Posts tagged healthy relationships
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 ;)

Consent: The Breakdown
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This post starts a 3 part series on the topic of consent. In a couple of weeks we will explore what can make consent more challenging to understand and our third blog post on consent will talk about how to make sure you are giving and receiving proper consent.

The Basic Breakdown: What is Consent?

Consent is the “hot-topic” for today! You ready, Freddy? <- ( Boom. Asking for your consent. ;) ) It has become something you now often hear talked about on many different platforms, in schools and across media. We are definitely gaining a greater awareness of the amounts and frequencies of sexual assaults in and among celebrities, college students, high school students, and all in between. What we thought would/could be a simple and straight forward concept, actually has a lot of things that make it more complex. Including the “grey area/messy” situations we can find ourselves in.

 
You may be someone who…

            ...feels consent is a simple and straightforward concept, so why do we need to talk about it?!

            …was accused of something being non-consensual and don’t understand why because you may have thought it was totally consensual!

            …is so confused about what you actually need to do to have consent and are worried you may be missing something.

 

Whatever questions and perspectives you come with today, my hope is that we can clear some things up, and understand why it may not be as simple as just saying “no” if you don’t want to do something. 

The biggest change that has happened recently with consent has been the change in its common phrase. Once being “No means No”, consent has now changed to “Only ‘Yes!’ means yes, everything else means no.” Why? We will get into that shortly. But first, what is consent?


Let’s start with a basic breakdown of consent:

  • Enthusiastic! – both parties want to do this act and have communicated it in an affirmative way verbally to the other person. (‘Yes!’ ‘Yeah!’ ‘Let’s do it!’) When a person is excited to do something, majority of people are naturally enthusiastic about it.

  •  Mutual – both parties have separately decided to do this activity and then come together in that same decision.  

  • Voluntary – the person is freely making the decision without being pressured, manipulated, persuaded, guilt-tripped, threatened, blackmailed, or coerced. Person freely feels the ability to say “no” without any fear.  

  • Informed – They know the act they are consenting to.  

  • Clear-Minded – not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person legally cannot consent if they are drunk or high.  

  • Of Age – of legal consensual age. The age of consent in Canada is 16 years old.  

  • BEFORE all sexual acts – BEFORE any type of sexual contact (not just sex). Even if you are in a relationship you need consent every time.

E.M.V.I.C.O.B…EMVICOB…an acronym easy to remember (ha!)

 

So consent seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Well as some of you may know from personal experiences or stories, it’s just not always that simple…

 In part 2 we will be addressing the questions around how and why consent can often become complicated.

 

To be continued…
Simple Not Simple: Why, When, and How Does Consent Become Complicated?

 

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.  

Building your Boundaries
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A common topic that arises when discussing romantic relationships is boundaries. Not just physical, but emotional, social, and every aspect that makes us who we are. Knowing our limits, expectations, and clearly communicating those to our partners is not only important to our well-being, but to the foundations of our relationships. It helps us to not only value ourselves, but protect ourselves from potentially painful situations. If our partners know from the beginning our expectations in a relationship it allows for a smoother and more compatible relationship.

Often when I hear the word “boundaries” I immediately think of a wall being built to keep certain things out and certain things in. It may be helpful to visualize those barriers when talking about healthy relationship boundaries. It is a way to keep those healthy wants, needs and desires in and keep their unhealthy counterparts out. You may want respect, honesty, compatibility, and similar beliefs to be inside of your boundary. On the outside, you may want disrespect, abuse of any kind, and differences on bigger issues.  Each list is unique to the person that makes it, so finding someone with a similar list can help you stay true to your own.

A boundary that you may set in your relationship could be that your partner is not in control of your every action.  Your partner should respect that you have friends you want to spend time with. If they insist that you cancel your plans simply because they don’t want you to go, that is an example of an unhealthy relationship and broken boundary. If you have trust and mutual respect, they should trust your judgment and encourage friendships and vice versa.

Another boundary example could be that you would like your arguments to be talked about amongst each other, and not to others. My partner and I give space after a disagreement to decompress and then talk face-to-face about it after. If there is something I need help processing, I have a select few people that I will talk to. This is only with the permission of my partner as I do not want to disrespect their privacy. A common practice is to rant to friends, or online about how you are being treated in a relationship. This leads to a lack of respect for each other’s personal lives and could be infringing on your partner’s boundaries as well.

These are just a few examples, but there are many more to set and choose from. It is important to set your own boundaries and find a partner that not only respects your boundaries, but has a compatible list. This allows not only for the obvious compatibility, but also allows you to be on the same page and work as a team.

 

What kind of boundaries have you already established in your life? How can you incorporate healthy boundaries in current and future relationships?

Healthy Relationships: A Start
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We’ve been talking a lot lately on the blog about what can go wrong with relationships… breakups, conflict… painful things.  Although these things can lead to growth and eventually a renewed hope, we thought it would be great to tackle a more positive topic this month. 

So maybe you’ve experienced some conflict or a breakup and are now in a place of singleness and wanting to know what you should look for in future relationships.  Or maybe you are currently in a relationship and wonder if you and your partner are headed in a healthy direction.  Or perhaps you’ve never dated and are wondering what your future relationships should look like. These days there is a lot of talk about making healthy and wise choices in terms of food and physical activity, but equally important is making healthy and wise choices in terms of our relationships, especially as relationships influence so many areas of our lives and our mental health.

I don’t know about you but I’ve definitely found that with each relationship I enter, I am blown away by how much better it is than the last.  From each relationship, I learn more of what a healthier relationship can look like or should feel like, more about what I am looking for and I become wiser in how I conduct myself in the search for a future partner.  And maybe that’s because I start to believe more about what I’m worth through the dating and heartbreak process. 

And I think that’s a good place to start in the search for a healthy relationship… ourselves.  In any relationship, two separate people are coming together into a partnership and each person is coming in with their own unique personality, experiences, strengths, weaknesses and, unfortunately, baggage.  We will never be perfect as individuals but in order to have the best chance of a healthy relationship we should take some time to know ourselves and make sure we are relatively comfortable with ourselves before we add another person (and their issues) into our life to co-mingle with our own issues. 

How can we work on ourselves to attempt to become a more healthy individual?

Take some time to learn how to gain some self-awareness.  Becoming aware of your motives for dating and relationships, what you’re looking for out of a relationship and what you can give to someone else will help you to better understand your own behaviour in the dating world but it will also help you to navigate relationships and make decisions that align with your purposes and goals. 

And most importantly know your worth.  Many of us will not feel one-hundred percent confident in who we are. The reality is we are a work in progress. Sometimes it’s easy to feel hopeless if we think we have to reach perfection before we can date or consider ourselves “healthy” enough to be in a healthy relationship. You aren’t going to be perfect, I am not going to be perfect. But, you have strengths and unique characteristics to offer a partner. Remember that and take some time to know your strengths and grow in areas where you feel you can grow in order to benefit your future and your relationships. And as you date, you will also continue to grow in your self-awareness becoming more of who you hope to be.

The first step of getting to know ourselves and our worth can sometimes be difficult but it can be extremely helpful too. 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.  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.  In our next blog post, we’ll explore a few of the characteristics of healthy relationships and what to look for if you want a healthy and thriving relationship. If you’re waiting on this, maybe in the meantime, you want to take some time to ‘date’ yourself. I hope you learn some amazing things about who you are and who you are becoming in the process.

What else do you feel is important for you to know or learn about yourself as you date or consider pursuing relationships?