Relationship advice for the next generation?

I have two 23-year-old women in my life who are both in bad relationships. This is not only my perspective, but they, themselves, often complain about their partners. Their mothers and sisters agree (the fathers aren’t around).

However, their partners know just what to say/do after a blow up to keep my friends around. Each of the women’s partners are immature, self-absorbed, manipulative, and lazy, leaning on each woman to supplement their meager income. There is some verbal abuse. When between jobs, instead of earnestly looking, they are distracted by video games, TV and goofing off.

And the cycle continues.

Having three decades on them, I can see the signs of a bad relationship not getting better. But whenever someone suggests each woman is being manipulated and can do much better, she gets defensive, standing up for her partner. We are concerned that they may get pregnant or elope which will make thing so much worse.

It made me think that we — you and I — could come up with some sage advice to pass on to our next generation. What lessons would the midlife you pass on to the twentysomething you if you could? What would you tell a much-younger you about critical signs for a good relationship and red flags? Since you are now much savvier, what wisdom would you impart?


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10 responses to “Relationship advice for the next generation?”

  1. RD Avatar

    dating relationships should start with the same things that strong friendships start with good communication, truthfulness, and respect. Dating relationships are a little different because they may include physical traditions of showing you care, like hugging, kissing, or holding hands. woman has a happy relationship with her boyfriend. Her friends do not approve of her relationship which makes it even harder for her.

  2. Lynn Avatar

    I would tell them that they should be “circular dating” and not get married or live with anyone or make any major commitments until they are at least 30 years old. No one should marry before age 30, in my opinion. Everyone knows the divorce rate for people who marry in their early 20s is something like 85 to 90 percent. Way too high. Would you bet on a horse at the racetrack that loses 90 percent of all races? I think not. Tell them to hedge their bets and circular date until age 30.

    They should also never consider living with or marrying a guy who hasn’t lived on his own and supported himself before. Last office I worked in, the 20-something married women were always complaining about how useless their husbands are in terms of not knowing how to put clothes in the hamper or do a load of laundry, or scrub a toilet or anything. Invariably, these guys either lived with their parents or with their girlfriends before they married, and had no real-world experience of being independent and doing for themselves. Marry a guy who has lived on his own for at least 6 months to a year, so he has a taste of being an independent adult and knows how to cook, clean and fend for himself. Otherwise, you will develop a parent-child relationship pattern that it will be impossible to grow out of. He will be infantilized by the relationship and you will be tearing your hair out every day until the day you just get fed up and quit the relationship.

    Frankly, if you’re engaged and your guy still lives with his parents, or buddies, you should save some of the money you’re putting away for your wedding to pay for him to stay in an efficiency apartment on his own for 6 months before the wedding. DO NOT offer to do his laundry! (For Pete’s sake!!) He *needs* to become an adult. Jumping from being his parents’ helpless son to becoming your helpless husband is not the way to achieve that.

  3. Lisa Avatar

    I totally agree with Lynn about knowing that a man can do for himself. My niece in her early 20s was briefly engaged to a guy who, in his early 20s, still lived at home, was in transition with his schooling, and I think had some depression issues. She had also been dating him for only about 5 months. I noticed how she was very caring towards him but he not so much towards her. I strongly hoped it would fizzle, but I was amazed that my sister was letting the whole engagement idea be more or less ok.

    I guess the expression “youth is wasted on the young” is there for a reason. We all make mistakes that we learn from as we get older–or hope we do. That is just life, but it seems that the people who have healthy relationships when they are young have parents who have good healthy relationships. If you do not see it modeled, you do not know it exists or how to make it happen. Sadly, the women DG refers to do not seem willing to reflect on other’s opinions and experiences, so they will either live unhappily with these hapless men or grow older and wiser and move on. It is sad that so many young–and old–women–put up with so much bad behavior in the name of love.

    I think all people, men and women, need to live on their own for a spell–have their own place, pay their own bills, have a job they like, not be involved in a relationship, travel on their own, etc. Too many people get involved with someone just so they are not alone. They do not know how to be resourceful and stand on their own two feet. I am very proud of my ability to be on my own all these years in such a couples-obsessed culture. It is certainly not always easy as it is not as this point in my life my choice, but I think it is just as much an accomplishment as being in a long relationship. I am going to start celebrating my own anniversary of being single and healthy and treat myself, etc!


  4. Ronnie Ann Ryan - The Dating Coach Avatar

    As a professional dating coach, to me this issue is clearly about self-esteem. The best advice to share with women of any age is to love themselves enough to know they deserve better when being taken advantage of. If a man can’t support himself, is abusive in any way or doesn’t treat you right, a confident woman will move on, knowing there are better men to love.

    It is the lack of belief in better men or in yourself that keeps a woman in an unhappy relationship. This is exactly the kind of thing my clients and I work on in coaching sessions.

  5. Shawn Avatar

    The most important thing in a relationship is a love, without love everything is garbage.

  6. Richard Avatar

    #1 – You can’t fix him. If you do not want to live with him (support him) FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE the way he is, then move on.

    #2 – What you enjoy NOW, and what is marriage material is not necessarily the same thing. Excitement when you are 35 and have 3 kids at home may not be a good thing.

    #3 – Be picky. You have a lot of potential choices today. In 5 years, you will still have some, but not as many. Don’t waste your time with guys that will not commit (set a deadline and keep to it), have a major mismatch, or need improvement (see rule #1).

    #4 – Unless you have a ring and a date, be open to meeting other guys (who may be willing to give you a ring and a date). If he is not willing to make a commitment to you, then you do not have a commitment to him.

    #5 – Don’t be too picky. In 10 years, it becomes much more difficult. Focus on the long-term important things. Do you know what the long-term important things are?

  7. Mitsy Avatar

    My advice would be at “20-something” they should not be tied down to one guy for good. Very few relationships seem to last when one or both partners are in their early 20’s (at least that I know of now). Things were far different in my parents’ generation when everyone married at 18 but stayed married regardless of life’s problems. I also think men were made of a different clothe back in my Dad’s day. What I have learned myself & seen in other people’s relationships is if one or both partners are not very mature, the odds of it lasting are slim to none. I think part of my own sister’s failed 2nd marriage had to do with being married to a guy who was quite intelligent (book-wise) but instead of finishing his Ph.D. program in a timely manner, he spent hours playing video games or tinkering with computer stuff not related to his education. Her words were “it was like being married to a college freshmen for 10 years”.

    If the woman has to do ALL the work in a relationship &/or is the one who is more mature (seen it many times), then it’s time to cut your losses. But, the one real important thing I’ve learned is that most generally people have to learn these hard lessons themselves. It’s not wisdom you can just give to a 20 year old & hope it sinks in. I had to learn the hard way about putting up with an immature guy or allowing a guy to disrespect me before I finally grew up and saw the writing on the wall.

    Any woman who supports a man who isn’t willing to work is being used. If a man is OK with allowing a woman to support him and is content to sponge of any and everyone, he’s NOT the man for you. Sadly, a lot of women will have to lose a lot of money & suffer a lot of heartache before they figure that out.

  8. Rosetta Avatar

    If I had to do over again, I’d tell my 20-something self to work on myself more. I had several relationships in my 20s and didn’t get married until I was 32. I thought I was doing everything right. But each relationship that didn’t work out in my 20s had given me clues about things that I should have worked on before I got married. I wasn’t listening back then, I was simply moving onto the next. While there are some break ups that are completely one person’s fault, most are 50-50 in terms of blame. So if I could tell a 20-something anything it would be to maximize what you can learn from your half of the equation.

  9. Darren Miller Avatar

    It is very hard to give people of this age advice. From experience I wouldn’t keep going on at them about these guys being wastes of space. They have to learn for themselves, yes, they may get heartbroken and their lives may not turn out the way you or they wanted, but you have to be there for them.

    You have to trust that they have been brought up well and know what’s best for them. By all means give them advice but don’t keep going on or say I told you so. Just be there to support them as hard as it may be for you. Trust me, they do listen to you and what you say is at the back of their mind. Give it time

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  10. bookyone Avatar

    Sad to say, I agree with Darren. At 20 something I rarely if ever listened to those who told me to dump the good for nothing leeches I was involved with; from what I’ve read above, they sound a lot like the guys your younger friends are dating.

    Fast forward to me at 40 something, single, sagging, with chronic skin problems and happier than I’ve ever been – yes, you read that right – because I’ve finally made peace with myself and made my top priority what it should have been all along – ME.

    Hopefully your young friends will learn this lesson before they hit 40, but even if they don’t, I’m here to say that life as a single woman is good at any age and certainly much better than being involved in time consuming and energy draining relationships.

    Best wishes,