I was a practicing couples and family therapist for six years, working with families of kids in facilities, people with schizophrenia, children, and single moms. I could tell you about all the things I’ve learned about love and lust and dating from this six years, but those relationships are analyzed to death. Instead, here are some of the things I’ve learned about every other kind of relationship- families, friends, strangers. The relationships that are often ignored and thought to be “second nature” are the ones that end up being the toughest to navigate at times.

1. Being able to say “I’m sorry” is a skill, and one that not a lot of people possess. Hone that skill. Apologizing shouldn’t be followed by “but here’s why I did it” or “and then you did this”. An apology is you taking responsibility for hurting someone else, not a notch on a scorecard in some bizarro battle of “Who’s Right?”

2.  People behave in very intense ways when their feelings are hurt. I’ve seen teenagers start punching things when their parents don’t show up for visits. I’ve seen parents hysterically cry and call themselves failures when they are told their child is setting fires. I once had a woman tell me that my dye job was hideous when I confronted her about her drug use. We are all human and we don’t like feeling embarrassed or hurt, and it’s best to keep that in mind when dealing with others. That doesn’t mean you excuse their behavior, but it’s always helpful to remember that sometimes the ego has an ugly way of protecting itself.

3. Childhoods don’t last forever, they just feel like they do.

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