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-Most skills in life are learned
-Including relationship skills


Socrates once said, "There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance."

The purpose of this page is to inspire people to consider the value of an education in all or almost all important life skills, including relationship skills; and the motivation to lean them.

NOTE: Although this page focuses on relationship skills, most or all of these same lessons apply to almost all other areas of life. For example, if you grew up in an environment where the people around you valued learning, you are more likely to want to learn.


So many things in life are learned. Now this may seem obvious to some, while others simply may not have thought about this.

One of the best gifts realized by some people when they go to school is that they are taught the value of learning. Another gift may be that they enjoy learning. In fact, there are those who say that the most successful people (in all aspects of their lives) are people who choose to learn throughout their entire lives. Besides learning from their mistakes, they were also taught that if they don't know the answer to something, they should learn more about it. Why does this seem to be common among the most successful people?

The following table (adopted from Bob Proctor proctorgallagherinstitute.com) compares two possible paths to follow down, one where people choose not to learn, and one where they choose to learn:

- Ignorance - + Knowledge +
Worry/Doubt Study
Fear Understanding (knowledge + study)
Anxiety Faith (based on understanding)
 Suppressed anxiety   Well-Being (you know you are heading in the right direction) 
Depression Expression
Dis-Ease At-Ease
Disintegration Creation (solutions/growth)

Now everybody is different, and there are cases where "ignorance is bliss." However, if you notice that any of your emotions fall on the left side of the table for ANY topic in life, then for at least those topics, I invite you to consider following the path down the right side of the table.

After all, how do we speak a language (or multiple languages)? We learn it. How do we write in languages, or understand and use math? How is it we can drive a car, or ice skate? We learn it. Doesn't it also seem true that we learn all negativity including fear, laziness, dishonesty and so forth? On the positive side, are happiness, gratitude, joy, honesty and love learned or are they instincts? This could be a topic of a future page.

What about Relationship Skills?

Is something missing? According to the American Psychological Association (apa.org), "about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce." While there are other factors why people get a divorce, could one core factor be the lack of healthy relationship skills? If you google: reason for divorce and think about the underlying reasons why they divorced, doesn't it seem that relationship skills such as kindness, generosity, respect, empathy, happiness, gratitude, honesty, and love could have been weak or missing?

Now I used marriage statistics because the divorce rate is so high and well known. But common sense could be used to say the strength or absence of some or most of those same relationship skills would affect so many kinds of relationships, including friendships and significant others.

What I invite you to do is to consider this:

Isn't it true that the skills necessary for having successful relationships
must be learned?

So why are skills weak or missing in failed relationships? Maybe they were forgotten or maybe they were not taught.

Now most people would agree that it takes someone thousands upon thousands of hours of learning in order to become a doctor. People understand how many hours it takes to learn for example, a language. Humans in America and many other countries spend around 15 years of education or more before they go out "into the real world" (unless they go on to college). What was the primary function of those years? It was to learn. What do they learn? Public's schools primary focus includes reading, writing and math. Of course, when and if the time and budgets permit, many schools and educators do try to add or incorporate some life skills to their curriculums.

Now reading, writing and math are examples of skills that clearly take time to learn, and they were obvious examples. Moreover, as you were learning, how would you know if you had teachers that were teaching you the wrong information or not? Easy, you wouldn't pass the test. In a simple example, if you were not taught how to read properly, you wouldn't be able to read a book. In another example, in a math class, if you did not learn how to solve the math problems because the teacher gave you the wrong formulas, you would get the answers wrong in the practice test sections of the book.

Some of the most important life skills may not be taught in public schools

Let me give you some equally or even more important examples of skills that you may not have thought much about.

Does it almost seem odd that in our society many people openly accept the fact that people have to work hard to learn to be a good doctor, lawyer, or any other skilled job, but those same people may not advocate that unless you were brought up in a loving, nurturing family that also taught you relationship skills; you would have to do the work to learn these skills?

How do we know how the best way to raise a child? How do we know how to have a  deep intimate relationship with those we love? How do we know how to have long lasting intimate friendships where we feel comfortable enough to talk about personal situations? How do we know the value of being considerate or honest to others? How do we know the value of treating people fairly, and lovingly? How do we know how to express feelings in a healthy way to resolve conflict? How do we know about feelings? Isn't the simple answer that all of these skills must be learned?

Have you ever heard of a public school class or a government-funded show or publication called: "How to have (or teach) loving relationships"? As a friend at my YMCA said to me, "public schools even teach history, but nothing on loving relationships or even dealing with finances." Now it's important to realize that I'm not saying public schools should or should not teach these skills.

The point is, if you were not taught in school; there are potentially four ways to learn these valuable life skills:

1) Your parents or caregivers (often primary role models) could teach you.
2) You could learn from other "role models."
3) You could learn by "trial by fire" or "trial and error."
4) You could learn on our own through other sources.

Did you learn correct or "Incorrect Lessons" in life from parents, caregivers, media, or role models?

In the book "The Question Behind the Question" by John G. Miller (amazon), John talks about people who ask the wrong questions. He calls them "lousy questions". He says, "They're negative and they don't solve any problems." John calls them "Incorrect Questions", since nothing positive or productive comes from asking them."

Along a similar path, what if you were taught lessons that could be called "Incorrect Lessons" by role models, which includes media (such as TV) and everyone you come in contact including your parents or caregivers? Scientific research proves that we learn from role models through processes such as mirror neurons, and maybe a lot of that role model learning happens while we are not even aware of it! These "Incorrect Lessons" could be, for example, being negative, abusive, controlling, dishonest, or insensitive to others in relationships. Learning laziness and ignorance could also be considered "Incorrect Lessons". (See also: Glass Foggers for other examples.)

Did your parents or caregivers teach you, and did they teach you correct lessons?

If your parents or caregivers actually spent time teaching you how to have healthy relationships, unless they had you read or included references from professional sources such as psychiatrists, psycholinguists or people educated in a related field, how would you know they were teaching you correct information?

How did they learn how to be parents? To think of it in another way, did you ever buy something that said, "Some assembly required", only to find a big instruction manual inside? Did your parents ever get a book on "how to properly raise children?"

Unless role models such as parents actually learned from professional sources, what they taught you could be wrong and the problem is that you may not even realize it. How could that be? Well there is a saying that I recently read that I think applies here as well as in many other aspects of people's lives. "We don't know what we don't know." Without taking a "relationship test", some people may never realize something IS wrong, and may consider it "normal." In fact, in a book containing the 13 Characteristics of people who grow up in dysfunctional families, the first characteristic in the list is "guess at what normal behavior is." It's not uncommon to not know what "normal" or correct behavior is.

Why would any parent teach you "Incorrect Lessons" (maybe not directly but maybe through role modeling)? There is a good probability it is because they learned it from their parents or their role models! What if you were taught "Incorrect Lessons" by your parents? Well as Roger (another friend who goes to the Y) said to me, "it's like a double-whammy." In order to have healthy relationships, as an adult you must first "unlearn" any "Incorrect Lessons" that may be almost automatic behaviors (which can be done), before you can learn to choose healthy behaviors in your life. If you don't you will likely repeat the unhealthy lessons you were taught.

Resources indicate that it's very common that people that do repeat the very things they did not like about their parents! In the New York Times Bestseller "Getting the Love You Want" (amazon), by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. he talks about how we repeat the "Incorrect Lessons" that we learned growing up, guess where? Harville says it shows up in our future relationships. He says, "You become one parent, and marry the other." What he means is that many children start taking on (from what they learned) some of the good as well as some of the not so good traits (Incorrect Lessons) of their parents and other role models.

There are many books that discuss the challenges caused by "Incorrect Lessons" and how correct them for healthy relationships. Just a couple examples include "It Will Never Happen To Me" by Claudia Black, PhD, MSW; New York Times Bestseller "Adult Children of Alcoholics" by Janet Geringer Woititz, Ed.D.; and "Codependency No More" a New York Times Bestseller by Melody Beattie. There are also professionals, 12 Step programs (wiki), and internet resources that can help.

Did you learn from other "role models"?

If your parents didn't teach you healthy lessons, then unless you went and studied books on it, your knowledge of how to have "loving relationships" might boil down to what you learn from other "role models". As mentioned, this includes everyone else you are exposed to including media such as TV. (See: role models.)

Now it's important to realize that most people spend a lot of time with these role models. How many may be teaching you "Incorrect Lessons"? Remember, there is a 40 to 50 percent divorce rate. Could that be a possible barometer to measure how much of your lessons from role models may be "Incorrect Lessons"?

Did you learn by "trial by fire" or "trial and error"?

If you really didn't learn by reading books or taking classes like you did in school, then did you learn by "trial and error"? How many failed relationships have occurred (or never started) because you were not taught "how" in the first place? When there is a wealth of healthy materials out there, why would you waste time "shooting darts with a blindfold on"? Just like anyone who studies to become a doctor, take the time to learn from accepted resources.

Did you (and will you) learn on our own?

Did you learn on your own, or do you want to learn on your own? As mentioned in previous sections, be mindful to make sure it was or is correct information. Does what you know agree with what acclaimed writers and psychiatrists teach? Does it agree with books like "The Road Less Traveled" (amazon) by Dr. M. Scott Peck, or any of the volumes of great information on relationships? There are many other resources such as professionals including therapists, 12 Step programs (wiki), and internet resources that can help. One litmus test to determine if you may want to consider learning to improve skills might be ask yourself how many friends, and loved ones do you currently have where you can share your feelings and intimate thoughts in an open honest loving manner?

What I invite you to do is to consider doing some quick math:

-Add up how many hours your parents sat down with you and had healthy educational discussions about how to have loving relationships. By healthy, I mean the teachings would agree with the writings from professionals.

-Add onto those hours you spent learning healthy relationship or life lessons from others. This could include teachings from church, religious schools, workshops, therapists, or other expert people where the focus of the topic was about relationships including "loving relationships."

-Add onto those hours the time you spent reading expert books focusing on love and relationships. Again, there are almost an infinite number of books written by experts including as an example The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book is a #1 New York Times Bestseller for 8 years running and at the last time I looked had over 12.5 thousand 5 star reviews in Amazon!

Does the number come anywhere close to the hours needed to become a doctor or even to learn math? If the answer is no, then consider spending more time to research and learn about topics like relationships. One way to research is to look it up, take classes on the subject, and/or talk to healthy people educated in the topic.

School clearly taught us the lesson that if you don't look it up, or learn it correctly; you will not have the correct answer on a test. If you don't look it up, research, or think honestly and logically about the problem enough to get the best answer, chances are you give the wrong answer. It was clear that if you get enough answers wrong you will fail the test, and you may even fail the class. Since that was true for school, wouldn't it also hold true that educating yourself on how to have a more successful emotional life would result in a more successful emotional life?

If you stop to think about it for a minute, what is more important to you? Is it a successful career or is it your feelings in your relationships and life?

So let's just say you answered the previous question "they are both equally important". Ok, then have you spent equal time learning about both your job and relationships? Do you generally believe that you get out of something proportional to what you put into it? Do you believe in the quote that "there is no such thing as a free lunch?"

Equally Important:

Since we forget knowledge over time, and other situations (such as money or jobs) in our daily busy lives may tend to "drown out" the good lessons we may have learned,

What I invite you to do is to consider this:

How many hours in the last year have you spent refreshing or expanding upon knowledge such as relationship skills?

Just like exercise, if we stop, our muscles turn to mush. You just can't go to the gym once in your life, and say you never need to exercise again. We must exercise regularly. Most people can't remember everything they have learned, they have to be reminded. Humans forget, and other less important things may overshadow loving thoughts. We must continuously be refreshing the healthy lessons throughout our lives.  Consider using your current level of happiness, maybe how well you sleep at night, the count and depth of your relationships as potential "meters" for how much time you should spend refreshing your relationship knowledge. Maybe check the 13 Characteristics list to measure your progress. For example, I would see my Grandma S read the Bible at night, and of all the people I personally knew "growing up", she best lived a life of giving and teaching love. Her routine kept her spirit strong.


Consider spending time learning and practicing possibly some of most important skills you can learn in your life, and enjoy the benefits such as greater happiness that you and those around you will benefit from. Skills learned on how to have loving relationships, when applied in your daily life, will mean a more loving happy life for you and those you love! I'm very lucky, I love my life, and the more I learn, the better I feel.

See also Important Relationship Skills.

Thank YOU for reading this!

By David M

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This page updated 12/08/22 07:22 PM