To My 18-year-old Granddaughter

Don’t make these mistakes in relationships

By Barbara Pierce

Dear Crystal: 

You’ve become an attractive woman. You’re attractive to men, and you’re attracted to men.

I’d like to share with you what I know about women and men and relationships. Most of this, I’ve learned the hard way; by making mistakes. I’ve made some really huge, stupid mistakes. However, I do consider them learning experiences, not mistakes.

You too will make some of these mistakes. You too will learn from them.

You’ll be hurt by caring too much for a man who is not the right man. All you can do is get over it—eat a bunch of ice cream, sign up for a new dating app, whatever—get over it and get on with life.

I would do anything to protect you from that kind of hurt. But no one can protect you. Only yourself. This advice might help.

First, love and relationships in real life are nothing like in the movies and TV. Real love doesn’t happen quickly. That’s important to keep in mind.

Real love doesn’t cause pain. Pain is a symptom that the relationship is not healthy. 

If you’re in a relationship and are feeling emotional pain, it’s coming from the uncertainty of the relationship. You aren’t sure if he’ll be there for you tomorrow, or even tonight. That’s why you feel pain.

Another thing, look out for a man who pushes you to get involved with him quickly. If he comes on like a whirlwind, claiming you’re the first person who ever really understood him, whoever really loved him, he could never stand to lose you, etc.—these are danger signs. Yes. It’s flattering to hear, but he is danger. He will hurt you.

If he pressures you to commit to the relationship early in the relationship and makes you feel guilty if you try to slow things down, run the other way. For many, many reasons. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Don’t move in with him or agree to marry him until you’ve known him a year. This seems like a long time when you’re madly in love, but making a long-term relationship last has more to do with compatibility than chemistry. Chemistry is all about the excitement and newness of a new relationship. It doesn’t last. That’s a fact. You’ve got to have compatibility.

And you’ve got to feel that he’s got your back, and you’ve got his. He’ll be there for you, when things get tough.

Next, run the other way from a person who blames everyone else for his problems and his feelings. If he doesn’t take responsibility for things for which he’s responsible, he hasn’t grown up and he’s not a good choice for a partner.

You’re smart enough to know it’s really a bad idea to get involved with someone who uses drugs or abuses alcohol.

Another thing: Be true to who you are. Don’t make compromises to make the relationship work. Don’t betray your own desires. If you give up yourself, in time you’ll regret it and you’ll be unhappy in the relationship.

Each of you needs to make time for yourselves, do things separately, to keep your relationship happy. Neither of you should try to get all your needs met by each other. Being everything to one person is too much for anyone. You both need other people in your lives.

“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction.” This quote from author Antoine de Saint-Exupery is right on.

Words are powerful. Through words, we shape our relationships. Communication is tough, because we talk and we hear through our own perspective. It’s important not to read too much into his words, not to make assumptions from his words. You can’t know exactly what he means. And he doesn’t know exactly what you mean.

Much of our frustration with others comes from misunderstanding.

Appreciate the strengths of your partner. Accept his weaknesses. Accepting doesn’t mean being blind to his shortcomings. It just means you stop fighting it. You work around it. “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook,” said psychologist William James. Overlook and keep your mouth shut about shortcomings.

Give five positive comments to every negative comment, another psychologist said. I’ve found that’s good advice.

Positive reinforcement works well. We’re all suckers for praise. Hearing that someone appreciates something that we do makes us do more of it.

And stay positive yourself. Have a positive feeling about the relationship. Think positive; think that your relationship will be good, will work for you and will be lasting.

Or as Jamie Lee Curtis said of her marriage of 36 years with Christopher Guest: “What’s the secret to staying married? Don’t leave.”

Barbara Pierce is a retired licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience helping people. If you would like to purchase a copy of her book, “When You Come to the Edge: Aging” or if you have questions for her, contact her at