Dear Sons —
I know we’ve talked a lot about dating before (even when you didn’t ask my opinion), but I wanted to give you your handy-dandy written “Guide” in case you are ever wondering what I would tell you and I’m not around.
Mom’s Guide to Dating (for Sons)
Don’t roll your eyes.
1. Don’t be a jerk. You heard me. If I find out that you are treating your significant other badly, I will kick your ass.
2. Don’t be a doormat. This is not the opposite of being an asshole. Don’t always give in to your significant other just to keep the peace. If she wants to see Star Wars and you want to see Inside Out make an argument for why you should pick the movie this time. Or compromise — there’s nothing wrong with compromise. If she insists that you always give in — move on. Don’t sell your soul.
3. Move forward at a mutually agreed pace. No one should dictate how quickly a relationship progresses. Both parties need to be comfortable.
4. Laugh — a lot. Not at her (or anyone, for that matter), but with her. Remember, if you guys can’t laugh at the stuff that makes each of you smile — move on.
5. Don’t let Hallmark be your guide for gift giving. I personally hate Valentine’s Day (as you know). Your father has not been allowed to give me a gift on Valentine’s Day for the 25 years we’ve been married. Sure, for a few years, he tried to give me flowers the day after Valentine’s Day, but, no…just didn’t.
One caveat: if the person you are dating LOVES Valentine’s Day or Sweetest Day or any of the other made-up holidays (yes, I’m holding back a comment), you should acknowledge the day with something (just remember that the florists jack up the prices on Valentine’s Day so don’t blow a paycheck on a dozen red roses – especially if she is demanding them). Remember, it’s the thought that counts.
6. It’s the little things that matter. I swear.
7. Find someone who likes to do the stuff you like (but not necessarily everything you like to do – see #8 below). Your dad and I bonded over Chicago Blackhawks hockey, horse racing, and eating out. It was a great place to start.
8. Have separate interests (this is not the opposite of #7 above). Remember, you are separate people. I do know couples who do EVERYTHING together and haven’t killed each other – yet. These are the outliers. It’s good to have separate interests – it gives you something to talk about and something to share — occasionally — with the person you are dating.
9. DO NOT alienate your friends (make sure your girlfriend doesn’t alienate hers either). I lost many friends over the years to the “I’m dating someone, and I need to spend every waking moment with him/her because that’s what couples do.”
Ugh. If your dad and I didn’t have our friends around, I’m not sure if we could have been together this long. Sure, your dad and I do a lot together. Still, I also like going to the theater (he only like musicals), running (he HATES running), dancing (he can’t dance), and over-analyzing just about everything (he has no patience). Similarly, I have zero interest in playing poker in Vegas, watching European soccer, and skiing. That’s what our friends are for.
10. Apologize when you do or say something stupid. No one is perfect, and mistakes will be made. Just don’t make it a pattern of do-something-stupid-apologize-later. Then you are just being an asshole (see #1 above). Also, if you are dating someone stuck in that pattern — move on.
11. If your relationship has run its course, have a face-to-face conversation. No ghosting, no break-up texts, no social media announcements — I don’t care what the media or your friends say is the norm nowadays. Anything short of a face-to-face conversation makes you a jerk. Yes, it will suck; yes, she may be really, really pissed; and, yes, you will potentially be hurting someone, but eventually, when the scars have faded, at least she won’t be able to say you weren’t honest and respectful.
12. Be honest, respectful, and kind. Always.