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What is a romantic partner?

May 7, 2014

I’ve been thinking about this, ever since I found out my incredibly scrumptious niece who is all of 8 had declared she had a boyfriend, but that he didn’t want to tell anyone because … well, it doesn’t matter. Naturally, this irked me somewhat so my immediate reaction (after wanting to get all medieval on his bottom, which is inappropriate at his age and wrong at any age) was to say if he doesn’t want to tell anyone he is not a boyfriend.

Then I started to wonder. What is a boyfriend? What is a girlfriend? What is a partner? How can one explain the role, the idea, to a youngster in order to help them develop healthy relationships when they get older, within whatever sexuality they are?

I have a lot of children in my life and I worry about this a lot. The experiences of those who are developing and growing in the world now are a lot different to mine. The internet has changed the world vista, extremes of behaviour and sex are more readily accessible and imitated, and pressures on the youth seem so much more oppressive than I remember mine being. It’s odd, but it seems to me that whilst there is a lot more variety, the boxes in which we are to be put are a lot narrower and restrictive. A curious dichotomy…

Back to my children. What advice would I give? How could I protect them yet let them grow into the wonderful, strong, capable people I know they will be? How can I support their parents and caregivers in doing this? I am the ‘dodgy’ Aunt, the ‘oddmother’, the older friend with influence, and I love my children fiercely. I do have an effect on them, and I take that seriously (most of the time). Sometimes I am a total fool and idiot, which is great. Isn’t that why you all had children, so I could be one too?

Back to advice. List format is great, so I’ll use it:

  1. A partner will always admit that they are in a relationship with you, and will be proud of the fact.
  2. A partner will be supportive of your decisions, but not afraid to explain why they think you might be making a mistake. If you disagree, they will support you anyway.
  3. A partner will NEVER hit you.
  4. A partner will NEVER make you feel bad about yourself.
  5. A partner will NEVER stop you seeing your family and friends, for any reason.
  6. A partner will complement your personality and character, whether that is by being opposite or the same or a combination of both.
  7. A partner will make you feel you are the best person you want to be and can be.
  8. A relationship that is right may take work, but it will never seem like work.
  9. A partner is someone you can trust, and who trusts you.
  10. A partner is someone you can make mistakes with and disagree with, and that doesn’t affect how you feel about them.
  11. A partner is someone who makes you happy.
  12. It is better to be single and happy than with someone and unhappy.


So that’s my list. Of course it can be vice versa too – they should treat any partner they have with the same respect and care. Any points you’d want to add? What do you think? Have I missed anything?

I love my children. If their partner doesn’t love them as much as I do, then they simply aren’t good enough!

  1. The thing that occurs to me regarding your niece and her beau is: maybe it actually doesn’t matter – can that be an option too? The “girlfriend/boyfriend” paradigm is so heavily overloaded culturally that perhaps some young people just don’t take it seriously, don’t want to have to deal with what the labels will make them in the eyes of others, just want to get on with enjoying whatever intimacy the have together. You didn’t say whether or not your niece was bothered about his attitude.
    Yes, not wanting to be “out” about a relationship can be an indicator of dodginess, but it doesn’t have to mean anything at all.

  2. At her age I think it is a problem as she is still negotiating and learning respect and what exactly relationships are. If she were older, and didn’t want the labels to put her into a particular box, or definition of relationship, then I agree it wouldn’t matter. But in this context it was because he didn’t want anyone else to know because one of his friends didn’t like her. At her age I think it is important to teach her (and anyone else) that such secrecy is not respectful or acceptable. It’s one thing not to want the labels, its another not to want any relationship at all, romantic or otherwise, in public in case others in your life find out.

  3. I don’t agree with 8.

    8. A relationship that is right may take work, but it will never seem like work.

    It can seem like work, like very hard work. As long as it is worth it? As long as the love that was the root of the relationship is worth it, and as long as the happiness, fruit of that relationship is worth it.

    Mostly, the harder the work, the more worth it …

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