Boys, let's be real. Love isn't always patient. It isn't always kind. It doesn't always forgive -- although that would be nice. Love isn't always steamy sex and a dozen roses. Those things are lovely, no question, but they're not the glue that holds things together when the going gets tough. Oh, you didn't know? The going always gets tough.
In the not-so-distant future (despite your protests), your attentions will turn toward finding your life partners. Since February is the month we focus on romantic love, I want you to be very clear on what romantic love is not:
1. Love isn't unconditional. Sorry. Any relationship between adults has conditions. Co-create the rules of your relationship with your partner. What's acceptable? What's unforgivable? Be familiar with those guidelines and live within their parameters.
2. Love isn't always about telling the truth. Yes, be honest in the big things. But being supportive sometimes trumps the hurtful truth. If your partner has dreams of being a top-notch chef and you think her cooking is just so-so, who are you to crush those goals? Let her live and learn. Let her prove you wrong. Being encouraging isn't just nice, it's your loving responsibility. And make sure she does the same for you.
3. Love isn't therapy. It's not your partner's job to fix you. And it's not yours to fix her. If you've partnered with someone who's an emotional train wreck, ask yourself if you're always going to be willing to be in the role of her caretaker or therapist. If you're the train wreck, get some help. It's not your partner's responsibility to make you well.
4. Love isn't always saying you're sorry. If you find you're always apologizing to your partner for your according-to-her shortcomings or you're always looking for her to apologize for hers, know this is not a sustainable paradigm for any relationship. In general, we humans don't like to feel we're always in the wrong. If you or your partner is made to feel that way ad infinitum, know there's unhappiness ahead.
5. Love isn't manipulative. If you're being manipulated, you know it. If your partner consistently uses guilt or anger tactics to get her way, pay attention. Look, we're all capable of it and it happens sometimes. But someone who manipulates you and your emotions for her own benefit is better off as an ex. And make damn sure you're not the one doing the manipulating either.
6. Love isn't angry. Yep, you're going to want to pour a bucket of ice water over your partner's head now and again. And that's okay as long as you don't actually do it. But being angry at your partner -- or she being angry at you -- on a regular, ongoing basis is just not the way you're meant to live.
7. Love isn't a power struggle. If you find you're constantly negotiating like high-powered attorneys on every issue, you're signing up for a really difficult life. Healthy relationships are win some/lose some. If you're always coming out on top or you're always capitulating to your partner's wishes, beware.
8. Love isn't all-enduring. Sure, we all get in bad moods now and again, but sometimes we have to pick ourselves up and paste on a smile. Your partner deserves more than your grumpiness 24/7. And she also has the responsibility of keeping hers in check. Have your slumps, but know if they go on interminably, your relationship will suffer.
9. Love isn't control. Your way is not always the right way. Getting your partner to do, be or live according to your priorities is a surefire path to misery. Make room for your partner -- who she is, what she believes, how she'd like to live. And vice-versa, Peanuts.
10. Love isn't angst. Being in an highly emotional, ride-the-waves relationship can be all-consuming. High emotions can be easily be confused with love. But they're not the foundation on which healthy relationships are built. If the emotions in the relationship (both positive and negative) are always in high gear, you're headed down a rocky road.
11. Love isn't perfect. Simple, right? Not always. You'd like to think that when you find your true love that now, finally, everything will go as planned. Don't count on it. Even your perfect mate will hurt you. And you'll hurt her. And hopefully not in ways that are irreparable. If she really is the one for you, make room for her mistakes, quirks and foibles -- and expect she'll do the same for you.