Karen Osborne

My brother, Michael, got married last weekend. While watching him walk down the church’s aisle to make a lifetime commitment to Samantha, now his wife, I ended up thinking about relationships, about the guys I dated, about the girls he’d once dated, and why things worked out or flamed out.

I thought of the people my friends ended up marrying and the decisions that kept some other friends of mine perpetually single. How do you create a good relationship, one that ends up getting you down the aisle instead of in the land of tears and heartbreak?

Of course, teens shouldn’t worry about getting married at such a young age. There’s plenty of time for that. But there’s a lot they can learn about themselves and about what they want out of life by examining the people they take to the movies or prom.

A good relationship isn’t a jealous one. Does your significant other get annoyed or angry when you hang out with other people? Sound the alarm bell. While it’s natural to want to spend a lot of time with your boyfriend or girlfriend, doing that to the exclusion of seeing everyone else isn’t healthy and can be abusive. Good boyfriends and girlfriends have healthy platonic friendships.

In a good relationship, you don’t feel pressured to do things you don’t want to do. A good boyfriend or girlfriend won’t pressure you to do things you don’t want to do, emotionally or physically, and if that’s the case, it’s time to find someone who will better respect you and your values.

A good relationship isn’t abusive. We assume that abusive relationships are about hitting, slapping and shoving, and we forget that they can also be emotionally abusive. Emotionally abusive people continually criticize, call you names, shout at you, minimize and blame you, and humiliate you. This isn’t love. It’s abuse. If you find yourself in one of these situations, get help.

If a relationship doesn’t work out, that’s OK. It may feel like the end of the world right after the breakup, but after a while, you will feel better and you’ll know a little more about what doesn’t work for you.

My brother found and fell in love with someone who was a true partner to him, someone he couldn’t live without, and he says he couldn’t have done it if he didn’t know exactly what went wrong with the relationships that came before.

When you find yourself in a new relationship, ask: Is this person really treating me the way I deserve to be treated? Are we making decisions together? Do we have interests and friends outside of our relationship? Do we have open and honest communication, or is there a lot of sulking or yelling? Do we support each other when things are bad and when things are great? Am I always worried about how I look and am I changing myself to fit my boyfriend or girlfriend’s idea of what the relationship should be? Does my significant other like me for me?

Being in a relationship as a teenager can be a worthwhile experience. Just make sure it’s a good one.