By Maggie Dunning
How many times have you thought, “Jeez my mom doesn’t know what she’s talking about?” And then you realize a while later, that she did know what she was talking about.
I recently had one of those moments. A few years ago during a conversation with my mother she turned to me and said, “Your generation has no idea of how to make relationships work.”
At the time I denied it. I told her that people my age know how to make relationships work. I told her my friends are constantly in relationships and most people my age are in a relationship so that clearly proved her wrong.
Looking back on it, I was just saying that so I wouldn’t agree with her. Secretly, I thought most of my friends’ relationships weren’t any good and shouldn’t count as real relationships.
What does that mean though? To start off, it means that we don’t know how much work, time and effort actually goes into making a relationship last.
The fact of the matter is that relationships are work. They can be fun work and they can be hard work, but they are still work.
Our generation is not used to the amount of work it takes to maintain a healthy relationship. We are used to having all the answers and technology at our fingertips. We have forgotten that the internet and social media does not have all the answers.
We have forgotten that people need other people to survive. We need to talk and listen to one another, face to face, to be happy. Without doing this, we end up sucked into our own little world, missing out on all that is going on around us.
I can now say that my mother was right. My generation has no idea of how to make a relationship work.
I’ve seen countless friends, colleagues, classmates and acquaintances burn bridges with other people. I have watched as they make a mess of their friendships, romantic relationships and business relationships, all because they simply have no idea of what makes those sorts of relationships work.
This is seriously hurting us, emotionally and mentally. How many times after getting into a fight with someone have you thought, “Why did they react that way?” “What did I do wrong?”
Those questions are the equivalent of a large flashing neon sign saying, “You do not know what you’re doing.” If you don’t know what you’re doing, how can you ever do something right? You can’t.
That being said people in my mom’s generation didn’t have it all figured out at our age either. They also didn’t have all the answers when it came to relationships.
What they did have though, were a few basic actions that helped create stronger bonds with people. I think our generation could use a few of those right now.
Here is the top three actions of my mother’s generation that helped them learn how to make relationships work. They dated. They talked to the people around them. They knew that relationships that are worth it, took effort to maintain.
Now there isn’t any sort of magic formula that will fix any relationship. But following these guidelines can help our generation start improving the quality of our relationships.
Doing these things may seem a little daunting at first. Here’s a few easy steps to ease our way into making our relationships work.
We should put our phones away. When we are in class, working on a project with other people, out to eat with other people, walking to class, or just hanging out with people, put the phone in a place where we will not be tempted to reach for it.
Classes can get boring. Silence can seem awkward. You will be happier if you just get through it without getting sucked into your own little world. Participate in class or say something to get the conversation flowing again.
These are the actions of someone who knows how to make relationships work because they are willing to put in the effort.
Our next step is to talk to people face to face. This is one of the easiest ones to do because we are surrounded by interesting people on this campus. When we notice a new face or an old classmate, walk up to them and start a conversation. We can talk about anything from their favorite sports team to how they like the cafeteria food.
What we talk about isn’t important. What’s important is that we actually talk and then listen to what the person has to say.
Our last step to a better understanding of how to make relationships work is to tell people what we think, how we feel, and what it is we need in person.
The key to this last step is to work on having the courage to speak our mind in a polite and direct way that clearly communicates exactly what we mean.
This is something our generation has the most trouble doing. We have trouble doing this because social media has allowed us to get away with not talking to people in person for great lengths of time.
This is not a good thing. It is making us unable to connect to one another. That hinders our ability to get along with people, which makes it hard for us to actually try working out the problems we run into in relationships.
My mother’s point was valid all along. I am glad I finally had it in me to admit that she was right out loud.
Maggie Dunning is a sophomore majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.