It all started in the 5th grade. Somehow I don’t remember caring about boys until then. I’m not sure what happened to trigger it – maybe a hormone changed. An important one.
Whatever it was that instigated it, it happened in the 5th grade:
I fell in love.
His name was Daniel. He was Italian. An Italian stallion, that is. He wore a baseball cap with the Italian flag on it. I can’t recall the details, but I’m fairly certain the track jacket he wore was also adorned with the Italian flag. There was no mistaking it: this boy was Italian.
Thankfully, thanks to my mother, I was (and incidentally still am) half Italian. This made me feel special, like somehow my heritage should put me at the top of the list of his admirers, knocking out the competition completely. Because, Daniel, oh my handsome Daniel, I may not wear the flag on every item of clothing I own, but I too am Italian. Therefore you should want me to be your girlfriend.
Let’s hold hands.
I stared at him in class, during recess, at lunch, and any time I could do so without him seeing me. I wrote about him in my diary at night. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach whenever he looked my way. Eventually, with shaking hands and sweaty palms, I got the courage to call his house, but, paralyzed with fear (and loooove), I hung up every time he said hello.
(I found actual diary entries for your viewing and laughing pleasure. Oh dear.)
One day I got the brilliant idea to write him a love letter. I wrote in cursive writing that deliberately looked like my arch nemesis’ so I wouldn’t be given away (I think I may have been watching too much MacGyver), and signed it “your secret admirer.”
(Remember this guy?)
One fateful day, I made sure to be the last in line to leave for recess and quickly stuck the note in Daniel’s desk on the way out of the classroom. Captain Wise One that I was, I asked him to meet me at the bike racks after school if he wanted to know who I was. Oh, and I might have mentioned the color of my hair.
Like I said: brilliant.
As you probably already guessed, by lunch time, everyone knew about the letter from the ‘dirty blonde’ secret admirer, and everyone was planning on being at the bike racks after school to find out who it was. Awesome.
Panicked, I played dumb when Daniel asked me if I considered myself to be “dirty blonde.”
“Um, no! Ha. Ha.” I laughed awkwardly as I lied, “I consider myself to be blonde.”
Incidentally, no secret admirer showed up at the bike racks that day. But everyone else did, including me, carefully playing the role of I’m-absolutely-not-the-secret-admirer: I’m-just-a-curious-by-stander. It was an Oscar worthy performance.
Eventually, a year later, Daniel and I did date, slow dancing our way through countless basement house parties to Bon Jovi and Boys to Men, and holding hands at the movies. When we went off to high school, he was violently “stolen” away from me in the 7th grade by the evil Nicole Jones. I forgave him (how could I not? He was so cute!) and we dated again in the 9th grade and finally shared our first kiss the first year of college, long after our love affair was over.
(The day I found out he liked me)
Since Daniel, my heart has been broken more times than I care to count. I’ve cried enough tears to solve the California drought. I’ve dated boys from all walks of life: from a bad Essex boy with tattoos and gold rings to a decent selection of prim, proper and handsome boys who dressed well and had cushy jobs, and everything in between (whatever that means). Some have been nice to me, some have been mean to me, some indifferent and some, I’m sorry to say, downright abusive.
And I am grateful for every last one of them.
For with every man I’ve dated came with them a set of lessons on not only how to love, but also how I want to be loved, and how to love myself. Because of them, I am armed with the tools to navigate a relationship that is healthy and thriving in a way that honors and respects its key players, leaving them free to be the best versions of themselves always. Well, almost always.
These men paved the way for me to find my heart’s true partner, my husband, Ted.
Together we have applied the lessons of our past relationships – and life in general, for that matter. Like any couple, we have our ups and downs. But we are happy. As our relationship grows and flourishes, we have noticed certain habits that contribute to making our relationship as strong as it is. We would like to share them with you, in hopes that you and your life mate will love and cherish each other the way you both deserve. Here are the first 5 ingredients of many more to come:
Ted & Lauren’s recipe for a happy and healthy relationship:
The first 5 ingredients
Don’t try to change each other: I mean it. Not their hair style. Not their clothes. Not their incessant football watching. Nothing. If you were both honest with each other from the get go, none of their habits are – nor have they ever been – a secret to you. By not voicing in the beginning what may be bothering you about a particular habit, by default, you’ve accepted it. So, continue to accept it, and love it. Besides – you can’t change anyone but yourself. So change your attitude and accept with love instead.
Be nice to each other: All the time. Seriously. Compliment each other at least once a day. Nice hair! Great breakfast! Wow, honey, you’re really great at x, y, z! Whatever. Remember: you’re teammates. That means you’re on the same team. Treat each other that way.
Don’t yell at each other: And for goodness sake, don’t swear at each other either. You can’t take words back once they been spoken. And often times they can’t be forgotten. If you’re mad – that’s ok! Just take some deep breaths, remember you’re on the same team, and walk away if you have to. Ask for some time. Just do yourself – and your relationship – a favor: don’t get caught up in the heat of a single moment and say anything you’ll regret and can’t take back.
I know it’s very Love and the Corinthians, but seriously, Don’t keep score: It’s not healthy. It makes for a very resentful you and a very unhappy relationship. So you did the dishes 7 days in a row. Well, she takes out the garbage 95% of the time. You got him 7 “Just thinking of you” cards this year and he got you none. Who cares? You each express your love differently, and you’re each good at different things. Don’t try to force one onto the other by keeping score. If you’re having to keep score in the first place, this is likely a sign of bigger trouble. Deal with the actual issue and stop screaming at each other about the score of your relationship like it’s a hockey match to be won between your 2 home towns (go Habs go). There should be no winner and loser in your relationship. There should be only 2 winners: you two. You both already won the game of love when you found each other. If it doesn’t feel that way, figure out why and talk about it like the civilized adults you are.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate: Seriously. Don’t let things fester. Talk it out. Are you getting upset that he or she has chosen to watch football over spending time with you for the 6th weekend in a row? Don’t stomp your feet and slam doors. He or she will just turn up the volume to drown you out anyway (wouldn’t you?). Those antics are childish and they won’t get you what you want, which, I’m assuming, is a resolution you are both happy with. Communicate. Ask to talk to him or her about whatever is bothering you. But pick your time wisely. Don’t ask if you can talk during the middle of the game. You know they will be distracted then! Set yourself up for success. Pick another time. Tell them how you feel, empathize with them at the same time, and ask to come to some sort of compromise.
I think that’ll do for today. Now go and love up your life mate. Hug them and squeeze them the way Otis Redding would want you to, and create the best relationship you know how. Because you know how.
More to come next week.