“All you need is love, love is all you need” – but is it though? I think it’s probably not. Sorry to sound all doom and gloom, especially on this here Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers and all that, but really, I think love – well, it isn’t all you need now is it? Sorry Paul. Sorry John.
You see, Valentine’s Day, it got me to thinking – what should we really be teaching our daughters about love? As a mum of two girls, currently quite far off the dating game but still, time flies and all that, I want to of course give them the benefit of my wisdom when it comes to matters of the heart. To warn them off the bad boys, the ones who seem moody and misunderstood but who you think you can tame. To encourage them to run towards the ones that might seem a little unassuming on the surface but who offer kindness, a warm heart and who’ll put you first. But of course they have to find all these things out for themselves: hence the years of potential heartache and tears on the horizon. Oh jeez.
So what can I teach them about love? What can I try to instil in them from a young age that might help make the road a little less rocky? It’s all very well growing up on a diet of Disney Princesses (thankfully that obsession is waning and we’ve moved onto Superheroes, so that’s one road they’ve forged in which I’m pleased with the direction of travel), but how do I make them realise that the whole “one day my Prince will come” thing isn’t necessarily (a) a reality and (b) what they should be reaching for?
First things first, I want them to know that their happiness comes from within. From loving who they are and by building a warm hug of family and friends around them who also love them and who celebrate them for them – who big them up, not tear them down. Who laugh at their jokes (very important), who are there through thick and thin, who empower them to believe they can achieve anything. Who feed their passions, their ambitions and their dreams, and who are there for them if they don’t always work out as planned. And within that, to therefore know and understand that their happiness does not depend on others – although it can be supported and enriched by those around them – and as such, it does not depend on a man or a partner. My friend Jo puts it like this “respect and love yourself, if a man does too then that’s just a bonus”.
One thing I’d like my girls to learn early in life, is that you are not always everyone’s cup of tea. Fact. And that is ok. I once read the book “He’s Just Not That Into You” and literally, it changed my whole way of thinking! When you accept the fact that some will think you’re the cats pyjamas and for some people, well, you’re a bit ‘meh’, you can just let go so much easier and care so much less. Not caring so much about what people think of you, particularly men, particularly a potential partner, it’s incredibly liberating! Nobody wants their daughter to be “the chaser”, the “needy girl” – I think on their 16th birthdays, I might just have to dig out that book and tie a ribbon around it. It might well save them investing emotional energy and tears into those who just don’t deserve it!
Heartbreak one way or another is of course inevitable and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hard at the time, but it teaches you a hell of a lot. I guess though that my bigger fear is them making the right choices if they do feel they’ve met the right person they want to share the rest of their life with and here’s the bullseye: SHARE. I think a relationship based on a partnership, a true sharing of equals, is the key to success. Now this is not to say I’m an expert, that I have the perfect marriage, that I know it all. But for me, proper equality in a relationship is fundamentally critical to you lasting the distance. Particularly if/when children are part of the plan also. If you feel like you’re in a team, you can conquer the world. If you feel like you’re on your own, even when you’re in a couple… nah, not so good.
When we think about love, it’s all too easy to think of the all consuming, fireworks going off kind of love that the movies present to us all so well. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, definitely one (or more!) of those great love affairs if you can find them is good for the soul, no question. But I think love for the long-term, love that can last, for me, is often founded on just really really liking someone a lot. Someone who you genuinely like being around, a lot. Someone who can make you laugh, a lot. Someone who just gets you and is prepared to put up with your slightly peculiar ways (ways that aren’t peculiar necessarily to you…) and who you can genuinely count as a friend. When your relationship is tested and goes through the lows as well as the highs, the friendship foundation that underpins love is, I believe, what keeps you steady and I want my girls to understand the real value of that in what they might find in any future relationships.
During my dating years, my best friend once said to me “you know, you don’t have to have all your needs met by that one person” and it was a total lightbulb moment. I want my daughters to know, that no matter who they find in their lives to love and love them, they will always need to keep their friends (girlfriends) close. Never de-prioritise them, never ditch them in favour of a man, listen to them for they often know you better than yourselves. And even if you find that great love of your life, you will still need your friends to do the things that this man probably never can – like laugh with you over something insignificant until wine comes out of your nose like your best friend can, like share a certain film or piece of gossip, like chat about this and that until the small hours.
My daughters are only 4 and almost 6 years old. The dating years are still a way off (please god!) but when they eventually get there, I want them to know these 5 simple things:
- pursue your own dreams and don’t let anyone hold you back or tell you “you can’t”
- find the person who makes you laugh and puts you first, don’t waste your time on anyone who doesn’t
- never be afraid to love, no matter what heartbreak has come before
- look for friendship not just fireworks
- find an equal
Happy Valentine’s Day xoxo.