One of the true joys of parenthood is having your 20-something child ask for relationship advice.
This happened when my daughter called one morning from her new home in Birmingham, Alabama while I was walking to class in SoHo. “Mom, how do I know when a relationship is worth it?” she asked.
Good question, I thought. After a brief pause, I told her that any good relationship, whether with a boyfriend, girlfriend, co-worker, business partner, or employer, is made up of the same qualities you contemplate in lovingkindness, or Metta meditation.
“In that meditation, you wish for yourself and others to be safe, healthy, happy, and at ease. Most important…is the relationship safe? Is it secure and free from danger? This is different from being stuck,” I said.
“You want someone who helps motivate you towards positive change,” I said. "Someone who will be in your corner when your boss yells at you or when a co-worker doesn’t show up for their shift and you need to vent. Someone who won’t leave when talking about the conditions of a struggling-to-become-independent at 23 year old gets uncomfortable."
Then I asked, "is this relationship healthy? Do the habits and patterns you cultivate together make you feel whole and strong? Or do you just have a partying-every-night beer partner? That can be a lot of fun, and it’s important to have people you can do that with, but it’s not a recipe for a lasting, true friendship."
“Are you happy when you’re with this person?” I wondered aloud. “When you walk together is it a joyful experience? Do you have fun just watching a movie or going grocery shopping together?”
“And, when you’re on the other side of joy—angry, frustrated and aggravated—is there a path back to happiness?"
”Finally—and maybe most importantly—are you at ease with this person? Can you be yourself, or do you have to fit some kind of image to satisfy someone else’s definition of how you should be?”
Finished with my suggestions and almost at the studio, there was a moment of silence on the other end of the call.
Not knowing if my advice had landed, my daughter said “Thanks Mom. Gotta go.”
“OK sweetheart, love you.”
“Love you more.”
And, that was plenty for this struggling-to-be-far-away-from-her-daughter mother.