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On a mailing list I read, I recently wrote an article summarizing the basic things about relationships that I wish I had learned in elementary school. Several folks have suggested I make it into a poster. Here's a first go-round of a poster version, which I plan to have printed if there's enough interest. Let me know what you think!

The principles themselves are:

You can not expect to have what you want if you do not ask for what you want.

Just because you feel bad doesn’t necessarily mean someone did something wrong.

Just because you feel good doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re doing is right.

Integrity matters—not for the people around you, but for you.

Life rewards people who move in the direction of greatest courage.

An expectation on your part does not incur an obligation on someone else’s.

When you feel something scary or unpleasant, talk about it.

Your partners add value to your life; treat them preciously.

Make sure your partner’s heart is safe in your hands.

The easiest way to attract people with the qualities you desire is to be the sort of person that someone with those qualities finds interesting.

People are not commodities.

There are a whole lot of things your partner will do that are Not About You.

Different people express love in different ways; learn to recognize the way your partner speaks of love, so that you know it when you see it.

Don’t treat people the way you’d have them treat you; treat them the way they’d have you treat them.

Pay attention.

We are all born of frailty and error; it is important that we forgive one another’s failings reciprocally.

Being in a relationship that does not meet your needs is not necessarily better than being alone.

Love is abundant.

It is not necessary to be the best at everything, nor even the best at anything; alone of all the people in the world, only you bring your unique mix of qualities to the table.

Relationships entered into from conscious choice are often more rewarding than ones entered into out of default assumptions.

Don’t play games, especially with other people’s hearts.

The things you think are important when you’re theorizing about relationships are not always the things that turn out to be important.

Be flexible.

A relationship with a partner who chooses, every day, to be with you is more satisfying than a relationship with a partner who is with you because he or she can’t leave.

Real security comes from within.

People are not need fulfillment machines.

Don’t look to others to complete you.

Change is a part of life.

Occasionally, you will feel awkward, uncomfortable, or both; that’s normal, and not something to be feared.

We are all lousy at predicting how we will respond to new or unfamiliar situations.

When you hurt someone—and you will—suck it up, take responsibility for it, and do whatever you can to make it right.

There will be times when relationships end; it doesn’t mean they were a failure, or that the other person is a bad person.

Your heart will, at some point, almost certainly be broken, and that’s okay; you will survive, and find love again.

Feelings are not fact.

Fear of intimacy is the enemy of happiness.

The times when compassion is the most difficult are the times when it’s most necessary.

Don’t vilify those who hurt you; they are still people, too.

It is possible to deeply, profoundly love someone to the bottom of your heart and still not be a good partner for that person.

Being uncomfortable is not , by itself, a reason not to do something.

It is almost impossible to be generous or compassionate if all you feel is fear of loss.

The world is the way it is, not the way we want it to be.

Life’s song is filled with beauty and chaos and joy and sorrow and pain and uncertainty and ecstasy and heartache and passion; to fear any of these things is to fear life.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
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Oct. 13th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
I like it. I don't agree with all of it, but that's because there are a few things that we don't agree on about relationships so I'm not going to bother with those. I do have one suggestion, though.

In addition to "It is possible to deeply, profoundly love someone to the bottom of your heart and still not be a good partner for that person."

I would add "It is possible to deeply, profoundly love someone to the bottom of your heart and for that person to still not be a good partner for you."
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - tacit - Oct. 13th, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 13th, 2012 10:21 pm (UTC)
And looking at the poster, I find that it is a bit difficult to read the red text against the red heart background. Purple would make a good fit, though.

It also seems like the font of the italicized words is smaller, which also makes it more difficult to read, which might be a result of having the page anchored to both sides instead of just the left. I don't know, you're the computery person, I'm sure you can figure it out.
Oct. 14th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
Also the choice of serif italics amid the sans serif roman type seems a little jarring. And generally the number of fonts, types and colours in the body kind of gives a ransom-note feel to me. I'd suggest sticking with one style (bold) for emphasis. But many of the italicized phrases, I think, don't add much by being italicized. I might just make them plain roman type.

I agree about the disconnect between "kindergarten" and "your partner." In most if not all cases, I think "your partner" could be replaced by "other people" or something similar without confusion.
Oct. 13th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
Well done. I agree with most of it. The one I definitely don't agree with is:

Life rewards people who move in the direction of greatest courage.

There is no guarantee of a reward just because someone moves forward with great courage. It only increases the odds of a reward vs. doing nothing because of fear.
Oct. 14th, 2012 02:54 am (UTC)
I read this in the context of many choices and many rewards, small and large. Of course there's no guarantee of a specific reward in a specific situation--that is, after all, what makes a risk a risk, and why it takes courage to take risks. But if you add up all the times, over a lifetime, you could have acted with courage vs. with fear, someone who consistently acts with courage is more likely, I think, to be rewarded for doing so more often than someone who more consistently acts out of fear--resulting in a cumulatively more fulfilling life. (Of course, if you take no risks, you're unlikely to be rewarded at all.)
(no subject) - sweh - Oct. 14th, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - apestyle - Oct. 14th, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sweh - Oct. 14th, 2012 04:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - margareta87 - Oct. 14th, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sweh - Oct. 14th, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 14th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
The stuff about love being abundant and life rewarding people for doing certain things. They're nice to believe but not universally true.

Also, being uncomfortable can, in itself be a reason not to do something. Often times it can be a subconscious warning that something is not right with a situation, and if you're not in a position to analyze it at the time then it's better to be cautious and safe and say no and then think about the reasoning later. This is especially true in BDSM situations.

Also, the last one is just a little too mushy for me, but I think mushy works for this kind of poster. I don't think this is a poster I'd get for myself (I'm more of a sexuality map and fallacy Venn diagram), but I have a friend who could definitely use it.
Oct. 14th, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)
This was great. Can I get one to frame? :)
Oct. 14th, 2012 02:04 am (UTC)
I'll take one.
Oct. 14th, 2012 03:46 am (UTC)
Love it. Except...learning about relationships in kindergarten? That causes me a little cognitive dissonance...maybe high school, but for me kindergarten isn't the time to learn about romantic relationships. Is this poster conflating romantic relationships with platonic or familial relationships? Because it does mention "partner" specifically a few times.

I think my dissonance is occurring because I am approaching this poster with the expectation that "relationships" is romantic, while the term could also refer to platonic or familial ones. Still, it irks me and seems an awkward fit to use the kindergarten reference for a list that includes romantic partner advice.

Still think it's an awesome list. :D
Oct. 14th, 2012 05:20 am (UTC)
This is fantastic. Tacit strikes again. I need one for my family therapy clinic.
Oct. 14th, 2012 12:21 pm (UTC)
I think it's great. And I would purchase one, maybe 2 :)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 14th, 2012 11:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I don't agree that security comes from within, either. I think it's a hideously bad idea (and one that is bound to fail) to make your security dependent on only one other person. However, our security pretty much has to come from other people, starting with parents or other caregivers when we are infants and truly are dependent on others. If caregivers fail to provide necessary care and affection when we are that young, it damages our security. Most people cannot overcome that without help from other people--a therapist, perhaps, or a healthy romantic relationship, or just a group of close and reliable friends. But our internal ability to soothe and care for ourselves really was given to us by caregivers in infancy and childhood, and if we don't receive it, I do think we require other people to help us develop it later.

I would say, however, that it is NEVER a romantic partner's obligation to unilaterally fix their partner's broken sense of self.

I feel like I'm nitpicking, however. Overall I love this list and I too wish I'd learned many of these things much earlier in life!
Oct. 14th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
love it!
i *love* it, and i'd definitely buy at least one, probably more.

to me, kindergarten fits. because i'm reading it with context of relationships in general, not just romantic or sexual. although the word "partner" throughout makes more sense in romantic/sexual relationships, i just internally substitute "friend", "parent", "child", or whoever the actual connection is. for me, the *principles* themselves apply everywhere, and the earlier we teach, model, and share these concepts, the better.

i also wonder about courage being rewarded. i think it IS true, yet not in the way people might expect. external rewards might or might not happen. yet internally, living up to my ideals and not down to my fears is a personal ideal. whether or not external rewards happen, when i am brave enough to behave based on who i want to be, i AM rewarded by living up to my ideals. sometimes, that is the only reward. and while i might hope for more, that is still valuable, precious, and "enough".
Oct. 15th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
Re: love it!
(didn't mean to be anonymous.)
Oct. 15th, 2012 02:49 pm (UTC)
I wish I'd learned these things in high school.... in kindergarten I was more concerned with making crafts out of paper plates and eating paste
Oct. 15th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
I like it very much. Maybe some of the suggestions and edits above, with which you feel comfortable.

I'd buy one.
Oct. 16th, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
love it! I'd totally order a poster
Jun. 21st, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
I absolutely love this and its as too the point as relationship rules could possibly be.
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( 30 comments — Leave a comment )