It discusses how to keep a healthy relationship going when one partner is still in high school and the other partner is going to college or university. I would like to have seen the authors acknowledge the reality that while many people finish high school, not everyone goes to college. Ultimately, though, the article is about how to manage a relationship when the partners are, in essence, in two different stages of life, with suggestions specific to being in high school and college.
While I'd love to hear people's experiences and perspectives with this, that's not actually why I'm mentioning the article here.
One of the suggestions for couples to stay connected is for partners to surprise each other. While I understand the spirit of this, I'm also well aware that many people don't enjoy surprises, and that there's an expectation set, whether intentional or not, that a good partner will do things to surprise or spoil the other.
About not enjoying surprises, I think it's important to know one's partner, and not to surprise them if they're not into being surprised. My long-term partner, for example, knows that i'm not a big fan of in-the-moment surprises, so when he organized a birthday gathering for me last year, he told me a couple of days ahead of time and he told me exactly what it would be--just some of our closest local friends at a restaurant we like. I felt really touched and tickled that he'd thought of me, and super-appreciative that he didn't go to tricky lengths to hide it from me until the last minute.
I highly doubt I'm the only person to whom being thought of is more important than the surprise itself.
A few people have posted here over the years wondering what special gift they could give their partner, or what special thing they could do for them. I've also seen this happen in other places with other people. One situation I remember quite well is a friend of mine surprising her boyfriend by sending him a box of treats for both he and his dog to enjoy. I also knew this woman's boyfriend, and he agonized with me over the phone about what he should send her in return. I offered several suggestions, and none of them was good enough.
The net result of this was that he sent her nothing. That, in itself, wouldn't have been a bad thing if he truly couldn't send her anything for financial or practical reasons, but having witnessed his process, his reasons were neither of those.
His girlfriend told me that she wouldn't have cared what he sent, she just would have appreciated being acknowledged.
someone their favourite flavor of cookie, but not I'm bringing this up to say that we don't need to surprise our partners, or do something special, in order to make them feel special. We can also ask them what would make them feel special; what things they enjoy or what things would make them feel thought about and cared for.
Using the example of sending care packages, for example, you certainly could send a care package (I think it's safe to say that most people wouldn't be shocked or horrified to receive their favourite cookies in the mail) but you could also ask: "Hey, what would make you feel awesome this week?" I might be showing my personal anti-surprise bias here, but I have to believe that lots of people would like to be asked that. It's time to shake this idea that partners should be mind-readers, anyway!
I often end these sorts of posts with a specific question, but today I'm just opening this up to thoughts, either about what i've written here or about the article I've linked you to.
I am also firmly in the no-surprises camp and things like surprise visits or surprise parties or what have you are not very likely to make me happy.
In my most recent relationship, my partner and I had exchanged keys, but we always announced visits in advance anyway. Instead, we often surprised each other in little, less intrusive ways. For example, I am a big film geek and also have to watch a lot of films for my research, and so my ex would sometimes rent a movie I had been talking about so we could watch it together.
I am also a big fan of asking people what they like if you are not sure. Of course it's nice to know your partner well enough to know exactly what they would like, but it's also not an admission of defeat if you just ask them. Personally, I think it shows respect for that person's individually! For example, an ex-partner of mine with whom I was in a long-distance-relationship knew that I did not like flowers. But he wanted to bring me something when picking me up at the airport, so he asked me what I would like, and I told him that candy would be great. So, he brought me a bag of sour Skittles, which he knew I loved. Greatest welcome-back present ever!
-------------------- Johanna Scarleteen Volunteer
"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand Posts: 9192 | From: Cologne, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005
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