- Love does not hurt. Physical and/or emotional abuse are not a part of love.
- Love is not manipulative, it should not be used to get others to do what you want. You should never give in to demands based on the, “You would do it if you loved me!” tactic.
- Love is an intense feeling of caring for another person. It can take many different forms (romantic, friendly, familial) but it is always about caring.
- Although it is true that a big part of love is putting another person’s happiness ahead of your own this never includes compromising your values or being untrue to yourself.
- If somebody asks you to do something that you don’t want to do in order to “prove” your love they do not love you the way you might think they do. When you love another person you don’t ask them to sacrifice a part of themselves in the name of love.
- It is very easy to confuse lust for love. The true measure of romantic love is commitment and trust, not physical attraction.
- It is possible to feel romantic love for more than one person at a given time. Don’t beat yourself up emotionally if you find yourself in this unhappy situation. But be sure to remain single and be open and honest with all parties about your feelings and confusion.
- Sex is NOT love. Love is NOT sex. Sex can be a part of romantic love but it is never mandatory.
- Romantic love can (and often does) fade. When it goes there is not always a reason. When somebody falls out of love with you it does not reflect upon your value as a person or your desirability.
- Love should make you feel happy, secure and appreciated.1
Does it make sense to think about this in advance? YES! Whether we know it or not, we think about this all of the time. Example – if you were interested in a relationship with a boy, you wouldn’t ask a girl out. As we grow older, our list is based on our experiences. Right now, think about what is important to you. Does it matter if they are funny? Kind? Honest? Can you let go of their bad fashion sense?
Also, think about what would keep you from dating someone else. These ‘red flags’ are important to know in advance. Example – will you date someone who uses alcohol? Drugs? If you’ve already made your decisions about these things, it will go easier later.
Think about how you will ask someone for a date before you actually do it. You will be more confident about the whole experience.
Think about how you will say no to someone who asks you for a date. The best way we know is to say “No, thank you.” This is not a chance to score points off someone else, this is a way to help build gentle community.
Special Safety for Internet and Personal Ad Dates
We know you know this already, but just a reminder:
- When giving out geographical information, limit yourself to region only.
- NEVER, EVER give out your home phone number (remember, when you give out your home phone number, you’ve given out your address to anyone who wants to look it up). Use a pay phone that allows calls in and set a time to talk.
- If someone suggests you call them collect – your phone number will appear on their bill.
- If you call them from your cell phone, set your phone so that your number does not appear on their caller ID.
- Bragging will bring out those wanting to take advantage of you. Never, ever brag about your possessions, financial situation, looks, etc. Be a nice person and other nice people will find you. Brag, and every jerk in creation will come looking for you.
- Your handle tells a lot about you. Choose your handle considering what you think your best qualities are and the kind of person you want to attract. Don’t change your handle to incorporate someone else’s name or fantasy unless YOU want to do this.
The First Real Life Meeting
OK, so you’ve met someone on line you want to meet in person. Here’s some tips to keep you safe.
- Always meet in a public place. Don’t even agree that the parking lot is a good idea, you have NO protection from anything in a parking lot and no, your car is NOT safe! You can be easily overpowered, you don’t know if other cars in the parking lot are safe and nobody from within can see you.
- Always tell a friend or relative where you will be and write that information down.
- Never allow yourself to be picked up for the first meeting. If you don’t own transportation, get a ride from a friend, take a car, or bus. It is NEVER SAFE to leave your home with a total stranger or to give a total stranger your address.
- Never leave your purse or backpack unattended, even if the person you are meeting tells you they will watch it for you. Contained within your purse or whatever you carry is not only the obvious personal information, but your house and car keys.
- If possible, get a cell phone. Even if everything goes great, what if you were followed home?2
So, What does a healthy relationship look like? Here’s a list of some of the things you can expect from a healthy relationship:
- You can manage conflict and differences without despair or threats.
- Both of you know how to be responsible for your own needs and the needs of the relationship (we will talk more about this later).
- Arguments and fights do not lead to abuse or threatened break-ups.
- Both partners can communicate wants, needs, feelings and emotional issues with little or no shame.
- The relationship feels and is nurturing, comfortable, and fun.
- Both partners attend to the needs of each other willingly and lovingly.
- Both partners can and do keep agreements.
- Both partners are honest.
- There is no abuse: physical, verbal, emotional, financial.
- Both partners have good boundaries. You can say no without feeling guilty and tell the other when something feels not right or hurts you.3
Here’s a list of some of the things you can do to help your relationship thrive:
- Talk to each other – your partner cannot read your mind, be clear about what you want to say and listen carefully to your partner.
- Balance the time you spend away from your partner with the time you spend with your partner. Balance is the key word here.
- To feel good about your relationship you need to feel good about yourself.
- Make room in your relationship for differences and value them.
- Relationships are flexible – let your relationship adapt and grow as you do.
- Try not to judge, criticize or blame each other.
- No one is perfect, arguments happen, resolve them with respect.
- Be attentive and romantic – remember how it was when you first met.4
Every relationship requires good communication is it is going to last. Here is a list of things that can keep people from communicating with each other.
- Fear of exposing my/our deep feelings and my/our weaknesses.
- Fear that my partner will not understand my deep feelings.
- Fear of hurting my partner.
- Fear that my partner may hurt me by blaming me or putting me down.
- Fear of appearing less in my partner’s eyes.
- Fear of being rejected by my partner.
- Fear of not being taken seriously.
- Uncertainty and confusion about what I really feel.
- Fear of negative feedback from my partner.
- Fear of appearing stupid.
- Fear of appearing self-centered.
- Fear that my partner will not be able to cope with such disclosures and I will not be able to cope with my partner’s reactions.
- Fear that my partner will not be able to give me the help I think I need.
- Fear of making a bad situation worse, or ruining a good situation.4
None of these fears should keep you from talking. Remember, its only fear, and usually without merit.
People sometimes need help to be able to talk openly. Here’s a list of things you can do to help:
- Set aside time for both of you to talk.
- Talking about what is happening and how it affects you is the first step.
- Try to tell your partner exactly what you are feeling and thinking, even if it might upset him/her.
- Don’t forget, change can be painful and scary. Let your partner know you understand this.
- Listen to your partner. Put aside your own thoughts for the time being.
- Try to understand his/her intentions, needs, wants.
- State what you want.
Communication requires listening, not just waiting to talk. Here are some of the things you can do to be a good listener:
- Keeps comfortable eye contact.
- Leans towards the other person and makes appropriate gestures to indicate interest and concern.
- Has an ‘open’ position – fairly relaxed posture with arms and legs uncrossed.
- Faces the other – does not stand or sit sideways.
- Sits or stands on the same level to avoid looking up to or down on the speaker.
- Avoids distracting physical gestures, such as fidgeting with a pen, glancing at papers, tapping feet or finger.
- Realizes that physical barriers, such as noise or interruptions are likely to make effective communication difficult.
- Is genuine when attention and interest are shown.
Conflict is going to happen in every relationship. It helps keep the relationship healthy. If you avoid conflict, you could be avoiding issues that need to be resolved before they destroy your relationship. Also, conflict helps us learn and grow both as people and as part of a couple.
Here’s a list of some healthy ways to disagree:
- We can agree to disagree.
- Relationships are about give and take, just so long as it’s not always the same person that gives and the same one that takes.
- Listening to each other’s point of view is critical.
- There is never only and either/or way to resolve and issue. Look for middle ground if possible.5
Sometimes conflict turns into an argument. Here are some rules for fair fighting:
- No ambush.
- Present your argument sensibly.
- Listen carefully to your partner.
- Stick to the issue.
- Agree on what kind of behavior is acceptable.
- No hitting below the belt.
- Don’t over react.
- If you can’t settle the issues, table it for a later, specific, and agreed upon time.
- If you can agree, decide how to carry out your decision.
- If you are later dissatisfied with the decision, you must make an appointment for another discussion.6
We all get angry sometimes. There are three ways to respond when we are angry:
- Expressing our anger
- Often expressed by attacking the person we are angry with.
- This can leave a wound in the relationship that is harder to heal than the original problem.
- Everyone can learn to control their anger.
- Denying our anger
- Some people even fool themselves.
- Bottling up anger may solve a problem for a while, but will create worse problems in the future.
- Ignoring anger means you are ignoring warning signs in the relationship.
- Ignoring anger can destroy a relationship.
- Acknowledging our anger
- The most constructive way of handling anger.
- You need to have decided in advance, that you will not attack your partner when you are angry. Do not use anger as an opportunity to ‘score points’ off your partner.
- Admit that you are angry
- Use “I” statements. This helps to not hurt your partner.
- Ask for a time out if needed. Calm down so that your anger is not destructive.
- Explore your feelings. What are the feelings beneath the anger? What are you really angry about? Is it your partner’s fault? What do you want to have happen?
- Use a constructive approach
- use words that help rather than hurt
Sometimes your boyfriend / girlfriend is angry. When this happens, try:
- Listen to his/her point of view. There may be an angle on the problem you haven’t considered.
- Be prepared to acknowledge your part in the problem. Saying sorry does not mean that you are accepting all the responsibility.
- Ask what lessons can be learned from the conflict. This will improve your relationship and lessen the chances of a similar conflict happening again.
- Be prepared to forgive and make up.
PHYSICAL VIOLENCE IS NEVER AN ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE TO CONFLICT OR PROVOCATION. All of the following are abuse:
- Physical Abuse: kicking, slapping, chocking or using weapons. All threats of physical violence should be taken seriously.
- Sexual Assault: any non-consenting sexual act or behavior. Any unwanted or disrespectful sexual touch, rape, forced compliance in sexual acts, and forced viewing of pornography.
- Using coercion and threats.
- Telling your partner you will do something to hurt them, the children, pets or property if your partner does not do what you want, or does something you do not want them to do. Hurting the other’s feelings by saying mean things and name-calling.
- Using intimidation. Making your partner afraid by using looks, actions, gestures.
- Using isolation – controlling what your partner does, who your partner sees and talks to, what she or he reads and where they go.
- Psychological/Emotional/Verbal Abuse: Using words and other strategies to insult, threaten, degrade, abuse or denigrate the victim.
- Social abuse: Social isolation imposed upon a partner, such as stopping your partner from seeing their family and friends.
- Economic abuse: Controlling someone else by withholding money or forcing him or her to support you.6
Our relationships need to be cared for just like we could care for any living thing. Here are some things you can do to care for your relationship:
- Appreciate your partner, remember to say thank you.
- Look past the faults and look more at the positive.
- Share responsibilities.
- Don’t overreact to trivial things.
- Find a way to deal with stress that doesn’t involve being mean to your partner.
- Try to solve problems together if possible.
- Do not try to change your partner.
- Learn to compromise.
- Do not bring up the past, move forward.
- Do not keep secrets.
- Bury sarcasm.7
Not every relationship is forever. When it is time to break up, remember:
- More often than not, breaking up is as hard on the person ending the relationship as it is on the person being broken up with. Don’t assume just because a person is breaking up with you means that they no longer care about you, caring about you and wanting a relationship with you are not the same thing.
- Nobody likes to hurt another person, especially somebody they have been close to, and it is often very easy to guilt trip somebody into staying with you when they are trying to end things. Resist this urge! When you use guilt as a way to stop a break up you not only cheat yourself out of having a good and true relationship, you foster resentment in the other person which could lead to greater pain and heart ache in the future.
- Being broken up with does not mean that there is something wrong with you; it just means that there is something that is not working in the relationship. Try not to take the rejection too personally. Remember that lots of great people have had failed relationships – the fact that the relationships failed says nothing about their value as a person. That fact that your relationship failed likewise says nothing about you as a person.
- It is all right to cry, get mad and feel hurt when you are dumped. These are normal, natural feelings, just be sure that you let your feelings out in a safe place among friends or family. Do not make your ex the target of your feelings, even if they have done something to deserve your outrage. The sooner you let go of the other person, the sooner the healing can begin.
- Breaking up is never easy. You will have good days and you will have bad days. Take it one day at a time and don’t beat yourself up if you have an overly emotional day – you’re only human.
- Break ups are often followed by one of the parties starting a new relationship and when this happens it can bring up all sorts of old feelings. If you though you were over someone who broke up with you and find yourself upset at the news that s/he has moved on, rest assured you are normal. Let yourself be upset, it is part of the healing process.
- Acting out in anger is never good for anybody. After being broken up with don’t spread mean or spiteful rumors. Don’t betray former confidences by telling old secrets to others. If another person was involved in your break up resist the urge to slam them behind their back. Acting vicious only makes you look bad and any satisfaction you may feel will be short lived. In the end this sort of behavior will only make you feel worse.
- A big part of the pain of breaking up comes from a feeling of embarrassment. We often fear how the situation will look to outsiders. Refuse to be embarrassed, even if you did something outlandish to cause your break up. Letting go of the embarrassment will help you move on to the healing.
- Nobody ever deserves to be hurt. Your ex does not deserve to be hurt because you are hurting. Your ex’s new love interest does not deserve to be hurt just because you feel jealous. You do not deserve to be hurt, even if you acted badly and caused the break up. Breaking up hurts, but it doesn’t have to be made worse by holding a grudge or drowning yourself in a pool of ‘if onlys’. Deal with the reality and let go of your anger, the pain will disappear more quickly if you do.
- Things may seem bleak now but you never know what the future may hold for you and your ex. You may get back together someday. You may not. Either way it is better to let go of a faltering relationship while there is still some caring left between the two of you. If you play it out to the bitter end and leave your ex no choice but to hate you to get rid of you, you close the door to the future. Bowing our graciously leaves room for a future relationship with your ex, even if it is just as good friends.8
- “Things You Oughta Know About…A Top 10 Fact Sheet on Love”, http://www.teenadvice.about.com, accessed 7/28/2003.
- The First Real Life Meeting”, http://www.wildxangel.com, accessed 7/29/03.
- “Healthy Relationships – What Do They Look Like?” http://www.wespsych.com, accessed 7/29/03.
- “Building Relationships – Barriers to Communications”, http://www.relate.gov.au/relationships/barriers.html, accessed 7/29/03.
- “When the going gets tough”, http://www.relate.gov.au/tough/index/html, accessed 7/29/03.
- “Building relationships. Rules for fair fighting”, http://www.relate.gov.au/relationships/fair.html, accessed 7/29/03.
- Building relationships, Ways to nurture your relationship., http://www.relate.gov.au/relationships/nurture.html, accessed 7/29/03
- “Things You Oughta Know About… A Top 10 Fact Sheet on Breaking Up/ Being Broken Up With.” http://teenadvice.about.com/library/b110thingsbreakingup.htm, accessed 7/28/03.