If Only There Were More Popular Examples of Healthy Relationships

An orange pony decoration standing on a pink cake with rainbow decorations. The candles in the cake read "happy birthday."
Image by zimt&zucker / CC BY

“Both suffering for love and being addicted to a relationship are romanticized by our culture… Very few models exist of people relating as peers in healthy, mature, honest, nonmanipulative, and nonexploitative ways, probably for two reasons: First, in all honesty, such relationships in real life are fairly rare. Second, since the quality of emotional interplay in healthy relationships is often much subtler than the blatant drama of unhealthy relationships, its dramatic potential is usually overlooked in literature, drama, and songs. If unhealthy styles of relating plague us, perhaps it is because that is very nearly all we see and all we know.”

Robin Norwood

*

“I don’t ever want to fall in love,” the little girl in the seat behind me tells the woman who’s sitting next to her, who I think is her babysitter.

“Oh,” the babysitter says, sounding more relieved than curious. Can’t say that I blame her. I’m relieved, too, as her charge has at last stopped loudly singing about everything that she can see out the bus window. At least for the time being. But maybe the sitter is curious, since she asks a followup question. “Why’s that?”

“Love sounds terrible,” the girl says.

She laughs. “It can be. And it can also be pretty wonderful.”

“My mommy says that when you love someone,” the little girl continues, “you don’t think of anyone else. That they’re the only person you can see.”

“Well, what’s wrong with that? Wouldn’t you like having someone all to yourself?”

I stand and pull the cord on the bus window. It’s nearly my stop.

“Not really,” the little girl says. Not if she can’t see her friends as much, she starts to explain — segueing off into an excited tangent about an upcoming birthday party at someone’s house. Something about a pony cake, I think. I’m not sure. It’s harder to hear her now as I work my way up to the bus door to get off.

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