Dear Daughters, Don’t make Mommy’s mistakes in love

I'm still totally obsessed with the idea that we are radically responsible for our romantic (and other) misfortunes (see blogs called Radical Self-Responsibility and The Common Denomination Principle). With this blog entry, I’m moving away from clinical psychology and theory to get a little personal. Today, I was thinking about my two beautiful daughters and what it will be like when they start dating.  My brain immediately began the torture with memories of a time when I was a flaming hot mess in dating. I mean, yikes, I needed to get my mind right - no wonder why I became a psychologist. Today, I am horrified by the thought that my angels could do anything that is self-sabotaging or disrespectful vis-à-vis themselves or anyone else. Ya ya, don't worry, I will let my kids make their own mistakes but if and when they want my advice, I will deeeeefinitely have something to express. I just hope my guidance as effective as my husband's approach to their future dates (see graphic!).

Now my advice. Here goes.

1)    Don't chase anyone!

When you find yourself with a crush, you don’t have to be shy about it. Let it be known – because there is nothing wrong with liking someone and finding someone pretty great. However, if they do not have the feels for you in return, MOVE ON! There is no sense in waiting on someone or chasing someone or thinking about someone who is not spending any of their time doing the same for you. You deserve much more and are worth much more.  And if your crush does not have a crush on you, this does not mean that you suck. Chin up. Move on. You are amazing.

2)    Accept reciprocity only!

Do not over function in any relationship. Do not allow yourself to consistently pick up the slack and take the initiative each and every time. Do not always be the one to call or plan or show affection.  Make certain that you and your date give and receive care equally. Over-functioners create under-functioners who will take advantage of your efforts. Make sure your dates are also doing the work!

3)    Pay attention to peoples’ patterns!  

Look, I’m not saying that people can’t change, but let me just say that it takes significant therapeutic work to change bad patterns. So if the person you are into has a bad reputation, DO NOT IGNORE THAT!  Bad habits are hard to break so if your crush has lied in the past or has cheated, please acknowledge.

4)    Do not bypass level of ambition and work status!

When I was younger, I thought it unnecessary and even cruel to consider someone’s work status before dating them. I used to say things like, “why should workforce status or ambition play a part in who I date?” Well, here’s why. If someone has a tendency to be out of work, this might point to behavioral patterns that will not help them in the future. Being part of the workforce displays healthy psychological functioning, social aptitude, and a sense of responsibility. In being relentlessly unemployed, some of these important characteristics might be lacking.    

5)    There is nothing wrong with you, if you are single!

You will likely experience times in your life when you are single and other times when you are dating.  During the instances in which you are single, please don’t equate singlehood with ‘loserdom.’  Not actively dating someone does not mean that you are weak or worthless or pitiful. Your relationship status is not a reflection of your value.  You must know your value before anyone else can!

6)    Earn your break ups! – Express yourself!

If you are no longer ‘feelin’ it’ for the person you are dating.  Before calling it quits, please communicate about what is no longer working for you. Do not bottle up your feelings and give-up by suddenly bailing. Stick around and talk. After that, if things are still unsatisfactory, move on.

7)    Know when to leave!  

While you should not impulsively leave a relationship as stated above, you most certainly should not stick around for too long.  If, despite your efforts, the same problems arise again and again, do not stay for the sake of sparing someone’s feelings. Know where your boundaries and preferences lie and if you are not satisfied, leave in good time.  Do not endure a bad relationship out of fear for someone’s welfare.

8)    Be aware of your psychological wounds and don’t let them win!

You might have a fear of commitment, for example, or a fear of rejection that dictates how you behave in relationships.  On occasion, wounds like these could sabotage a relationship by causing apprehension or defensiveness with your love interest.  Look, everyone has a fear of something.  But it would be so great if you could be conscious of your fears so as to not let them win all the time.  Don’t be fooled, they will win and get the best of you on occasion, but please be aware of what they are in order to stop the inward sabotage.

9)    Know your deal-breakers!

Some people don’t entirely know what they want or who they want to date.  There can be a lot of indecisiveness, uncertainty and confusion in the dating world. But here are the things I want you to know clearly: your deal-breakers. Knowing your deal-breakers will help you decide who you want to date and who you don’t.  Do you absolutely need a partner who is active?  Do you absolutely need a partner who likes the country?  Do you absolutely need a partner who loves animals?  Please know what it is you cannot do without and apply with confidence. 

10) Recognize your worth!

Please know your inherent worth!  You must be able to ferociously respect and love yourself before anyone else can.  You must express compassion for self and minimize your internal critic.  You must show yourself impeccable treatment and you must show support for your own thoughts and ideas. People will only treat you as well as you treat yourself. If you do not respect your time, for example, people will be late.  If you do not respect your words, people will not listen. If you do not respect your emotions, people will be negligent.

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.