What makes a healthy relationship? – Part 2

We were talking Healthy Relationships at The Kickback on November 20th, which led to a great conversation with so much said that I had split the write-up into two parts.  Part 1 provided insight into our thoughts on what relationships are, what makes them healthy and the idea of agape love.

After speaking about what we think makes a relationship healthy, I asked the question, what do you do when your relationship becomes unhealthy?  For this question, I wanted everyone’s answer to be what they personally do, rather than what they think you should do.

Rhianna told us, “I look for what’s going wrong between me and the person, to see where the fault lies.”  However, Gus feels like the relationship was essentially unhealthy in the beginning, to which Mhairi asked, “What do you do when your relationship with yourself becomes unhealthy?”  Gus responded by saying that he thinks the only thing you can address is your own past.

Tanica shared that she is a massive mover of energy, so she tends to mediate and as she meditates, she breaks down what is going on internally with herself and what’s going on internally with the other person.  Then she will approach them diplomatically and let them know how she feels.

Elisha believes that if a relationship is bad, then you should leave it, while Mhairi said, “I just think everyone needs a time out sometimes.”

Lisa threw in the question, “How do you know when a relationship has become unhealthy?”  Rhianna said, “I’m aware of myself and my emotions in my body.  I’ll feel it in my stomach.”  Mhairi thinks that some people can be oblivious, and Gus thinks that it is about understanding.

I said that I know when someone starts draining me, which I felt strongly with my last boyfriend.  Gus went on to make the interesting point of how the relationship between a mother and their child can be draining, as children can drain their mother.

Next, I referred to the Twitter thread that I wrote a blog post in response to last week and asked to hear what everyone’s thoughts on it were.  Rhianna instantly stated that she agreed with it, and Gus said, “I sympathise with that… In a lot of instances, a no does mean convince me.”  He later went on to say, “I think the problem is that women want the man to be assertive, but to what point or what detriment.”

Rhianna thinks it also depends on the person that it’s happening to, but that it doesn’t justify the way a lot of guys act.  Elisha made the point of saying, “People also pressure,” while Lisa strongly said, “Own your no.”

This got on to a discussion about the murkiness of consent and what consent may or may not look like.  “Why is the onus on women to be assertive and someone that they’re not in certain situations?” Lisa asked.  Mhairi also said, “Under pressure or trauma, you can’t always portray what you want to.”

This month, The Kickback was linked to the White Ribbon Campaign, which is a movement to end male violence against women and girls, so we spent some time speaking about this.  I started by asking, “Why do you think men are violent towards women and girls?”

To provide some background on her answer, Mhairi spoke about the Channel 4 documentary series, Woman, saying that it can be used as a military tactic to break down women, as well as it coming from a place of power, control, money ideas and hatred of women.

Gus really made us all think when he said, “The issue isn’t the men attacking the women.  It’s what’s inside the men. Men are attacking each other… To get to the root of it, you have to understand why men are the way they are.”

As someone who knows men who have been violent towards women, Tanica believes that it comes down to a variety of factors – “Sometimes it’s broken down to religious factors.  Sometimes its culture.  Sometimes its upbringing.”

Lisa said, “There are men who are violent to everybody, and there are men who direct their violence to their partners and no one else, because they know they’ll get away with it.  In their environment, they’ll have power and control.”

I then asked, how do you think we can put an end to violence against women and girls?  Elisha thinks it’s good to talk to the police and let them sort things out, while Mhairi thinks the only thing that is helping is grass-roots communities and groups.

Gus feels that men go for women, because they assume they’re more vulnerable, but if she turns round and kicks him in the head, he’s less likely to attack her.  However, the idea of fighting back makes Lisa nervous – “When we cut out the need to even have self-defense classes, then I feel we’re on the right path.”  Lisa thinks the key is education and awareness.

My final question was, how can we have more healthy relationships?  I’ll leave you with the two responses: Mhairi said, “A shift in society” and Gus said, “A shift in oneself.”

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Does your no mean no?

As I was scrolling through Twitter one day this week, I came across a tweet that forced me to do a double take and give my full attention to process what it was saying.

Once I fully deeped what I had read, I found myself nodding in agreement and seriously thinking about what had been written, as these types of situations lead to toxicity and a warped way of thinking.  In my mind it was bringing up consent and healthy relationships, which is the theme of The Kickback next week.  It also made me consider the importance of the word ‘no’ and how the meaning of this word has become blurred in certain contexts.

From my own personal experience, I have seen how the word ‘no’ has become blurred, being faced with the question of, “Does your no actually mean no, or does it mean yes?”  I was taken aback when asked this and confused about how this simple word, with such a clear meaning, had become so misconstrued.

I asked myself that if this particular individual was thinking this way, then how many males were thinking the same way as him?  It’s no wonder that when some females say no, and are not particularly forceful when saying it, that certain males nod and continue to proceed with going further in an intimate situation.  A line is quickly crossed, without some men perhaps not even realising they are doing it.

Not that ignoring the word ‘no’ and not getting consent is ever excusable, but it is easy to see how some men may think that it is okay to continue, in their thinking that the word ‘no’ is part of the foreplay.  If some women begin to change the context of the word, who’s to say that all of them have not changed the context of the word?

This is something that we need to be very careful of, because it is not healthy and it certainly is not safe.  Being intimate with anyone is a big step and clear boundaries need to be set out.

Another factor that arises from this is communication and the importance of effective communication, which is key to the health and success of any type of relationship.  It is said that only a small percentage of communication is verbal, with the majority coming from body language and from tone of voice.

Although ‘no’ should only mean ‘no’ in an intimate situation, it is important to understand the body language and tone of the person saying no.  Even if a person is under the belief that no is a form of foreplay, there should be a level of awareness to see if the person saying no looks fearful or uncomfortable, or is perhaps stiffening up or reclining away.  Just because someone may have been enjoying a certain level of intimacy with before, it does not mean that they want to go all the way – there should be no obligation.

When we begin to blur the lines and confuse the context of sex or even relationships as a whole, this is when problems begin to occur and situations can become dangerous for all involved.  This is what I find often leads to situations that are not necessarily rape, but are very rape-like and bordering on sexual assault – again, the lines are so unclear that I am not even sure how to label or describe them.

We need to be upfront with our words, set out clear boundaries, communicate effectively and respect the individual, especially when engaging in romantic and sexual relationships.  I believe this will help us to build foundations of healthy relationships as a whole.

We’ll be taking the topic of Healthy Relationships further at The Kickback on Tuesday 20th November.  Raise your points and join the conversation at Project B (1 Bell Hill, Croydon, CR0 1FB) from 6.30-8.30pm.  I would love to hear what you have to say.