A mother brought her 16 year old daughter to my office one day and asked to speak with me in private. She and I went into my office, sat down and she looked at me and started to cry. She said that she and her husband had separated three times and gone back together, before they divorced. All three times had been due to affairs he was having. She said,” I’m afraid I’ve taught her that it’s okay to be treated that way and now my daughter is in a bad relationship and I don’t know how to help her.” We talked for a few minutes and I asked to speak with her daughter alone. Her daughter proceeded to tell me that she had caught her boyfriend out with another girl the night before and that he had lied to her. I scheduled an appointment for the next afternoon and asked her to go home and make a list of the negatives and positives of the relationship and to bring it back with her. She arrived with two legal size sheets of paper, full of negatives and one positive – I love him. When I asked, “What is love?,” there was a long pause and she finally said, “I want to be with him all the time.” I pointed out that sounded more like an addiction. She thought a minute and said, “I guess, it does.” I told her love is:
Respect - Without respect, we have nothing. We have to value each other and I believe the value grows stronger each day.
Honesty - Without honesty, we have no trust. It only takes one lie to destroy a relationship.
Trust – In most relationships, trust is earned by being honest.
Communication – Listening is the key, you have to hear what the other person is saying before you can respond appropriately.
Intimacy – It’s not just sexual intimacy, but emotional intimacy too, meaning that you can tell them your deepest, darkest secret and know that they will not tell anyone or use it as a weapon later.
I asked if they had any of these components in their relationship. Of course, she said “No”. She continued therapy and broke up with her boyfriend and her mother started my co-dependency group.
The above list is very important. I feel that so many couples get so wrapped up in their everyday responsibilities, they forget to have fun. Laughter is so important. All of a sudden, their children are grown and they don’t even know each other. Take couple time - time to grow together and dream together and learn what each other’s needs are. We can’t say or hear ”I love you” too much. If all of us would ask ourselves one simple question before each statement we make – am I doing this in love? What a beautiful world this would be!
Toni True-Wills, Ph.D.