Posts tagged dating
Consent: Why, When and How Does Consent Become Complicated?
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This is the second post in a 3 part series on the topic of consent. In a couple of our weeks, our third blog post on consent will talk about how to make sure you are giving and receiving proper consent.

In our first consent blog post (Consent: The Breakdown) we looked at the basics of what is involved in an activity for it to be consensual. But from what we are hearing in the media, from people around us, and/or from our own experiences, we are finding consent can quickly become complicated and confusing; leaving us unsure of what to do to in the present situation or how to navigate new situations safely.

 

Here are some examples of things that can easily complicate consent:

            X    Playing Mind Games (“Hard to Get”)

            X    Making Assumptions/Not Learning About Your Specific Partner

            X    Awkwardness and/or Lack of Education

            X    Seeing “No” As a Personal Rejection

            X    Rushing Things

            X    Being Selfish

            X    Obligation

            X    Objectifying

            X    Porn

 

Now let’s break each of these down:

            X    Playing Mind Games (“Hard to Get”)Saying one thing and expecting another.

Say what you mean. Sometimes we think a love interest should be able to read our mind. They should know when the moment is right and when it’s not, when to kiss and when to hold our hand, when to talk and when to listen. But this is all a part of learning, understanding and knowing a person. One cannot learn how to effectively communicate with a person, understand and know what they want and how they work, without time together and honest conversation. If you are unsure about something (e.g. a physical act), wait until you are sure to do it. If you know what you want, ask and/or communicate it. You can be flirty and mysterious, without being confusing and sending mixed messages.

 

            X    Not Learning About Your Specific PartnerWhen we think we know what the other person will enjoy without ever asking them; or when we think that because we enjoy something, the other person will or should enjoy it too.

Different people like different things…bodies are different! We should always ask our partners what they enjoy BEFORE doing it (holding hands, hugs, cuddling, kissing, surprise kisses, and other physical activities). This communication does not have to be limited to just asking in the moment. Open and honest questions and dialogue about likes and dislikes, comfortability, and interest can happen well before and even after an activity, as well as in the moment.

 

            X    Awkwardness and/or Lack of EducationSkipping verbal consent because it feels awkward, we are unsure of how to do it, or we feel it takes too long.

Sometimes we may find it awkward to ask for consent because we don’t often see it done (movies, TV shows, porn, etc.) But the reality is: movies, TV shows and porn are all a scripted act, made to look a certain way. It is not often, if ever, natural or genuine. They know (most of the time) what is about to go down before it goes down! And they (should) have signed a contract saying that they are consenting to the activities about to happen on screen.

Real life isn’t like this. It isn’t scripted or contracted. We don’t automatically know the boundaries and level of someone else’s comfortability and consent. It’s not on paper. And that’s ok! Because… instead of knowing what is going to happen and then just doing it, we actually get to be our fully present, genuine selves in the moment and figure out the complexity and uniqueness of the individual with us; which can often be challenging (…and maybe even a little nerve wracking).  But this is also so exciting and fun while keeping us on these cute ‘lil toes of ours! ;D

So if we want to go get our mustaches dyed purple with our friend, we have to ask them right?

Yes! Why? Because…

1.      They don’t know what we want if we don’t ask and say what we desire.

2.      We can’t demand or force anyone to do anything.

3.      We can’t just do what we want because we feel like it, when it affects other people.

4.      We can’t just take what isn’t ours.

Consent is not awkward unless you make it awkward! If we have to ask our friends to hang out with us and do other activities with us, we definitely have to ask to touch or do physical things to or with someone else’s body? If it ain’t yours, ask! And respect the answer.

 

            X    Seeing “No” As a Personal RejectionNot saying “no” for fear of the other person feeling unwanted or rejected; or not asking for fear of being rejected.

“No” does not mean personal rejection. “No” is setting a boundary and boundaries are necessary for every single relationship to be healthy. Saying “No” to something someone has asked you to do is not rejecting that person; it’s rejecting the activity they have asked you to do. “No” puts a boundary around the activity, situation, or person so the individual stays true to who they are and protects them; which is healthy and important to do in all relationships! (Yay for heathy! WOOT WOOT!) It is very possible (would I dare even say “common”?) for a person to really like someone and just not be ready to kiss them yet. “No” allows a person to feel safe and in control of what is theirs and share when they feel ready and excited to do so.

“No” ≠ personal rejection

“No” = personal boundary

 

            X    Rushing ThingsTreating physical activities like a destination to get to, instead of a journey you are taking with another person.

It isn’t a race! No really...it isn’t! (ha) Check it out: If the goal is to go from kissing to sex in 10 seconds or less, A LOT of important things will be missed! Ten seconds definitely does not give enough time to make sure all activities are consensual and both parties are comfortable.

So for Pete’s sake… SLOW. *clap* IT. *clap* DOWN. *clap*. We aren’t limited to 10 seconds of screen time! WOOT! Enjoy the moment…and make sure they are enjoying it too, ESPECIALLY if it is your first time doing physical things with someone!

If you are with a partner that is going too fast for what you feel comfortable with or are enjoying, TELL them. It can be something as simple as saying “slower” or “not yet”.  You won’t enjoy something you are feeling uncomfortable with or weren’t ready for, and it can often cause resentment or even regret after. (Nor should you want the other person to feel that way ever either!) And if you don’t care…refer to my next point ;). #itsnotcooltonotcare

 

            X    Being SelfishWhen one person cares more about what they want than the other person’s comfortability or enjoyment.

Physical interactions are meant to be enjoyed by BOTH parties EQUALLY. When one person cares only about what they like or want, it often (if not always) leads to non-consensual acts. Physical interactions are ALWAYS more enjoyable, safe, and consensual when both parties are enjoying, caring, and communicating equally!

 

            X    ObligationWhen a person feels a duty or responsibility to fulfil their partner’s physical desires or fantasies; or feeling like they have to continue to do something they didn’t like or feel comfortable with because they did it before and their partner liked it.

Hear me loud and clear…You are NEVER in your life REQUIRED to ENGAGE IN OR PERFORM ANY. SEXUAL. ACTS. EVER.

Nor is it your DUTY or RESPONSIBILITY to FULFILL someone else’s EXPECTATIONS, DESIRES, OR FANTACIES EVER!

I hope that spoke to someone.

Never at any point does someone HAVE to do or go through with anything they are uncomfortable with, are unsure about, or just straight up don’t want to do. In consent, a “yes!” is valid until the MOMENT a person says “no” OR communicates that they are no longer wanting to engage in the present activity. Anything that continues after that is non-consensual. So EVEN if they said “yes!” to an activity, people always have 100% freedom to change their mind at any point during that activity (or before). Consent can be revoked at any time, and must be respected when it is.

Your body is yours, and only yours. No one ever has a right to it or to do anything to it. Not your girlfriend, boyfriend, family member, co-worker, spouse, boss, friend or best friend. No one. <3

 

            X    ObjectifyingSeeing a person as something or someone made for just your pleasure and enjoyment and removing the feelings of the other to perform a “sex act”.

Oxytocin is the bonding chemical released through a person’s body, which makes a person feel close to and connected to another person. Oxytocin is automatically released every time a person engages in physical activities with another person. The bond is then made stronger and stronger each time a person engages in physical activity with the same person. Oxytocin can affect people in different ways and form different levels of attachment in each person. Sex is not just a physical experience; it is also a relationally bonding experience. You are always having sex with a person, not just a body. ALWAYS value and respect the individual person’s mind, body, and feelings.

 

            X    Porn Acting out what you have seen in porn, assuming that it is what sex is like.

With 64% of people between the ages of 13-24 actively seeking out pornography weekly or more often and the average age of first exposure to porn being 11 years old, studies are now showing many young people’s first experience related to sex is through pornography.  Studies also show many young people’s main sexual education is from pornography as well.

This is not good because . . . (pause for effect) . . . porn is NOT realistic! *mindblown*

There are MANY interviews with porn-stars who say that they don’t know why people (especially teens) watch porn as a “How to Guide”. That’s never what porn was made to be. It was made to be adult entertainment, a fantasy, and extreme imagery – it is often non-consensual and physically and/or verbally abusive on screen, as well as off screen. It was not made to show you what sex is actually like, nor is it a good representation of what healthy sex looks like.

Porn is NOT created to help educate you on sex. Pornography is a product that is created and sold for profit (aka: to make money off you). They are not focused in any way towards how what they are making affects you and/or your relationships. They are working to make and sell the most addicting product they can, to keep you coming back (as almost all products do). [See www.fightthenewdrug.org for more information].

 

So now that you are aware of these things, keep an eye out for them. Be careful to engage with any partners that show signs of these but also be aware of whether you have been influenced by any of these things. Work to become an even healthier partner.

So now how do we make sure we hit all the necessary points of consent? In our last consent blog post (Consent Part 3 - The Check: How Do You Know You’re Asking The Right Questions?) we are going to answer that very question… stay tuned ;)

Relationship Myths: Part I
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The wonderful thing about the internet is that there is a wealth of information, advice and wisdom made easily accessible for us regarding anything, including relationships!  But the downside of the internet is that it’s hard to sift through all of that information to find the good, helpful and wise advice!  There is a lot of information posted by anyone and for anyone. But it might not be true.  This is no different with relationships.  There can be a lot of myths about relationships; our hope is to dispel a couple of them in this post.

 “My partner should know what I’m thinking or feeling”

By definition a relationship is two separate people coming together.  You may feel a connection with someone but no matter how similar you are in your beliefs and ideas, you are two unique individuals with your own unique DNAs.  You will have differences in some areas of your lives. These differences may be in interests, beliefs, ways of thinking, patterns of behavior, how you listen or communicate and your experiences.  There is this idea that when you’re in love with someone or when you’re with the right person they ‘will just get you’.  But they are not in your head and they are not you.  Communication and boundaries are important.  Both of you are unique individuals who are responsible for your own thoughts and feelings.  Communicating your feelings and thoughts when it’s appropriate and safe to do so is better than assuming that your partner knows what you are thinking and feeling.  If you need help learning how to communicate in healthy ways, you can ask a trusted counselor, mentor or friend to help you learn these skills.

 “Our relationship has to be a certain way”

Healthy relationships involve: mutual respect, trust, individuality, good communication, compromise and understanding.  There are many different opinions online about when you should become official, when you should say ‘I love you’, how to know if you’ve found “the One”, where you should meet someone, etc.  There are important things that you should do to make sure your relationships are healthy, respectful and aligned with your own values.  However, determining where and how you meet someone, how long you should date till you meet the parents, get engaged, etc. can look different for every couple because, every couple includes two unique individuals with different opinions, beliefs, values, thoughts and feelings.  One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to relationships.  Your relationship might look different than someone else’s. Don’t feel pressured to speed up your relationship to different stages just because another couple is at a different stage or does things in a slightly different timeline or fashion.  Focus on your relationship and hold it to your values and standards.  Make sure both you and your partner are comfortable with how things are going and progressing – this requires good communication so try to practice this early on if you can.

As always, our centre provides support to clients who wish to talk about relationships and how to create and build healthy relationships.  Feel free to contact us if you want to talk with one of our Client Advocates or our Community Education team.  

Healthy Relationships
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Last month we talked about how a healthy relationship starts with looking at ourselves. When we come at dating from a place of knowing our reasons for dating and what we’re looking for, we’ll be less likely to waste our time and someone else’s time, eliminating some of the inevitable risk of getting hurt and hurting others as well.  But this still doesn’t mean we’ll find ourselves a healthy relationship, even if we know ourselves really well and are in a healthy spot. 

So this month, we want to explore a few characteristics of healthy relationships. Begin to think about your own relationships or future relationships... are these qualities there in your current or potential relationships and partner?

Finding someone else who’s in a healthy place and creating a healthy relationship together is not as easy or simple as we hope it should be.  In many ways that’s why we date people, to find out if they could be a good long-term mate.  So while you go on dates, assess your relationship or are considering getting into the dating scene, here are three really important things to look for to determine if you have a healthy relationship that you may want to consider moving forward with.   

·              Mutual respect

Relationships shouldn’t be one-sided.  Yes, there are moments and seasons where one person needs more support than the other but in those seasons you should still feel respected.  If you find yourself giving constantly and not receiving anything in return, feeling anxious, alone and unsupported, you may want to reassess whether you wish to continue with the relationship. 

Healthy relationships include fairness and equality.  If your partner is going through a hard time there is a difference between supporting them through a hard season and being taken advantage of by someone who is not super healthy or doesn’t have the ability to ever give you what you need.  Even if your partner is going through a hard season of life, they should be able to recognize the support you are giving them and appreciate it, not take advantage of it.  If their struggles will likely be a long term thing, it’s important to consider how this will play out for you, your emotional and physical health and your relationship in the long term.

You should also feel comfortable to share your own struggles in a healthy relationship and should feel respected and heard.  Even if your partner is not in a place at the moment to be able to support you in the way you may hope, there should still be a willingness to hear you, try to be there for you and a respect for you and your feelings. A cold shoulder, ill-treatment or disregard for one’s time, energy and feelings can feel disrespectful.  Both people in a relationship should feel cared for, admired and safe to be vulnerable.

·         Good communication

Healthy relationships involve getting to know one another and understanding each other (or at least working towards understanding each other).  Two separate people will not think or act the same way all the time.  There will be disagreements and differences to navigate, even in a healthy relationship.  So it’s imperative that a healthy relationship involves communicating feelings, thoughts and expectations.  It involves being vulnerable about our own thoughts and feelings so the other person gets to know us and, in turn, also listening well so we can understand and get to know the other person.  Communication builds intimacy and understanding. These are healthy things that result from growing in relationship with someone.

·                  Honesty

Honesty has a lot to do with both respect and communication.  If you can’t trust what your partner says and there are repeated patterns of lying or withholding information, it will be very hard to grow together in true intimacy.  In a similar sense, if you don’t feel you can be yourself in a relationship, there is no opportunity to truly be known and loved for who you are. Look for someone you can trust. Relationships require both people to be trustworthy and honest. 


Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list of what a healthy relationship looks like but perhaps it’s a start.  It is important that we value ourselves and our partners, challenging each other to work towards bettering ourselves and the ways we communicate and do relationships with others. 

If you think you may be in an unhealthy relationship but aren’t sure, or don’t know how to move forward in a current relationship, you are in good company. Many of us desire to improve our relationships and struggle with finding the right companion. I encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend, family member or mentor about your concerns or questions.  You deserve love and respect. As humans that have also been through our share of healthy and unhealthy relationships, our client advocates at Pregnancy Options are also available to talk with you about your relationships and how to move forward in life and love with confidence and hope. You are not alone.

What are some other characteristics of a healthy relationship? Comment below if you want to share some ideas with other readers.

 

How to Survive a Break Up
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Romance is fun.  Getting to know a new person is exciting and hopeful.  Although relationships can be challenging, for the most part, dating and committing to exclusively spend time and share your life with one person brings us a lot of pleasure and happiness.  But the reality of life is that you and your current partner will either be together forever… or you’ll break up.  There is no third option.  One study, cited in The Rosie Project, reports that the average woman will have her heart broken two times before she finds “The One”. 

So you fell for someone and suddenly find yourself heartbroken - and maybe even completely blindsided - with hopes and dreams of a future together dashed.  Now what do you do with this new reality?

After walking through a couple of breakups in the last few years, and one quite recently, here’s some of what I’m learning:

1) Turn Off the ‘Self-Critic’

Whether you are the one who breaks up with someone or the one who is broken up with, it’s so natural to wonder what went wrong.  But oftentimes we put too much negative focus on ourselves.  What did I do wrong? Is there a way I can fix it?   We can easily blame ourselves for things that we may or may not have done.  We spend too much time entertaining “what ifs” when there is no way to go back and change things.  We may feel discouraged, believing we’ll never find love again.  We might think we are unworthy of love.  We might easily default to anxiety and insecurity about our newly single status, our looks, personality, interests... whatever we feel may have been ‘critiqued’ by our former partner during the breakup process.

Although all of this is normal, just because we think something or feel a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true.  Now is the best time to choose not to believe all the negative self-talk and to allow others to encourage you.  Without the extra love of that person, you have a greater need to be kind to yourself as you grieve.  (If you have a problem in this area, learning to value yourself is a wonderful thing to grow in during this season – see tip #3).

How can you turn off that critical person within you?  Be aware of what you are telling yourself.  Write any constant personal critiques down or share some of the things you are believing about yourself (due to the break up) with a trusted friend or mentor, someone who can confirm your value and care for you as you grieve the relationship.  Trusted people outside of the relationship can help you figure out if you are at fault for anything and can lovingly support you in that, while also helping you identify where you are being too hard on yourself.

2) Go ‘Cold Turkey’

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Time heals all wounds”.  Nobody likes to hear that phrase, because in the moment it doesn’t feel true.  There is some level of truth to it though; with time and distance it won’t hurt as much.  As hard as that is to believe, there is hope of this.  And the easiest way I’ve found to speed up this process is to treat the person like a drug addiction and go ‘cold turkey’ from them.  It may sound weird but you’ve likely invested a lot of time for the past number of months thinking about this person.  That doesn’t just shut off when you break up.  Whether you were the one to break it off or they were, you will be reminded of them often, especially for the first few months.  If you’ve built a lot of memories with the person you probably won’t need more reminders of their presence and it will be a lot harder to move on if you communicate with your ex, creep them on social media or show up where you know they will be.

I’m not saying that you have to cut your ex out of your life forever, maybe it’s just for a time.  Some people may decide not to do this tip and depending on your situation, it may not be an issue for you.  But I suggest this one because I know how helpful it has been for me.  Be kind to yourself.  As much as you miss the person and want to know what they are doing, oftentimes you will not feel better after looking at their page.  Instead you may spiral back into dwelling on the relationship, your pain and how you miss them.  Everyone puts their best foot forward on social media.  Of course you will see photos of your ex looking happy, doing fun things and living their life without you.  Naturally, the self-critic begins to suggest that they don’t miss you and are happy without you.

You will move on faster and clear that person out of your immediate priority list sooner if you take the time to ‘quit’ them.  Just because you miss someone, doesn’t mean they’re good for you or should be in your life.  Use this extra time and mental energy to focus on yourself… tip #3.

3) Focus on Yourself

Focus on what’s in front of you, the moment and season of life you find yourself in.  Unfortunately, it may not be a season you wanted to find yourself in, it’s painful and potentially confusing.  But there is hope.  Remember how many others have experienced break ups and how the average woman goes through at least two before finding a lifelong partner?  You can also make it through!  You are strong.  And why not come out even better because of it?  If you have to experience heartbreak, then try to focus on the positives and your future.

Challenge yourself in this time to take steps to become the type of person you want to be, to continue to hold yourself to your values as you walk through the difficulties that come with a breakup.  Take care of yourself, exercise, eat well, get adequate sleep, speak kindly to yourself and do things that are life-giving.  I’ve found it beneficial to do something active that serves others.  My mind may not have been able to emotionally help others but doing an activity (like washing cars for single moms) was a great way to feel like I was helping others and it took the focus off of myself.  Maybe a local food bank needs help serving the homeless or the animal shelter needs a volunteer (I hear pets can be an emotional comfort too!)

Learn who you are by taking yourself on a date.  When you’re in a relationship you tend to focus on who you are as a couple and invest so much time in each other that you may have forgotten what it’s like to focus on yourself or other aspects of your life.  Use this time to enjoy your own company, do things you like to do, discover new passions and interests.  (Bonus: now you don't have to be forced to participate in activities your ex loved that you didn't enjoy!) 

Work towards becoming the kind of person you wish to attract and surround yourself with.  It's important to take the time you need to process and be comfortable with who you are as a single.  Rushing into a new relationship right away may be tempting but it doesn’t allow you to experience all that you can learn to improve the quality of your future relationship(s).  Your next relationship will benefit from taking time to heal, process and grow through this experience, believe me!

4) Analyze the Relationship from the Outside; Don’t Dwell on It

There is much to be learned about ourselves while we reanalyze, recreate and achieve new goals and dreams for our lives post-break up.  But we can also learn a lot from our former partner and the relationship, no matter how long or short the relationship was.  We can learn more about what we need and want in a future partner and may recognize patterns, behaviours or emotional triggers that came up throughout the relationship. 

Maybe you don’t have hope for a future relationship right now or maybe you are still hoping your ex will come back to you.  That's okay.  This step doesn’t need to happen right away.  It’s important to give yourself time to deal with the grief you are experiencing.  It can be helpful though to not dwell on the relationship (and/or your ex), ruminating on it over and over again for a long time without intentions of healing or growing.  Wallowing will not change anything and doesn’t help us to move forward.  Instead, a tip is to try to view the relationship and the breakup as if you are an outsider or a fly on the wall.  When you are ready to look at the relationship for analytical purposes, remove yourself and the personal feelings as best you can when you think about the relationship. 

Again, the point of this is to avoid dwelling for months and months on the relationship and the breakup without moving forward.  There is a time to process and grieve the very real feelings accompanied with the relationship and break up.  Don’t ignore those!  But, if you have taken time to grieve, and been kind to yourself in that process by allowing yourself that time to sit in the grief, then you may be ready to move on and it’s good to look at what you learned so you can avoid certain character traits or patterns in future relationships.  You may find it helpful to journal and seek counseling or wise advice as you do this. 

If you’re aware of the self-critic, this process will be less painful and more beneficial for you.  Some things you may want to journal or think about include: what you learned about yourself, where you were challenged and how you grew as a person during the relationship or due to the breakup, any changes you may have to your list of qualities and things you’re looking for in a future mate, etc.

5) Have Grace for Yourself

It’s hard to choose the healthy options and behaviours.  It’s natural for “the heart to want what the heart wants”.  It’s not easy to choose to focus on yourself, to stop dwelling on negative thoughts and wondering if your ex thinks about you.  It’s hard to avoid the temptation to check up on them or ask your mutual friends how your ex is doing.  But anything of value tends to come with challenge and hard work.  It will take effort and intentionality to move forward.  But it won’t be easy. 

Nobody wants to sit in pain.  We want to be out of the pain as quickly as humanly possible.  These tips may help you to move forward faster but there is also value in learning to navigate pain and hard times in healthy ways.  Because life will unfortunately always have grief, loss and pain it's good to learn how to cope with it. 

Give yourself grace in the process.  Learn to sit in the grief and allow yourself time to process.  You won’t be perfect in doing all these tips.  Some days it may seem like two steps forward and some it may feel like one step back but keep bringing your focus back to the goals, learn to love yourself and look for the positives in the process.  You are strong.  You will make it through!

 

Of course this is not an exhaustive list of tips and ways to make it through a break up.  If you've been through a break up before, what are some of your tips?  Comment and share below.