There’s no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe we read a few obscure love stories from the 19th century on how not to be.
But when it comes down to actually handling the nitty-gritty of relationships, we’re given no pointers… or worse, we’re given advice columns in women’s magazines.
Yes, it’s trial-and-error from the get-go. And if you’re like most people, it’s been mostly error.
But part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are baked into our culture. We worship romantic love — you know, that dizzying and irrational romantic love that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing — and scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities. Men and women are raised to objectify each other and to objectify their relationships. Thus, our partners are often seen as assets rather than someone to share mutual emotional support.
A lot of the self-help literature out there isn’t helpful either (no, men and women are not from different planets, you over-generalizing prick). And for most of us, mom and dad surely weren’t the best examples either.
Fortunately, there’s been a lot of psychological research into healthy and happy relationships the past few decades and there are some general principles that keep popping up consistently that most people are unaware of or don’t follow. In fact, some of these principles actually go against what is traditionally considered “romantic” or normal in a relationship.