How to Speak Up in Your Relationship Without Having a Fight
The dreaded three words “can we talk,” can immediately stir up defenses. Or maybe those words live on the tip of your tongue, but you just don’t feel like dealing with the spiral downward into the argument abyss, so you never say what is on your heart.
But then, what happens to those concerns, thoughts, worries, and requests that never get said? Do they fester, do you ruminate, do you stuff them? …I am fairly certain they don’t magically disappear. So what are you to do?
At some point, you must speak up. A healthy, happy and lasting relationship requires open communication where you can speak your mind so that these issues do not result in deep resentments that ultimately sabotage your relationship.
So here are some ideas of how to speak up in your relationship without ending up in a fight.
1. EMBRACE AN ATTITUDE OF ABNORMAL IS NORMAL
This one is a mentality shift, and something that may take some time. However, shifting your attitude can be huge in terms of normalizing the need to have conversations about your relationship.
The reality is that relationships are constantly being thrown out of balance. They are regularly in need of attention and adjustments. This is NORMAL.
So, when you need to talk to your partner about an issue, it doesn’t mean that he or she is a badpartner or that your partner is doing a bad job, it means that you are in a NORMAL relationship that requires some maintenance.
Try to talk with your partner about this mentality. Remind him or her at the beginning of a relationship conversation that it is normal to have to make adjustments in how we behave and treat each other.
If you and your partner can get to a place where it is jointly accepted that it is normal to need to talk about your relationship, then these conversations will go more smoothly, and defenses will not be raised at the hint of a “relationship talk.”
2. HAVE REGULAR RELATIONSHIP TALKS
Part of normalizing the need to have talks is to have them regularly, almost like a management meeting. In our couple’s course, Couple LINKS, we refer to this as huddles.
We suggest monthly or even weekly, you and your partner sit down and review your relationship. BTW this isn’t a gripe session…it’s an opportunity to check in with one another. Hit on how things have been going well, and then what needs a bit more attention.
The more you do this, the less likely issues will grow and fester, and the less intimidating these conversations will become.
3. STRIKE WHEN THE IRON IS COLD
So often we hold in issues until they ooze out of us because we can’t contain them anymore. And, more often than not, this happens at the worst times, like when your partner is about to head out of town, or they have an early morning commitment and it’s 10:30 at night.
The tip here is to bring up an issue when things are going well. When you have some downtime together and are in a good place, say something like, “Hey, I’ve been wanting to talk with you about something, you think you’d be up for it?”
Trying to talk about issues when it’s tense, when you’re about to overflow with emotion or frustration, or when time is tight doesn’t go well. So get in there when all is good!
4. STICK TO ONE ISSUE AT A TALK
I’m certain this has happened to me. When you begin a relationship talk and suddenly you’re talking about all the issues you have been bottling up, giving examples, and trying to explain everything that has ever bothered you. And then you realize, you’ve lost your point. This is an example of “partner overload.” Seriously, who can hear all those things at once and not feel totally defeated or defensive.
Next time, choose one issue. One point you’d like to discuss and ONLY talk about that point. This will help you to keep it clear and it will also help your partner not to feel like you are attacking from all sides.
5. DON’T GET SUCKED INTO ARGUING EXAMPLES
This is another relationship talk trap. It’s when you start by bringing up one issue and your partner says, “When did I do that?” or “Give me an example.” Ok, so watch your step. It’s totally acceptable to give an example, and even recommendable to have an example already in mind, but don’t get sidetracked into arguing the details of that example.
It’s common for the partner on the defensive to argue that the example given was an exception, not the rule. But, chances are, if you’ve come to the point of needing to talk about something, then it isn’t the exception.
So, handle it like this, “I don’t want to argue every example because I am sure there are reasons for why you did or said _______________. However, when ___________________ happens, I feel upset and want you to know. In the future, I would like _______________ to happen instead.”
Obviously, you may need to customize my suggestion, but the takeaway is to give one or two examples (not more), and then get back to your main issue. Continue to center the conversation on the overarching pattern, because your point is that there is a pattern of x,y,z that upsets you, and you would like your partner to know and make a change. So keep the big picture at the forefront of your conversations.
6. WATCH THE CLOCK
You probably went into the talk with good intentions, but now the talk has dragged on, and you’ve lost any chance of the issue getting resolved. This can happen when the relationship talk just went overboard. It went on way too long.
Work to keep your talks to 30 minutes or less. This can help your partner from glazing over, or things erupting into something bigger. This is important because you don’t want your relationship talks to be so draining that you avoid them in the future. Try to keep any of your negative talks short and to the point.
7. TIP THE SCALES
The final suggestion that I have is to make sure you have significantly more positive than negative talks. Step back and look at the overall mood of your togetherness. Are your negative talks an exception, or do they seem like a bitter seasoning that is sprinkled throughout your time together? Make an intentional increase of your compliments, your expressions of appreciation, and your relaxed and enjoyable conversations so that when you need to bring up an issue, it is with a backdrop of respect and security.
Dr. Morgan Cutlip
When You Just Know…
When you just know it’s time to breakup, you start to rationalize a lot of different things in your head. I thought these traits below by My Love Thinks, made some great points. All the ‘buts’ we tell ourselves even though our relationship has been off for some time now and we’ve tried everything possible to make it work, can make it really difficult to break things off.
- BUT HE/SHE LOVES ME
This one is oh so common. And is fueled by worry and anxiety that you will never find someone who loves you “this much” again.
Here’s the thing, love alone is not a good enough reason to stay in a relationship that continually hurts you.
And know that you will be able to find someone again, even though it may seem like an impossibility at the time, who loves you. And who loves you better!
2. BUT I LOVE HIM/HER
This is the other side of number one. Staying in a relationship because you love him/her.
Trust me, I get that ending a relationship with someone that you love is one of the most difficult things to do, but it is truly necessary sometimes.
Read more on ending a relationship even when you’re in love here.
I hate to say this but love isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to make up for the unhealthy patterns in your relationship or in your partner.
And please hear this: love is not a sign that you should stay in a bad relationship!
3. BUT HE/SHE PROMISED TO CHANGE
Uh the hope of someone you care about REEEEALLY making the change this time is such a roller coaster ride.
You may have heard it a million times but still the promise of change ignites a little bit of hope. I get it!!!
Here’s a good rule of thumb. If he or she promises to change, give them a chance… around three months. If you see consistent effort, some gathering of new insights and working on their issues, then let it play out and you can hold onto some hope.
If the pattern continues to repeat and their efforts subside after the threat of you ending the relationship has died down, then chances are your partner will not change.
Two or three chances are ok, any more than that you are wasting your time and energy on someone who is resistant to making a meaningful change.
4. BUT HE/SHE CHECKS ALL THE BOXES
This one is such a big disappointment. You finally meet someone and “on paper” they seem like perfection.
However, in reality, it just isn’t clicking. Maybe there’s no chemistry, maybe they just bug you or maybe the “on paper” doesn’t really show up “in life.”
This is not a good reason to stay. Checking all your boxes for the sake of checking them will not ultimately lead to a happy and fulfilling relationship.
Revisit your list of ideals in a partner and put some thought into what it is that really isn’t working about this “perfect” partner. Because if it’s not working, you may not want to stick around.
5. BUT I LIKE HIS/HER FRIENDS
It can be really tough when you’ve combined your social circles or found your “home” in your partner’s group of friends, but this really isn’t a great reason to stay in your relationship.
Sometimes you will find a way to maintain these friendships and sometimes you won’t. Insightful, I know. But when you lose some friends, then make it your goal to reach out and build some new friendships. Change may be a bit uncomfortable, but in this case it is necessary.
6. BUT WE’VE BEEN TOGETHER FOREVER
It just makes sense. The more you’ve invested in a relationship, the harder it is to get out. It doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.
Even social scientists have come up with a term for this called structural commitment, which includes different pressures and constraints that motivate the reasons why someone stays in a relationship.
Listen this one is going to be hard. It is going to hurt. But you can be assured that you’ve given the relationship enough time to see whether or not it is the right relationship. You can be confident that you’ve given enough chances, spent enough time seeing patterns and you’ve really thought it all through.
The hard part is just going through with it. Don’t let “but we’ve been together forever” be the only reason you’re staying.
7. BUT WE’RE LIVING TOGETHER (For those in their 20’s)
I realize this is a counter-cultural perspective on living together, but the preponderance of research strongly shows more risks than benefits (the only exception seems to be when you’re wedding date is set and you’re getting married soon). I’d be happy to put a post together on this for another time.
But one of the primary risks is that living together is entrapping. Maybe it doesn’t seem that way at first, but eventually, if the relationship goes south, living together is a major deterrent to getting out.
It just makes common sense, that if you’ve combined your stuff, your bed, your expenses, your routines and whatever else, it’s that much harder to separate and you’re that much more likely to compromise.
So I tooootally get it, if you’re living together it is a major hurdle to getting out of a relationship that isn’t working. But if it isn’t working while you are living together, then bite the bullet and find a new place to live!
8. BUT IT WILL BREAK HIS/HER HEART
Good for you for caring! But give your partner some credit for being a bit more resilient. They will move on eventually and so will you. Dragging it out when you’re really done can be more hurtful than speaking the truth in love.
9. BUT IT ISN’T LIKE HIM/HER
So, there are exceptions and there are rules. If your partner does something once, twice or three times maybe it is an exception and it really isn’t like him or her.
However, if your partner is doing something that is hurting you or the relationship repeatedly, time and time again, then it IS really like him or her.
Problematic patterns are just that: problematic. And if you’ve brought it to her or his attention and the change still isn’t happening, then you have to decide if it’s something you can live with. But make that decision knowing that what your partner keeps on doing really IS like him or her.
If you want to read more, go to https://www.mylovethinks.com/9-big-buts-avoid-dating/.
So What’s the Big Deal About STIs Anyway?
Good question! For most teens, STDs are like cigarettes. You learn in school and in television ads that smoking can cause lung cancer. But that happens to other people who are much older. Then one day a favorite uncle is diagnosed and suddenly the risk is real.
The thing about STDs or STIs (sexually transmitted diseases or infections) is that it’s better to prevent them rather than treat them, and they ARE a BIG DEAL! Even with a bacterial infection, which is treatable, infection can reoccur with continued sexual activity, which increases your chances of becoming resistant to the treatment drug and increases the likelihood of permanent damage to the female reproductive system!
According to a new report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), More than two million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2016, the highest number ever.
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD, with approximately 1.6 million new cases last year. Young women (ages 15-24) account for nearly half (46 percent) of reported cases and face the most severe consequences of an undiagnosed infection. Untreated STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, put women at increased risk for pelvic inflammatory disease which may result in chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
It is estimated that undiagnosed STDs cause infertility in more than 20,000 women each year.1
Wow, that’s so scary to me… that you can possibly become infertile, or not be able to have kids once you’re married some day and want to start a family!
In addition to chlamydia, there were 470,000 gonorrhea cases and almost 28,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis – the most infectious stages of the disease. While all three of these STDs can be cured with antibiotics, if left undiagnosed and untreated, they can have serious health consequences, including infertility, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth in infants, and increased risk for HIV transmission.2
Unfortunately, young women are often more affected by STDs, especially chlamydia, according to the CDC, for a number of reasons. One is because of a woman’s anatomy that has more delicate mucous membrane and easily allows viruses and bacteria to pass through. The vagina is also a warm and moist environment, the type that encourages bacteria to grow. Another reason is because of a lack of symptoms. Many show no signs or symptoms or attribute them to something else and don’t get tested. If you do get any symptoms, they can also go away, even though the infection may remain. Lastly, if a woman is pregnant, she can pass an STD like genital herpes, syphilis and HIV to her baby during pregnancy or delivery.3
So why is all of this information so important? Because as a teen, if you don’t take responsibility for your sexual health, who will? Are you willing to risk your future health and fertility? The smartest thing you can do is to prevent becoming infected at all by delaying sexual activity for as long as possible and by limiting your partners (but that’s just reducing your risk). Ideally one life-long monogamous partner, aka marriage, is the best prevention of all! So what should you do if you’ve already been sexually active? Is there any anything you can do now? Of course there is, because it all depends on your future actions and/or risky behavior. ALSO please make sure you’re getting yourself tested at least every 6 months if you have been or continue to be sexually active. If you’re in the Bergen/Passaic County area of North Jersey, Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center offers testing for both chlamydia and gonorrhea that is both free and confidential at any of their 3 locations in Wayne, Paterson and Hackensack. Make an appointment today and make smart choices everyday!
2 STDs at record high, indicating urgent need for prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9/27/3017.
The Hardest Part About Dating…
One of the hardest parts of dating!? Breaking up… unfortunately it's an inevitable part of dating that no one enjoys, whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee. It’s hard not to wonder if you’re making a big mistake? If they’ll change? If you’ll be alone forever? Not to mention the months or years invested… so I get it, trust me. When a relationship starts to turn into more arguments than good times, or excitement fades into frustration, disappointment and hurt… then it could be a sign that you might have to start planning your exit strategy. There’s a reason there’s so many songs and movies about breakups, because it’s like the worst pain ever! The light at the end of the tunnel is that it’s opening you up to meeting the right person. So be strong and don’t waver, once you know that it’s what has to happen.
If you’re at that point of considering the end, then sometimes it’s helpful to reflect on the complaints or arguments you’ve had and see if you can identify any themes or patterns. Have you tried to bring it up several times with your partner and are just dismissed or promised change that never happens? Make sure you bring it up more than once or twice (but less than a hundred). The truly difficult part it is- maybe you really love this person! That doesn’t mean you should stay with them. We don’t always love the healthiest of people and sometimes there’s just two great people who aren’t meant to be together for some reason or another. Our strong feelings can be a blinder for some major issues going on.
So what’s the first step after you know in your heart of hearts that it has to end? Don’t make it too complicated, but come up with a statement about why it’s not working or the constant disagreement you’ve been having, but hasn’t changed. Mention how important it is to you and so this is why it won’t work out. Don’t feel the need to explain too much further or defend yourself because this can just lead to a bunch of more empty promises, pleading and negotiations. You already know you’ve tried to work on it and feel in your gut it has to end, so go in strong and unwavering and stick with what you originally came to say.
Next, try to set some boundaries so that you’re not vulnerable to getting back together when you’re feeling lonely in the initial few weeks/month after the breakup. If you want to, tell them you’d like to be friends at some point, but can’t communicate with them for a while. So that means if they text or call you, DON’T RESPOND and tell them that upfront so it’s clear. And if you don’t want to remain friends, it can be a little easier by just saying it was a hard decision, but you’re not going to change your mind and so you’re cutting off all communication. This can be really hard… but it’s so much harder when you go back and forth a million times and it can really wreak havoc on your emotions for way longer than necessary! Also, make sure you have a good support system, whether it be friends or family, and try to schedule your calendar with lots to do, so that you’re not left alone in your bedroom having a pity party for yourself.
Lastly, take a breather and some time for yourself and get back to doing the things you really enjoy doing! No matter what the circumstances where leading up to this, a breakup is really difficult and a loss of a relationship. So take some time to reflect… what initially attracted you to this person? Would you do anything differently next time? Should you look out for a particular trait or avoid one? Don’t feel like you have to jump right into another relationship, that’s so easy to do, but can bring around a whole new set of issues. Be thoughtful and intentional with who you date and don’t just slide into a new relationship. Really think about the qualities that you’d like in a partner, as well as want to develop in yourself, so that you can be better prepared the next time around.
Lauren A. Caron
REALife Relationships Student Director
4 Things You Must Have When Dating
So, dating these days is pretty much all over the place. Anything and everything goes and sometimes nothing goes. But I am going to strongly state that, if you really do want to find love and a healthy relationship, there are 4 things you must have when you’re dating.
1. AN IDEAL
You probably don’t get in the car very often without a destination in mind, right?! So, when you date, decide on your destination.
Do I need to be more direct here?! I’m saying, know what you are looking for. Don’t just put yourself out there and “figure out” what you like while you’re dating.
Give it some real reflection and think about what is important to you, what type of values you want your dating partner to have, what they like to do for fun, what his/her personality should be like?
Now just for the record, sometimes you will learn some of this stuff while dating.
Like, oh yeah, I really can’t stand someone who chomps their gum…or other important things like that.
But the idea is that you should go into dating with a general idea of what you’re looking for.
2. DEAL BREAKERS
Just like you should have your list of ideals, it’s important to have a list of deal breakers.
These are the things that you will not compromise on, no matter how exciting, hot, funny, intelligent, rich or fill-in-the-blank. This is the list that does not bend much.
It’s way easier to outline these things before you’re in a relationship, because once you’ve become blinded by love or infatuation it’s just way harder to be assertive with your deal breakers and way too easy to rationalize.
3. POWER + BALLS
So, power balls, huh?! Like the lottery. NO!
So many people treat dating like it’s the lottery, like finding a good relationship is something that just happens by chance or luck.
How many times have you caught yourself saying something like “oh it just wasn’t meant to be” or “it is what it is” or “eh, what will be will be”?
These sayings imply that dating and finding love is completely out of your control. That healthy relationships are a unicorn that you can only hope to see someday and that you are powerless and simply passive in the dating process.
Now don’t get me wrong, some relationships really weren’t meant to be.
But the reality is there is an epidemic of passivity when it comes to dating and relationships and it just doesn’t have to be this way.
We are in control of our dating lives and choices and need to think of ourselves as active managers of our relationships.
We need to regain our personal agency; our power in relationships.
That’s also where the balls come in.
This stuff takes guts. To take control of your relationship, you will periodically need to show some vulnerability and courage.
But I challenge you to step up and take charge of your dating life. Ask out that person that you are interested in…not just to “hang,” but on a real, legit date.
Bring up the define the relationship talk. Definition is good and provides clear expectations of what to do and how to act in a relationship. And, if they can’t define it, then there’s your sign.
End that relationship that is making you feel crazy.
Don’t accept Netflix and Chill as a real date.
Go for it! You do have power and say in relationships and, yes, it almost always takes some balls.
This is somewhat of an echoing of the other points. But, in a world where there is such blurriness between what is right and wrong and when all things are “acceptable,” it can be difficult to have and execute standards.
At times, you may feel uptight or lame or too picky for having some standards, but I assure you any discomfort that you may feel is worth it.
It is about time we reclaim some pride in having standards, ideals, deal breakers, assertiveness and clarity on the commitment levels of our relationships. This does not make you judgmental, rude, controlling or critical. But it does make you intentional, thoughtful, direct and secure.
The 3 Month Rule in Dating
Waiting is hard… I get it! When I go around to different schools and talk about healthy dating and relationships and the important character traits to develop in yourself, as well as find in someone else, patience is always the number one thing I hear that teens struggle with. I mean, come on, we can microwave our dinner in a minute, google an answer to pretty much anything in a second… so who has time to wait!?
Ever hear of the old saying, ‘good things come to those who wait’? Well it may not be so far off actually, and especially rings true when it comes to dating. Before you tune me out, thinking I’m sooo old school, hear me out! When you start to date someone, are you truly showing all of your different sides (like the ones your family sees), past baggage, and bad habits, right off the bat? No, of course not! That stuff starts to really come out by month 3… right when we’re starting to feel comfortable around the other person and not worry they're going to jet if we get a little loco sometimes.
This is why it’s important to set some boundaries from the get-go… I’m talking pace yourself. Uh-oh, you read it right, the dreaded word ‘boundaries.’ It almost always produces an eye-roll and groan because boundaries sound so limiting - so restrictive - so much like a set of RULES! But think about it for a sec, because boundaries can be a great thing in all areas of our lives. It’s what helps us to be able to live free, well-adjusted, and less-stressed lives. To be able to say no to some things because it’s either not the right timing, not good for us, or would be just too much on our plates. Think about how overwhelmed you would feel if you said yes to every single thing someone asked of you. It’s just not possible to do everything. You’d feel a lot better about doing what you can handle and just being good… like really good, at just a few things.
The beginning of relationships are usually the best- mushy, gushy, amazing times… without many hiccups, because you’re on your best behavior and someone’s real self hasn’t fully emerged. If your relationship is full speed ahead from the start, then most likely you’re going to be in too deep already to see clearly when problems and differences do start to pop up! So some things to know firmly in your head and heart before heading into your next relationship are: how much are you going to trust this person in the beginning? Depend on them? How far are you willing to go sexually? Don’t let your partner decide these things for you, or it’s all too easy to just ‘slide’ into whatever the other person wants, instead of deciding what’s best for you, the relationship, and your future.
So how do you go about this? Talk to your partner in those first few months and really get to know them. Is there something there that bothers you? Different values? Compromises that you’d have to make for the relationship? If something comes up that really bothers you, talk to them about it and see how they respond. Are they open to change? How flexible are they? How aware are they of how things affect you? These are all good signs if someone is willing to consider how you’re feeling and make even small changes, if needed. It takes time for the guard to come down so you can evaluate whether there are certain behaviors or beliefs that are deal breakers. Then you can decide whether or not to continue to invest your time and move forward with your whole heart.
Lauren A. Caron
Recognizing an Unhealthy Relationship
My best friend from high school was in a relationship with a fun and eccentric guy. I loved hanging out with them because I was always laughing and having a good time. On occasion, I saw a side of her boyfriend that I didn’t like. Sometimes he would blow up on her, and other times he would say crude remarks like “you’re such a fat a$$”—not cool. During the time they dated I watched her experiment with drugs, risky sexual behaviors, teen drinking, and battles of depression and thoughts of suicide. I didn’t know what to do, other than continue to be her friend. They continued to date for three years and then broke up. My friend was noticeably happier when it was over, but guess what? She is now in another relationship with a crummy guy.
I had another friend whose girlfriend would text him 30 times an hour to see where he was. If she learned he was with me, she would flip out and make him leave. It got to the point where we had to sneak around her because she was so insecure. I want to add, nothing was ever going on between us, she just invaded every aspect of his life: friends, family, Facebook, school, and sports. It wasn’t fun to see my friend go through such a demanding relationship.
High school relationships are our building blocks for our adult relationships. Take a moment and think of what you hope for in a future wife, husband, or companion. Write down what you come up with.
I am guessing you want a great relationship that is honest, trustworthy, happy, and safe. To find a relationship like that in the future, you need to start looking for those qualities now. More importantly, you need to recognize the warning signs of unhealthy relationships.
What is a healthy relationship?
Abusive relationships were once thought as physical contact that causes harm to another person. Though that is a form of abuse (physical abuse), there are several other forms of relationship abuse that adolescents face. Adolescent Health Collaborative has provided a helpful chart in recognizing teen relationship abuse.
Why are healthy relationships for teens SO important?
Teens that are in abusive relationships tend to have depression, low self-esteem, teen pregnancies, use illegal drugs, have STD’s, mental illness, and suicide risk. Protect you and your friends’ futures by seeking respectable healthy relationship. Let us know if you have any questions or need any help with that.
15 Challenges to Make This, “YOUR BEST SUMMER EVER!!”
- Spend more time out of your bed then in your bed.
- Sleep outside and invite some friends along to your camp-out and tell them s’mores and an amazing breakfast is involved! (compliments of YOU)
- Make a YouTube video doing something creative, or just plain silly, and become a YouTube sensation overnight!
- Watch a documentary about the food industry and decide you’re going tomake 3 changes to your diet for the better.
- Like… stop. drinking. soda!
- Ask out that one person you’ve been crushing on the entire school year- you can do it!
- Plan a really creative date for them- I’m talking Snapchat or Instagram worthy!
- Simplify your life and give away some stuff you haven’t used in ages or clothes you never wear… or sell it at a yard sale and donate the money or do something nice for someone.
- Be grateful for all of your blessings and write down 3 things every single day about what you’re grateful for.
- Road trip to the closest state line and make a really big deal about crossing it. Like, a really. big. deal. The more confetti the better.
- Get over one of your fears like that humongo roller coaster that you swear you’re not afraid of.
- Clean the bathroom every Saturday morning for you parents without being asked or complaining about it.
- Cook dinner for your family one night by watching a how-to video online… think Taco Tuesdays (because they probably are the best and only appropriate meal for a Tuesday).
- Create an amazing summer playlist on Spotify and then dance to it (even if people are watching).
- Bring joy to others through random acts of kindness, gifts or notes… to family, friends, or even strangers!
*And here’s a bonus one- if your crush denied you, don’t dwell on it all summer… go out and have fun with friends and family, meet new people! Enjoy Life. A big part of life is relationships, making new connections and memories and experiencing that together! Trying new things is what makes our world grow. Never settle for mediocre and don’t base your self-worth on whether you’re with this guy or that girl. You have plenty of time for a serious relationship when the time is right. For now, enjoy making amazing friendships and having fun, because life is too short not to! (Ok so that was a little long, but hey, it was my closing too!)
Lauren A. Caron
Dating is Unnecessarily Complicated by Erik Massenzio
Dating does not have to be awkward. For whatever reason, dating has become synonymous with “having a boy/girlfriend.” It does not have to be this way, and probably does more harm than good in the long run! Most of the stress and drama that comes from dating is the unnecessary commitment and complication that is now firmly associated with going out once.
We are given so much advice on what to do or what not to do on individual dates, but not enough is directed towards the process itself. In order to have a more effective and enjoyable time, follow these tried and true tips:
1) Be Clear
Are you interested in someone but don’t know if you would like to pursue a relationship? Perfect! Say, “Hey, would you like to get [insert coffee, ice cream, etc.] with me?” If they seem confused or taken aback (since the current social script dictates that this is more serious than it is) add on, “I’m not asking for a relationship, I just would like to go on a date and get to know you better.” Clarity makes everything better, and will allow you to preserve your friendship in the future.
2) Set Limits
Pacing yourself is a healthy way to give your relationship a sure foundation. In its early stages dating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing game. It’s okay to set limits on how much time you spend together. Being around one another all the time will either a) burn each of you out b) be unsustainable or c) cause the unnecessary commitment that we are trying to avoid (at this point). Remember, relationships should have an upward trajectory; don’t start big and spend eight hours on the phone after the first week. You need to build up to it.
Here are some limits that you can set explicitly or implicitly:
– For the first month or so, the only time you should text is when setting up plans.
– For the first few dates, spread them out a week apart.
– Don’t involve outside parties in the beginning. It’s not a big enough deal.
– Save the “I love you” for your mother (It’s just too early!)
Pacing the relationship allows you learn more about the person before you commit, as well as allowing you both to grow closer together at a healthy speed.
3) Be Respectful
If the other person is not interested, don’t feel too bad. Sometimes this is just how these things go. Look out for signs of disinterest, and respect the other person’s decision to move on if it just isn’t working for them. If you stick to this script, chances are it won’t feel awkward and you can continue your friendship where it left off. Remember, the purpose of a relationship is to grow together, so don’t feel bad if someone calls it off due to compatibility issues.
Dating is not rocket science. We just make it tougher than it needs to be.
Erik Massenzio is a junior at Princeton University where he studies philosophy.
3 Tips to Bring Dating Back
Shocked and bewildered. That’s how I felt during my freshmen year of college as I watched my peers forego the remnants of the dating script they learned in high school. The first months of school were full of high school sweetheart breakups. What replaced these relationships was casual sex without commitment driven by a drunken party scene. The problem? Once students became invested in this scene, it was hard to get out, even when they found it unfulfilling and disappointing. This is the trap of hookup culture, a phenomenon fueled by the humanity in all of us; the drive for sex, but in this case, without commitment, trust, loyalty, feelings – just consent.
It seems to me and many people I talk to, that college students are afraid of dating. Students tend to follow one of two roads. They maintain an endless stream of “what ifs” in regards to romantic partnerships, always wanting something better than what they have. Or they remain afraid of the unknown life of commitment, hawking secondhand horror stories of unhappily anchored couples. Having survived college dating (despite the scariness) and now being happily married, I’d like to take a look back at some useful concepts that helped me get here.
1) Stop looking for “the one,” – that one person in the whole universe with whom you could ever be happy. That thought holds people back from good relationships, and ends in unsatisfied searching and in sadness. As in all things, if you find a good thing, keep it. Looking for greener pastures is only useful when accompanied by a measure of wisdom. Nobody is perfect. If people aren’t perfect, how can you expect your relationship to be?
2) Be intentional. It’s true fewer young people are “going on dates” these days – that’s why it’s so important. Being intentional means laying your cards on the table and making your romantic aspirations known. It can be scary to make yourself vulnerable when it seems like everyone else is playing games. But if something is difficult, that probably means it’s more worthwhile in the end. “Toughing it out” will mature you to where you need to be by the time you reach the end. You may also find it to be easier than you imagined.
3) Know who you are. As in everything you do, it is important to sort out the voices influencing your life that are not your own and find your own voice. This could take getting out of your comfort zone to do some lengthy reflection. But only then you will know what you truly want. Figuring that out and dealing with insecurities goes a long way towards conquering any fears about dating
I have found commitment in relationships generally merits respect from friends, coworkers, and family, even more so in today’s culture. Commitment is a way I have enriched my life, and I hope maybe this will encourage you to face your fears and pursue your romantic aspirations.
Moving Forward in the New Year!
With the start of another new year… you know what comes along with that, NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS!! It’s time to clean house, and maybe that means with your relationships too!? If you’ve been thinking that things with your boo just haven’t been right and, “I’m just going to stick this out through the holidays and see if anything changes,” or I just don’t want to be alone through all the fun parties, or hurt their feelings with a “Merry Christmas and now I’m dumping you” kind of breakup, well then now might be the best time! SO here are some telltale signs, it just might be time to move on. Because after all, dating is supposed to be a fun, enjoyable time in yours teens, where you get to know the other person and learn more about yourself! I’m definitely not saying that everything’s always going to be great and there’s never going to be challenges or things to work through… but if you’re spending half the relationship ‘working on things,’ then maybe they’re a great person, but just not great for you!
Here is some advice from Holly Ashworth, a Teen Advice Expert, that it might be time to do some dumping. See if any of these reasons for breaking up apply to you and your sweetie, and if they do, start thinking about taking some action.
- You've Been Hurt in Any Way
This is the only reason for breaking up that's totally unconditional. If your sweetie has been hurting you in any way - physically or emotionally - you must get out. Now. Seriously. If you're not sure if what's going on counts as abuse, check the signs.
- You're More Sad Than Happy
Relationships aren't going to be all roses all the time, but they should bring a little joy to your life. If things are too frustrating or depressing and they're not balanced out by any good moments, get out while you still can.
- You're Doing All the Work
If you're the one who's been making all the phone calls, planning all the dates and planting all the kisses, then you're not getting what you need out of this relationship (namely: some love and appreciation in return for all your hard work). There's a good chance your sweetie wants out but is too chicken to break up with you. Take the reins and do it yourself (as usual).
- You've Been Cheated On
Once the trust is gone, there's no good reason to stay in a relationship. Besides, you deserve better than someone who can't keep it together enough to stay loyal to you.
- You Can't Stop Thinking About Your Ex
Maybe you didn't give yourself enough time to get over your ex before dating again, or maybe you'll never be that into your current cutie, regardless of the timing. Either way, it's not fair to date somebody while you're pining so hard for somebody else. Break up, and either try things again with your ex or hold off till you meet someone even better.
- Your Friends and Family are Rallying Against Your Relationship
A lone friend who's upset about your relationship might just be acting out of jealousy - but when all your friends are saying it, you should probably listen. They might be seeing something that you're too blinded by love to see yourself. This isn't a reason to break up right away, but at least talk to your friends and family and take their warnings seriously.
- You've Cheated
If you cheat, it's a sign that you'd rather be single. Don't do your partner any favors by sticking it out. The sooner you break up, the less you'll both get hurt in the long run.
- You Just Feel Like It's Time to Move On
You don't need any real, concrete reasons to break up, as long as you feel it in your gut. Just explain to your partner that things have changed and that you want to be single again. It won't be easy to do, but it'll be a whole lot better than staying in a relationship long after it's worth your while.
If you have any other questions, send us an email through our contact form and we’ll get back to you!
I Just Don’t Know What to Do!
Are you feeling pressured or confused about how to make WISE, intentional decisions?? It’s best to know how you’ll handle a high stakes decision or situation BEFORE you find yourself in one. It doesn’t matter how many times you say, “Oh, I would never do that…” fact is, you may find yourself in a position that you never thought was possible. IF so, try to remember these steps below to help navigate a tough situation after it comes up.
Try to stop or control the situation by using a stalling tactic such as checking your phone or sending a text, moving around in the room… or anything else that will help change the dynamic of the situation.
Ask yourself questions such as “What do I need to decide right now? What are the positive/negative consequences to each choice? How should I respond?” Next work through the answers until you’re clear about how you feel and what you should do.
Make your decision with your dreams and goals for the future in mind. You don’t want to decide anything on the fly that you might later regret. Some decisions are reversible… but others can have lifelong consequences. Later, talk with someone you trust about your decision, like your parents, a sibling or friend, and see if they have any additional input that could be helpful in carrying your decision out. Decide- don’t slide.
MYTH VS. FACT
Think you're in-the-know about sex and can figure out fact from fiction? Put your knowledge to the test because we're about to separate fact from fiction and put some sex myths to bed. Here are some of the most popular myths we've heard about sex…
MYTH: Everyone is doing it!
REALITY: Don't believe everything you hear…it may seem like everyone’s doing it, but in reality, less than half (48%) of all high school students have ever had sex. (And actually it’s down to 37% here in NJ as of last year!) People lie and exaggerate and can talk a good game when it comes to sex. But in the end, it doesn't matter who's telling the truth or not. The only truth that matters is what's best for you.
MYTH: You're a prude if you want to wait until you're older or married.
REALITY: Actually, you're being pretty smart. Every person is unique and many teens decide to wait to have sex. The truth is that most teens who have had sex say they wish they had waited longer and the younger teens are when they first have sex, the more likely they are to regret it—and the less likely they are to use protection.
MYTH: Guys are always ready for sex.
REALITY: Guys may have a reputation for always thinking about sex, but, just like all stereotypes, that’s not necessarily true. Think about it—you may love playing soccer, but sometimes, you'd just rather go to the movies. In fact, 2 out of 3 guys say they’d rather have a relationship but no sex—how’s that for busting this myth!?
MYTH: Girls never pressure guys to have sex—pressure always comes from guys.
REALITY: Again, there's that stereotyping thing causing lots of trouble. Every person, and every combination of people, is different. Pressure can come from anyone, regardless of gender, sexual experience, or age. 1 in 5 guys say they’ve been pressured by a girl to go further sexually than they wanted to.
MYTH: You'll marry the first person you have sex with.
REALITY: Sadly, this one is rarely true. Even though your first love or the first person you have sex with feels like the one you'll love forever, the reality is that most first time sexual relationships are romantic but short-lived. 8 out of 10 first time teen sexual relationships last 6 months or less and one-quarter are one-time occurrences.
MYTH: Drinking and drugs make sex much more fun.
REALITY: If you're drunk or high, it's hard to make good decisions about sex. 20% of 15- to 17-year-olds say they have done something sexual while using alcohol or drugs that they might not have done if they were sober. It might seem fun to have your inhibitions washed away by alcohol or drugs, but that also means you could end up with something much worse than a hangover: a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or an unplanned pregnancy. People are also much more likely to be victims of rape and assault when substance use/ abuse mixes with sexual activity.
MYTH: You can't get pregnant the first time you have sex.
REALITY: If you are ovulating it doesn't matter if it's the first time or the hundredth time you've had sex, you can still get pregnant. You get pregnant when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Neither the sperm nor the egg care how many times you've had sex previously. The only way to avoid the risk of pregnancy is to not have sex at all.
MYTH: Girls can't get pregnant during their period.
REALITY: There is a chance that you can get pregnant if you have sex during your period. Once in the vagina, sperm can stay alive for several days—that means that, even if the last time you had sex was three days ago during your period, you could now be ovulating and therefore you could get pregnant. It’s kind of complicated, so just remember this: ANY time you have sex you can get pregnant!
MYTH: You can't get pregnant if you've never had a period.
REALITY: You may ovulate 14 days before your first period so it is possible to get pregnant even if you haven't had your first period yet.
MYTH: There's no method of birth control that's 100% effective.
REALITY: Not having sex is a form of birth control and it is definitely 100% effective. If you aren't having sex, you can't get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. It's just that simple. Learn more about waiting.
MYTH: Drinking Mountain Dew will prevent pregnancy.
REALITY: The rumor that ingredients in Mountain Dew (and other popular sodas) lower guys' sperm count has been around for years, but the simple truth is that ‘Doing the Dew’ doesn't do anything to sperm. Drinking soda isn't going to do anything but maybe give you a cavity.
Hang Ups and Hook Ups
Text based relationships are all too familiar these days and can lack depth and be superficial, leaving many young people wondering if this is all there is to be desired. The pervasiveness of technology has created an environment that has become a platform for teens to navigate their sexuality. Strangers are dating before even meeting in person and connecting over messaging rather than face to face. We’re entering pseudo relationships and ending them before they ever really started or the second someone else messages us or gives us any attention with a winky face emoticon. So is the relationship even real if you never spent any face time together… and I don’t mean Face Time or Skyping! The problem with today’s dating culture is that there really isn’t one! Teens I talk to in high school or college are either hooking up or hanging out, but no one’s defining the relationship, having ‘the-talk’, or going on real dates to get to know each other! This hook-up culture is leaving this generation Y “unhappy, sexually unfulfilled, and confused about intimacy,” according to a NY Times magazine article by Andrew Reiner on February 9, 2014. He goes on to say that there’s a general fear of vulnerability and appearing needy. They’re hoping that a relationship will just ‘simply unfold’ through hooking up.
So how do we teach a generation to find a real relationship with emotional intimacy before physical intimacy? Well it’s not going to change overnight, but being aware of it and really challenging yourself to step out of the ‘norm’ and not be afraid to take a risk by really getting to know someone on a deeper emotional level is a start. Sure, it might hurt more at the end if you really open up to someone about your innermost fears, dreams, desires, etc… but is love even love if we don’t take that risk? Also, be aware who’s around you each day and connect with people in person. Don’t ignore the person sitting right next to you to chat with the stranger online. Sometimes the greatest relationships can happen when we least expect it! Nonetheless any relationship worth pursuing isn't just ‘going to happen’ without putting in the time and effort. So it’s all about timing, and once you find that person worthy of your time and energy, don’t hesitate to give it your all and hope for the best!
Recognizing Your True Potential
We are all unique individuals, each with our own personality. We all have our individual quirks, talents, goals and dreams! It’s important to take the time to search ourselves and really get to know who we are and what our special or unique talents are that we’re able to offer the world. Sometimes we can don’t take the time to really recognize what sets us apart from everyone else and just how amazing we truly can be! It can be easy to lose yourself in another person and make it hard to identify where one person ends and the other begins. A few things can happen when we become so dependent on another person, we may find ourselves using the other person for what we can get out of them, or else we may fail to recognize our own potential and greatness. So take some time and find out who you really are… what are some of the things that make you you? Get some time away and in those quiet, peaceful moments, what do you envision for your life? What are your dreams for the future? Where do you find your mind wandering to? What are the things that you long to give back to this world? Take some time to discover your own strengths and live each day to its fullest!
Let’s Have a Conversation…
Did you know that you can communicate with others without even saying a word? Think about your body language for a moment, are you confident and look people straight in the eye when talking to them? Do you have good posture and hold your head up high? Do you smile and use animated facial expressions? “Talk” with your hands? What about your body language, are you connecting successfully? Communication is one of the most important qualities of a healthy relationship, and it’s also one of the most important aspects of life and having your thoughts heard and understood!
So how do you know if you’re being understood and communicating effectively? One good way to measure is by how your friends and family react to what you’re saying. Are they comprehending what you’re trying to get across? Do they often have to ask you to repeat things or explain yourself further? If so, maybe you have to work on a new approach. Ask someone you know and trust, who communicates well, to help you with this. Better communication will also help bring down your frustration level and feel more understood… and eventually lead to healthier relationships!