Were YOU Bathed in Ignorance? Taking Relationship Advice from Family…

Where did you learn about love?

You can probably admit that you are either in a relationship currently or that you have been in one at some point in your lifetime. You and I have selected mates out of spite, for something “different”, in the name of love, as a rebound, in secret, in public, to satisfy your family, and/or to prove something to yourself.

You have followed in someone’s footsteps, made the same mistakes your mother and/or father made or find that any mate you choose appears better than the choices of your messed up sibling. You and I have paraded certain “someone’s” to holiday gatherings, graduations, and Super Bowl parties. Some of our “better-halves” have embarrassed us, scorned us, and even left us when we least expected it.

Have any of us ever sat down to explore the reasons for our decisions and the origins of our approach? I have and cannot believe how some of my decisions were made and how they were based on people that have struggled to know the secret(s) to successful relationships themselves.

I would imagine that I am not alone. So many of us Normal folk make the most important decisions based on faulty information and examples. This is not to say that our friends and family intend to sway us in dead-end directions, but for some reason picking a mate purely based on the fundamentals of love can be fleeting—at best.  We can become so obsessed with proving people wrong that choosing the right mate is…well…sadly inconsequential.

When we examined the beginning of what men and women want in a relationship last week we did not include the root of our desires and those most influential in our decision making process. And, doesn’t it make sense to have a better understanding of our histories and those of our “cabinet” if we are going to search out the correct suitors?

Who has played Cupid for YOU?

Shouldn’t we utilize our critical thinking skills when evaluating whether or not a friend who has been divorced twice should influence our thought process? If our mother has been divorced three times should we listen to her opinion of our choice? How should you respond when your colleague gives a thumbs up or down on your new partner when they haven’t had an online nibble from Match.com?

It reminds me of a Jerry Seinfeld bit, years ago, where he talked about scouring the grocery store to find healthy looking people to ascertain their daily diet. “You look healthy…what do you eat.” Makes some sense doesn’t it? Whether or not genetics play a role is irrelevant to our basic understanding…we see someone fit and trim and we can assume that they aren’t on a name-by-name basis at the local burger purveyor.

Why can’t we take the same approach in love? Why can’t we avoid our train wreck family and seek out those amongst us with happy and healthy relationships? Because for many of us…at least during one phase of our life…we really want to prove our family wrong or right the wrongs of the past with one fateful trip to the Justice of the Peace. Some of you reading this will think that I have lost my marbles…and others will be honest with themselves even if only in the corners of your mind.

10 Questions to ask yourself in the privacy of your own mind and preferably not at the family picnic:

  1. Who have you gone to for relationship advice in the past and Why?
  2. How much of the advice given do you actually put into practice?
  3. How do you evaluate the quality of advice given to you?
  4. Has it been easier to receive advice from outsiders or your spouse?
  5. Do you pick confidants based on the expected advice…to support you when you need it even if you know that you need more honesty?
  6. Looking back, can you determine a pattern of advice givers and outcomes?
  7. Why is it that I can ask for references for local plumbers, but not for relationship advisors?
  8. What am I ultimately afraid I will hear if I seek out advice from those individuals successful in love?
  9. Am I one of those that likes to give advice on love and not receive it myself?
  10. Who is the best example of a loving partner and what has been their mantra and approach?

We have all been exposed to various relationships and taken away a number of lessons. The challenge before all of us is to accurately evaluate the sources of information, their motivations, and our reactions to their influence. When two individuals join in union they bring their collective assumptions and experiences, all of which can fit nicely together in the beginning…often faltering in the end.

What Should I Do Jerry?

The ability to balance our needs from those well intentioned and the partner we have chosen takes a level of deftness most of us have yet to perfect. The nuclear family has found a slippery slope in our country and role models for love and affection have become collateral damage. We are quickly becoming a nation that finds love advice from self-help isles, BRAVO TV, Governor Sanford, and The Enquirer. And…when we don’t find suitable answers, we seek out friends and family that either support our neuroses or challenge our better judgment.

If we have a shot at correctly predicting what the other sex wants and how we can successfully integrate our needs and wants we HAVE to take a realistic look at who we seek out for answers and examples. Nothing against friends and family, but the minute I find one of them relishing in my success because it rectifies their past…I need to question the advice given. Taking stock tips from your mailman might make them happy, but won’t do anything to your pocketbook. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions of yourself and those giving advice…your “right” partner will thank you.

Continuing to wish you the best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Education, Family, Males, Marriage, men, Relationships, women

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