ve found myself thinking a lot of what it means to be in a healthy and loving relationship with someone. As I’ve thought about the relationships I’ve observed from people younger than me, my age, and older, I’ve noticed one common theme that seems to occur with a lot of girls: they date the jerks instead of the nice guys. Why is that?

 

As obvious from my past posts, I haven’t always picked the nice guy when it comes to love interests. When I look back at the guys that I liked, the majority of them had virtually no respect for me. They would ignore me if I tried talking to them, would give me “tips” on how to look prettier, or would simply pick another girl over me. Granted, there were some nice and respectful guys thrown in the mix, but for the most part I always had a thing for the jerks.

I’m not alone in this pattern: last week’s Girls In Real Life session was on Valentine’s Day, so we talked about what they thought a healthy relationship looked like. One seventh grader in the group had already been cheated on, and had the confidence to refuse to take him back, although she noted that not many of her friends are like her. Many of the girls told me stories about 6th grade boys telling their girlfriends that they should start putting on makeup or wear shorter skirts, and the girls listened, changing themselves to make their boyfriends happier. In college I’ve heard and seen plenty of girls who go after the guys that ignore and disrespect them instead of going for the guy that actually texts them back and asks how their day is going, and I’ve even noticed women much older than me date or marry guys that make degrading remarks to them, and they simply laugh it off as if it’s nothing.

 

From a young age, girls are taught to put the needs of their significant other before themselves, which in my opinion is one of the main reasons that women struggle with relationships at every age. There’s a quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower that says “We accept the love we think we deserve”, which I think is the perfect explanation for why girls continually go for the jerks throughout their lives. Since they don’t respect themselves, girls pick guys that also don’t respect them, creating a vicious cycle that can be hard to get out of.

After being in a relationship with Vincent for over three years, people have often asked us how we’ve done it. I’m not a relationship expert in the least, but I can tell you why my relationship with Vincent has worked so well and how we’ve managed to date since high school: we respect each other, simple as that.

When I’m with Vincent, I never feel embarrassed to say what’s on my mind- I can talk about anything, from Girls In Real Life to my anger towards our welfare state to how much I miss my dogs, and he listens to it without judgment. He not only doesn’t mind if I sing obnoxiously loud to You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette in the car, but he’ll sing along with me while also providing a drum solo. He’s supportive of everything I do even if it’s an unrealistic idea, such as my dream to be a Rhodes Scholar. He thinks I’m prettier without makeup, and has never told me to “put on a nice dress every once in a while” like other guys have.

Thanks for everything, Vincent :)

Thanks for everything, Vincent :)

Even when we fight he remains extremely respectful and surprisingly calm, which is great for me considering that my temper can be a bit intimidating to some people. We have a rule to never go to bed angry at one another or feeling like there’s something we need to say that we haven’t, and we do all we can to make sure we understand where the other person is coming from.

That’s not to say we haven’t had our fair share of problems over the years, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about how to finally have a healthy relationship, it’s that I have to respect and love myself first before anybody else can. It wasn’t until I started treating myself well that I fell for guys who were nice to me. EVERY girl deserves to be with someone that respects them and thinks they’re awesome just the way they are, but no guy is going to do that until a girl feels that way about herself first (this applies to all you guys out there too!).

At Girls In Real Life last week we talked about what makes us awesome girlfriends, and why we deserve to wait for the right guy to come along instead of settling for someone that doesn’t treat us right. What traits do you have that would make any guy lucky to date you? Why do you deserve to be treated with respect even at your worst moments? Once girls start finding answers to these questions, I’m hoping the nice guys will finally win.

Some of the responses to our activity in Girls In Real Life.

Some of the responses to our activity in Girls In Real Life.

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