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“Don’t masturbate your relationship” and other advice I’ve given couples

Being gay and single isn’t a walk in the park. Especially at weddings, christenings, Christmas lunch, work functions, in actual parks…but for some reason the amount of insight you gain on relationships when you spend a lot of time studying them from the other side of frosted glass a la The Little Match Girl, you tend to pick up a few things. So as my gift to the people who actually read my stuff, as Valentine’s Day comes to a close on one half of the planet and kicks off its reign of terror over the other, I present to you some of the most common advice I dish out to couples of all kinds. xoxo.

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#1 You teach people how to treat you

I don’t think a friend of mine who has ever been in a relationship hasn’t heard this from me. You’ve all been walking through a supermarket and seen a parent do the dance with their child about what they can’t just take off the shelves. The child begs, pleads, holds their breath, cries, tantrums, bargains, begs again, threatens and eventually the parent caves. We single people stroll off with our mi goreng filled baskets shaking our heads because we know that the little genius has worked out how to get what they want and get away with what it took to get it.

I’m not saying your relationship is comparable to parent-child but I am saying that you can’t expect your partner to change their ways simply because you’ve grown tired of how they’re manipulating you or making you feel less than the awesome person you are. People get lazy, people cheat, people forget, people behave selfishly. When they do, you have to remember that how you react will colour their knowledge of you and give them a guide to how you’ll respond to certain things. So when things seem to be going wrong, don’t wait for disaster and don’t just knee-jerk everything. Talk it out, tell the truth.

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#2 There’s a difference between compromise and compromise

Relationships in trouble are frequently so due to the inability to learn the subtle difference between these identical words. Every individual is unique, thank goodness, and we each have through life experience, upbringing, social development among other factors fashioned ourselves into a person with core values, deal-breakers and the characteristics that make us, well, us-the jawbreakers if you will! Around those core things we’ve got a vortex of trends and friends and trivia, all the little things that make us shiny and even more unique from one another- the sprinkles! It is bound to happen that when relationships happen, the spark that ignites the passion and connection is based on a chemical reaction of what is similar and what’s different about the people involved. And this chemical reaction is always rebalancing and recalibrating to maintain the relationship’s stability.

But we aren’t chemicals, we’re human and we have the ability to start arguing about how the balance should work, we start minimising the value of certain elements to the mix. Here’s where the difference between compromising the core stuff, and compromising the little stuff is really important. People ought to be flexible enough to let the sprinkles in their life be mutable, but the jawbreakers, they can’t be so easily moved. Without something to replace those orbs of sugar goodness, we’ll find ourselves becoming nothing but sprinkles, no substance, no code. Now I’m keen for a treat…

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#3 Don’t masturbate your relationship

Understanding one’s own sexuality is crucial to the ability to develop a strong and safe sexual life with your partner(s), or you may work out you just like doing it on your own. The trouble is, most people are looking for the same kind of gratification they give themselves and expecting another person to sync in with that. When they don’t meet the expectations we haven’t actually expressed because the fact you don’t reply with 10 minutes should tell them everything they need to know, you start to pull back. Remember that although you may know how to please yourself, figuratively, physically, there is a different set of gears and wires in the person/people opposite you so be sure to find out how you can work with that. Just because puzzle pieces have a toggle and a void doesn’t mean they fit together.

Further, if your relationship is focused on the outcome, like masturbation often is, you’re bound to end up as alone as you are when you do masturbate. Have you ever actually made love to yourself? Treated your own body the way you would another’s. Sure some of the bits are harder to reach but it’s worth remembering that connecting with your partner on whatever level should be to create as many contexts, new environments, different parties, conversations. The saying goes that the best relationships evolve from friendship (yet they also say don’t screw your friends), so find a way to get give-take-give-take going for a more lasting anything.

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#4 The best relationships are the ones you look back on, not forward to

If I had a dollar for every person who told me that they just want to meet someone they’re going to be with forever, or a dollar for every person who told me they won’t pursue a relationship because they don’t think it’s going to last more than a couple months, or a dollar for every person who told me they’re not looking for a relationship right now, golly would I be rich. If I had another dollar for every relationship that failed for those people, I’d be richer. In the same vein as #3, individuals who are looking too far ahead to enjoy the present will lose their relationship in the madness of how much opportunity and distraction is out there while you’re off fantasising about white fabrics on the third date.

On the other side of this, is the fact that something about turning your head to look back over your shoulder automatically turns on the rose-coloured lenses. Relationships that are over, and need to be over, somehow look so much better from the other side. Many people friends of mine called jerks one week somehow became “really sweet actually when he wanted to be” after three weeks. We all want to rush back to the familiar, and some relationships screw us up so bad we don’t know how to start over fresh. But in the same way you should avoid looking too far forward when something new opens up a chance at happiness – no matter how sustainable – don’t look at what you’re running from.

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#5 Work through it, not on it

Have you ever heard someone say “you know we’re going through some tough times but we’re working on it” and pulled that awkward emoji but on your actual face but on the inside face where they can’t see you? I have. Think about the language there, it’s as if the future of your relationship is something you have to isolate and remedy like a wart or a math test. Relationships are healthy for their flaws that couples trust in each other to live within, adapt around and emerge through. If your relationship is in the midst of a snag, don’t avoid it or put it in quarantine. Get Vicks Vapo-Rub on that shit and sweat it out.

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#6 Sex matters (in whatever way you have sex)

Some people have sex like the last call at Woodstock. Some have sex side-by-side one hand holding their lover, the other themselves. Some people have sex ten-strong, others gently and respectfully one-on-one. Some people have sex with their clothes on opposite sides of the room watching television and laughing at the same jokes. Our interpretation of sex as we step out of the conservative nineties to early noughties and into the educated-but-still-somehow-ignorant twenty-teens is evolving, as it should. Relationships are all about sex, but sex shouldn’t just be the getting naked and plugging your partner in some way. Sex should be taken as whatever way the people involved in the relationship connect on a level that is both intimate and unique to those people. Find out what makes you want to be with that person/people more than any other and nurture those elements of your connection. Give them growth and depth and transformation. These forms of intercourse are the keys to a thriving relationship.

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Remember that the strive for real love is shared among us all and all of us are equal when it comes to the vulnerability and humility, joy and passion, pain and change of love. Don’t be a stranger, don’t suffer in silence. Big love to you all.

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10 Things that ’10 Things I Hate About You’ taught me about Growing Up

NB: There are a stack of wicked and funny 10 Things Life Lessons posts. Check them out. There are no crossovers, and this one’s a little deeper. You’re welcome.

Knowing how to be self-aware is a lesson some people take until their forties and beyond to learn. Spending the formative part of our lives making every effort to suit to perceived expectations of those around us puts many in a hard place leaving teenage years behind (though not necessarily adolescence). In the interest of improving our growth as humans in the coming year, maybe consider how you’ve gone through the following and how are you making peace with it now? Time for changes?

So here’s a quick guide, delivered in a language any 1999 teenager can understand. Definitely a movie worth checking out:

1. Romance really trumps profit.

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Sometimes one of the most confusing things about being a teenager is how every “know better” figure in our lives is quite emphatic about the fact that we should be focusing on our futures, on prematurely delineating an entire career and professional goal pathway for ourselves. The benefits of this prioritising are evident in mid-life crises, quickie marriages and quickie divorces and lengthy divorce settlements, abrupt career changes, stockbroker suicides and Japanese men who leave for work but sit in park all day ‘cos they’d rather do that than admit being made redundant. To boot, entering teen years guarantees a complete download of sexual drivers and the shocking awareness of the sex we’re attracted to. And at the end of the day, we come across an individual who we let vomit all over our shoes, not because we’re getting money out of it, but because it’s freaken’ endearing!

2. Hurting someone once is more than enough. Second chances are for masochists.

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Now I completely endorse separating behaviour from person in the arena of child-rearing (calling your daughter a “bitch” because she broke something is not going to aid her developing self-worth, nor her decorum). However, when it comes to adults, who have all decision-making faculties at either their disposal or acquisition through education, I don’t believe hurtful behaviour should be allowed to continue if it cannot be understood or physically empathised with. Now sure she got back with the lying guy who was so-not-who-she-thought-he-was when he bought her a really extravagant gift (not sure what message THAT sends!), but I was happy that she maintained right to the very end that she wouldn’t be walked over or mistreated. It is the opinion of this blog that it is far better to be single and true to yourself, than married and destroyed. Don’t let it happen. Don’t let your friends do it. Tell your parents if you think it’s happening. Don’t do it to others. Just don’t.

3. Anger NEVER works alone.

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What I always loved about this film is how the vitriolic sidekick was actually a sweetheart and it was the combined angst that brought out the worst in these two friends. I mean it doesn’t take much to see how much more dangerous the gang is made by sheer numbers, we know when we cross the street to avoid the group of four or more youths, we know when we hush our voices talking about that particular high school clique. But remember that within the individual is always an angry voice taking over control from the past or the potential tense. If faced with anger, it’s usually unlikely it has anything whatsoever to do with you, and all to do with that inner voice of fear, retribution, confusion in the assailant. There’s a reason why in the face of trauma, the victims show far more compassion than the armchair activists. Because they’ve seen the real cause in the villain’s eyes. There’s no excuse for violence, but there’s none for withholding forgiveness either.

4. Parties are great if you don’t have an agenda.

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I shudder to think what would happen if there was a support group for people who’ve experience Blue Light Disco Crises. The teenage party is always the setting for serious drama to unfold, most people even anticipating that by waiting until a party to have a tender conversation or amping up to something drastic where the excuses of underage alcohol consumption or peer pressure serve to back us up. So go to the party, ask your parents permission so they can pick you up when ish goes down, wear the dress, but avoid expectations. Expectation breeds regret, Enjoyment breeds Memories.

5. People lie. Like sometimes even a lot.

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There’s not really much to elaborate on here. The beauty of high school is that within such an enclosed, developing community there is as much hegemony, civil conflict, corruption of authority and isolation from the outside world as we see in the more macroscopic developing communities worldwide. Except, you know, there’s no aid organisations to improve your corner of the education nation. You just get to suffer and hope your domestic life isn’t riddled with manipulation and omission of information, restrictions on your liberties, infighting, micromanagement and entirely conditional support of ventures. Oh wait…

6. It’s not innocence they’re being overprotective about, it’s the transformation of innocence to naivete.

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So this picture perfectly explains how I feel about being abandoned by my virginity. As per point 4, the most cruel dichotomy of being a teenager is the slut-prude binary system.

For men, this manifests as the pressure to know what you’re doing by having sex as prematurely as possible (made all the easier by mobile-phone-access to pornography), but not being a wanker so you will have no idea what your body is doing the first time you orgasm-here’s a tip, it’s getting someone pregnant or afraid of sitting down. Thankfully, almost all men ignore the peer pressure and masturbate quite freely and frequently, so all they have to fear is the illegitimate and pervading size-based ridicule.

For women, this binary hits them harder because preservation of virginity is pressed on them more harshly than men so they’re afraid to express their burgeoning sexuality with their increasingly-frustrated contemporaries (ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the cougar’s opportunity). For those of you long enough into adulthood to have forgotten, there are NO cues in high school society to inform a young woman if the decision she makes when propositioned for sex, or if she’s gutsy enough to approach an appealing male, whether she will fall on the side of the slut-prude divide that won’t denigrate her. A tragic some-of-the-time she’ll just say yes so she won’t have said no and risk being labelled a prude, or being raped. She’s probably caught on that even if she does say no, her accomplice will say she did it anyway for their own posterity.

For transsexual teenagers, homo- or multi-sexual teenagers, older than average students or exchange students from European cultures? You don’t actually get to choose, you’ll be viewed through the lens of your sexual activity and labelled a slut from the get-go. But it’s probably for the best, you’ll need to get used to it because adult society hasn’t worked this one out yet either.

7. Teachers are people. Students are people. These people treat one another like crap a lot. That should stop, and stuff.

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Like is there any way to secure secondary schools against being the most mentally unsafe places to be? How do we discourage students from ostracising, victimising, assaulting and vandalising each other when it’s so apparent that teachers are a huge part of the process. I went to a school were teachers physically abused students, and each other. Upper management at the school emotionally and mentally abused teachers in front of students and students themselves. Students certainly aren’t unlikely to have started it. I was socially abused by a teacher in primary school because I deprecated a joke he told in class. Now sure, adults should know better not to use adult tactics or nuances to hurt children. But just in general, all of these people in a school setting need to be continually, systemically educated in garden-variety kindness, value of community and given practical skills in mental health aid. Including the parents, oh god when parents put their hand in the pie, everything goes to crap. This is why your kids don’t want you to drop them off, not because they’re embarrassed by you, but because they’re genuinely concerned for what damage you can do to the citizens and culture of the school culture, being an ignorant, unwitting tourist who “means well”.

8. Literacy is sexy. Also, someone’s intellectual appeal will always win out over their looks, good or bad.

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I’ve always understood “cool” to mean “adj. acting in disregard or disinterest of other individual’s thoughts, real or perceived”. People get ugly, but there’s nothing uglier than fearing ugliness. You can never keep up with trends, and those who do find it very exhausting and distressing. If teenagers who go onto being successful early-adults seem to demonstrate anything, it’s usually that they’ve managed to detach their egos well enough to be themselves. It’s a far less taxing process to curate our actual self when operating in the big wide world, than spending our twenties making all the unproductive mistakes just so we can establish enough evidence for a regression into our authentic characters to look like a “I love being thirty, you can just forget all the bullshit” stage of growth. You can forget all the bullshit before you’re 21 if you have the grace, gall, guts, and some god-forsaken self-awareness. Here’s to no more midlife crises, just be your damn self! Unless you’ve coded up an entirely new person by the time you graduate, in which case, here’s to therapists become the fastest-growing profession worldwide.

9. Eroticism shouldn’t be suppressed. Responsibility and Health come from honest, even frank, education.

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I wonder if 50 Shades of Grey would have sold so well if we’d actually bothered to tell kids and teenagers what sex even was. Legit, what kind of farce is sexual education. I don’t have enough space to express my diatribe, nor to refer to other bang-on diatribes out there, nor services working their liberal butts off to fix the cause of these diatribes. So I’ll make it quick: TELL KIDS WHAT SEX IS SO THEY DO IT WITHOUT HURTING EACH OTHER.

Segregating boys from girls for sex education is not only counterproductive, counter-intuitive and counteractive, it’s godawful stupid, especially when we give them access to pornography on a daily basis (yes I think music videos and NSFW buzzfeed articles count). Also, there is a lot more to sex than reproductivity; teaching us what our reproductive systems look like and what they do in the event of a heterosexual emergency is super-valid but completely useless information in lieu of any context. Putting condoms on bananas has no transferable skills for students to learn how to help each other with female condoms. By the time they sent a timid, tight-collared educator to tell my student class what lubricant was, half of us already knew and used through trial and error! Oh and making us do a project on a particular STI didn’t serve as deterrent either, but seemed to increase the instances of anal sex-yet another thing no-one was prepared to engage in (see earlier point on use of lubricant). Anyway, my high horse needs some water. Taking a break.

10. The sacrifice of your pride is the first step to EVERYTHING.

No need to elaborate. See the movie. Work it out.

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Oh and also. If I can throw an eleventh in at the last minute? It’s never Nigel with the brie. Ever.

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