“3 Things I Will Teach My Future Son About Dating” originally appeared on The Good Men Project and was reprinted with permission.
I’ve been back and forth over whether or not I wanted kids throughout my life.
From 5 to 18, I knew I wanted them … from 18 to 27, the idea terrified me and I even looked into getting a vasectomy … and since the age of 27, I’ve been leaning back towards, “Okay… mayyyyybe I do want kids. With the right partner.”
I once even went as far as interviewing the 50 men that I most respected in the world (that all happened to be dads) to hear what their thoughts on fatherhood were. But I digress.
The older I get, the more having kids sounds amazing.
And if I happen to have a little guy running around my ankles in the next few years, these are the three biggest things I would want to make sure that I passed on to him about dating and relationships.
1. That whole “nice guys” thing … it’s bulls**t.
I’ve written about the whole nice-guy phenomenon extensively in the past (and it was simultaneously one of my most loved and hated articles of all time, so only click if you’re ready to have some emotions stirred up) … and I still stand by it, two years after I wrote it.
Yes, being a genuinely nice guy (aka good man) is essential to having a happy, healthy, thriving intimate relationship. But does simply being nice entitle you to a romantic partner? Abso-f**king-lutely not.
As Cracked writer David Wong so beautifully put it, “Saying that you’re a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn’t make you sick. You’re like a new movie whose title is This Movie Is in English, and its tagline is ‘The actors are clearly visible.’”
Of course you have to be nice … but that’s just the foundation. Truly, being nice isn’t all that special.
How do you make her feel? What do you bring to your partner’s life? What skills, abilities, and tools are you equipped with that you can utilize in your love life when things get tough?
If you’re hiding behind your defining characteristic of niceness, then you’re likely under-developing your supplementary character traits and/or you spend your time bitching about how the other guys who regularly get into relationships are all jerks … which also isn’t true.
So yes … be nice to women. Be nice to people. But if all you are is nice, the world doesn’t necessarily care. You have to bring additional value to your relationships that isn’t just about simple kindness.
2. Learn to hold the paradox of radical self-acceptance while simultaneously always advancing yourself as a person.
This one is a bit of a mind-f**k that took me a couple of decades to embrace …
It is so important to have a sense of ongoing, conscious, intentional growth and development throughout your life. But it’s equally (if not more) important to acknowledge that you aren’t improving yourself so that one day you will be loveable or worthwhile as a romantic partner … but rather that you are always worthwhile, loveable, and complete right now, and you just happen to be developing yourself as a person on top of that reality.
It’s a paradox that isn’t always the easiest thing to truly embrace. But, given that my son will be my son and I have struggled with self-esteem for years, he will likely struggle with self-worth at some point in his lifetime.
So remember … you are perfect right now, and you can also choose to develop as a person.
You have always been loveable, you will continue to be loveable, and you can choose to continue to develop yourself as an act of self-love and love towards the world.
3. Be such a loving/kind/compassionate partner that any of your relationships that end mutually could turn into friendships after the romantic relationship is completed.
You don’t need to be friends with your exes once your romantic relationship has completed, but always aim to treat your significant others with such love and respect that it wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility that you could be friends with them.
If the first point is about conscious self-evolution, the second point is about loving and respecting yourself, then this point is about loving and respect others.
Kindness and compassion are the ultimate currency in this world. As humans, we are a social species. We need other people to survive and thrive. And the free-of-charge micro-payments that you can willingly give to everyone around you (all the time) are these exact things.
Tell people how much you love them (whether you’re dating them or not). Pay attention to what makes specific people feel loved, and love them in those ways constantly. Give the people around you the time, space, and encouragement to grow and develop in their own ways in their own time.
Be such a force of love, kindness, and compassion that if/when you find out that certain people hate/dislike you you’ll know that it says more about their internal suffering than it does about your external jerk-like behavior.
Bottom line …
Love and respect yourself so that you have the energy and space to love and respect others. And when you always take care of others, you will always be taken care of.
To my son, who may or may not exist in the next five years, I love you, I adore you, and I can’t wait to support your individual growth in whatever way you most need from me.
Your future dad
More from The Good Men Project:
- 6 ways to save your struggling relationship
- 3 sure-fire ways to build a successful marriage
- 10 things every man should do to have a better relationship