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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What makes a healthy relationship? – Part 1

The conversation at The Kickback on November 20th was all about Healthy Relationships, which I knew was going to be a great conversation, but I wasn’t prepared for how great it was going to be.  There was a whole lot of ground covered and a whole lot we couldn’t even get to – we genuinely needed another hour.  With so much said, I’m going to split what we spoke about into two parts, so that your brain doesn’t get too frazzled.

We were joined by Lisa from Tender, which is an arts charity currently in Croydon for two years.  Their focus is on healthy relationships and talking about what domestic abuse is.  “Our aim is to end violence against women and men,” Lisa said.  Tender uses creative ways to talk about relationships with young people, particularly drama – “Drama is an interesting tool to open up that conversation.”

After Lisa’s introduction, I began with the question, what is a relationship?  Gus’ response was a “connection between two people, but that may not even be a thing,” which Mhairi backed up by saying that it could be with yourself.

Mhairi also shared that she was thinking about addictions and things that are unhealthy when Gus spoke about having relationships with things.  Lisa took this further when she told us that she hears a lot of children speaking about their relationship with gaming.

When I asked, what makes a relationship healthy, Mhairi said that “most of the time, a healthy relationship is mutually beneficial.”  Gus counteracted this by saying that with a mother, you can give a lot and not necessarily get a lot back.

Tanica’s initial response was agape love – “You don’t ask for anything in return.  Everything comes from the heart.”  This led to extended  time speaking about agape love, as well as our relationships with family and friends.

Mhairi asked, “How often do we see agape love?”  Glenn said, “With family, it’s quite common, but with friends and other people, you’re not really gonna see it.”  However, Tanica shared that her friends have passed that hand of friendship and they are like family – “That’s where I see the love.”

I spoke about my confusion concerning the concept of family, not feeling that some of my blood family members actually felt like family at all, but that there are friends of mine who have become family and I literally see them as blood.

Mhairi feels like “family is very changeable” and that there are many aspects to family in the 21st Century that allow us to bring others in easily.  Lisa also shared, “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that I’ve sort of created my own family… Like, what’s the definition anymore?”

Gus believes that the only way you know its unconditional love is if you’re put through the hardships with that person.  Lisa also thinks that “there’s something about the dynamics of different relationships and it’s important to separate… I don’t think unconditional love comes into romantic relationships.  I would gage them differently to my other relationships.

Other responses about what makes a relationship healthy included:

  • Balance – Rhianna
  • Accountability – Joan
  • Communication – Lisa
  • Understanding – Tanica
  • Respect and trust – Elisha
  • Lessons.  “Someone has to teach me something and I have to teach them something.” – Mhairi
  • Common interests.  “Sometimes we’re just coming together for the sake of coming together.” – Jennifer

Jennifer also said that you’ve got to love yourself how you want to be loved.  On the other hand, Mhairi believes that “some people don’t know what self-love is and still get married and stuff…  I think the idea of self-love has become very confusing.”  This led on to a whole other discussion about self-love, which was getting very deep and looking to go the distance, so I decided to give it a night of its own and we’ll be talking Self-Love in February next year.

Look out for Part 2, so you can get the full picture of our conversation and what was said when we spoke about relationships getting unhealthy, consent and violence against women.

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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.

What’s Coming Up This November?

We’re already very much into November, which is looking like a quieter month for Young People Insight.  It actually feels weird to only have our two traditional events coming up, with nothing else in store, but it’s nice for things to be a little calmer as we prepare to wind down for the year.

First up, we have the return of The Kickback on its usual third Tuesday.  We’re going to be talking Healthy Relationships, with a focus on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and also violence against women and girls.  We’re going to have a special guest from the arts charity, Tender, to lead out on the conversation with us.

Make sure you’ve got November 20th saved in your diary, rather than November 13th, as I made the mistake of saying at our latest event.  We’ll be back at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm, for more great conversations and more snacks.  You can sign up for free here: bit.ly/letstalkhealthyrelationships

Then a week later, Poetic Insight will be back, but in a brand new home.  We’ll be bringing more inspiring poetry and spoken word to you from Urban XChange Bar & Grill, which is still in Croydon Town Centre and even nearer to East Croydon train station.

This month’s theme is Survival, which I think is going to be powerful and very interesting.  If you want to share your poetry or spoken word, email youngpeopleinsight@gmail.com or you can simply sign up on the night.  Just be sure to be at Urban XChange Bar & Grill from 7-9pm so you don’t miss out.  Get your free tickets now: bit.ly/poeticinsight-survival

We’re in for another month of powerful events, set to inform and inspire.  Be sure to tell a friend to tell a friend, as we love welcoming new faces – a big smile is always in store.  Looking forward to seeing you soon.

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Discussing Sex at the YP Insight Forum

On October 18th, it was time to talk all about sex.  From the very beginning, it was interesting to see how different our thought processes were when it came to sex, whether it was the word sex itself or who we thought were the sexiest individuals.

As part of a warm-up to the discussion, I got everyone to reveal who they thought was the sexiest individual.  Personally, mine was Mikey from Cycle 22 of America’s Next Top Model, but others included Alicia Keys, Bradley Cooper, Meagan Good, Rami Malek and Taraji P. Henson.

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After getting everyone warmed up, I hit them with the first question: What does sex mean to you?  Responses included:

  • Making babies
  • Intercourse, relationships and spirit counts
  • Feelings, love and happiness – “You shouldn’t really do it if you’re not happy”

However, 25-year-old Hakeem says that it depends on the occasion, as it means a lot more if you’re with the person.  Alana, 22, thinks that sex is very conditional and she does not believe in sex until marriage, as she thinks that when you have intercourse with someone, you’re absorbing their energy and you’re bound to them.

When asked if sex was expected when getting involved with someone, it led to a conversation on having sex with someone the first day you meet them.  Kyle said, “I hear you’re considered a ho, but how do you define she’s a ho?”  Andrae responded by saying, “I think a ho is about the actions you take.”  Alana added that it depends on your mindset – “Are you coming into it just to have sex or a relationship?”

Andrae later posed the question: Do you think you can have casual sex with a person and take them out, but with no romantic strings attached?  It was a question some of us found ourselves a little confused by, but definitely left us divided.  Some of us thought it couldn’t happen and it would not be sustainable, while others thought that it could work.  “That’s a dangerous path to go on,” Alana said.

My next question was, why has our society become so sexualised?  The main responses I received was the media – “Every film you watch these days has sex in it” – and music.  “Sex sells,” says Andrae.

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You can’t talk about sex without mentioning sex education, so the next point of discussion was what our experiences with sex education were like.  Immediately, 24-year-old Kyle’s response was, “It wasn’t.”  Andrae believes, “They teach what they think we should know and not what we want to know.”

The experience was very different for Jes, 25, who said, “I went to an all-girls school and they taught us that men are bad.”  Another young person told us that they learn about sex education the wrong way through the internet, by accidentally accessing a pornography site.

I then asked how young people can get better educated on sex.  Kyle first said parents, but then he added that everyone needs to put their contribution in, including schools, aunties and uncles.  On the other hand, Alana thinks that young girls should be shown a video of a woman giving birth to scare them off having sex altogether.

Once I had provided some information from the report by the Women and Equalities Committee that exposed the ‘widespread’ sexual harassment and violence in schools, I posed the question: Why has sexual harassment and violence become so widespread in schools?

Some thought that this had always been the case and were not surprised by the statistics.  “Social media brings it more to limelight now,” says Kyle.  Jes thinks that it’s getting more extreme and Darnell says that you don’t know what the young people are involved in.

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After touching on pornography, following a question that 24-year-old Jason asked, we spoke a little about why some males feel it’s okay to pressure females into sex.  Jes thinks that it’s because of power issues and ego, but Darnell took it a step further and said that it’s like rape.  This led on to a debate on the differentiation between pressure and force – “Force and pressure are two different things,” said Jason.  “If you force someone to do what they don’t want to do, it’s rape,” says Kyle.

Finally, I asked: How do you think young people can develop healthier sexual relationships?  The replies included:

  • Knowing themselves
  • Talk about it – “We should talk about it more.  I don’t understand why it’s taboo”
  • More equality between males and female
  • Thinking about what you’re doing.

Jes later shared some information on a project she’s been working on.  It involves creating a video game for street kids in Bangladesh to educate them on STIs and sexual violence, as they don’t have adequate knowledge of sexual health and what a healthy sexual relationship is.

She also asked us if we thought it would be a good idea for children and young people living in the UK, which we all seemed to agree on – sex education needs a revamp and this could be one way of doing that.

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This month’s discussion was a lot of fun, and I loved how willing everyone was to share their experiences.  I’m looking forward to November 15th when we’ll be talking Social Media at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm.  Save the date, and don’t forget to tell a friend to tell a friend.

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Lost Communication

Inspired by the discussion on relationships in July and the emphasis on communication, this poem draws on our struggle to effectively communicate and how essential effective communication is for healthy relationships.

You talk to me,

I talk to you;

Effectively

Conversating,

Sharing our thoughts,

Engaging in healthy discussion,

Solving conflict;

That is what communication,

Good communication, should be.

Somehow, we’ve lost it,

Unable to communicate productively

With each other;

Breakdowns leading to problems,

Petty arguments,

Pointless anger,

And worst of all,

Broken friendships,

Unhealthy relationships.

Our inability to communicate

Makes our relationships vulnerable,

Open to shots of assumption,

Bombs of misunderstanding,

And attacks from outsiders

Constantly looking in.

Embracing the technological

Rather than the physical,

Trying to solve domestics through DMs,

Airing dirty laundry on the TL,

When you should be looking into the eyes

Of the other,

Listening to the sound of their voice,

Coming from the movement of their lips,

Communicating the way

Nature intended it to be.

Too much time spent

Communicating with emojis,

Not enough time spent

Communicating with words from a dictionary.

Struggling to hold a conversation

Has become a regular thing,

Lacking substance,

A sense of maturity,

Making interactions boring.

It’s time to step up our communication,

Develop healthier relationships,

Spend more listening,

Less time yapping

And stop being so selfish;

Give more care to each,

Maturely talk through your mess,

But most importantly,

Peel your eyes away from that bright screen

To focus more on your loved one’s face.

Communication
Image by meijer and used under Creative Commons License.

Discussing Relationships at the YP Insight Forum

“A form of communication”; “a bond”; “happiness”; “a form of love”.  These were some of the thoughts young people had of what a relationship is, as relationships (with a focus on women) was the point of discussion at the Young People Insight forum on July 19th.

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We starting by talking about what we think makes a healthy relationship, with responses that included:

  • Communication and honesty
  • Loyalty and trust
  • Not basing it on looks
  • Connection and attraction
  • Respect
  • Same goals.

I then threw in the question of why are so many people in unhealthy relationships, which brought a variety of answers:

  • Bad forms of communication
  • Fear of being alone and trust issues
  • Unresolved issues from relationships
  • People being too clingy and controlling.

This brought up the problem of insecurity and the query of why so many of us are so insecure.  Alana, 21, gave a great response, expressing that we need to learn to love ourselves 100% and bring happiness to ourselves, rather than relying on external factors.

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Andrae, 25 believes that “communication is the key” to relationships, but why do so many of us struggle with effective communication?  Andrae thinks that it’s because some individuals don’t want to hurt the other’s feelings, while Alana thinks that some people are afraid to open up and show their true selves.

Rhianna, 21, believes that it stems from trust issues as if you have trust issues, you might not be able to talk properly or you don’t really want to have to explain yourself.  Andrae also brought up social media – “Instagram plays a big part” – and Sh’kira, 22, made a good point about lots of people having their own different issues.  She said that people are in their own worlds and their own minds most of the time.

Asking how we improve the way we communicate proved to be a very difficult question to answer, as communication seemed to be something that most of the young people struggled with and wanted to improve themselves.

I kicked off that part of the discussion, which eventually resulted in some good solutions:

  • Talking more in person, not just on cyber
  • Being more mature and feeling able to talk about your issues
  • Having workshops and focus groups
  • Don’t watch TV for a month – “Your whole concept of relationships will be new”
  • Respect yourself.

One of my favourite points of the evening was made by Alana, when I asked why we struggle to communicate – she said that we’re living in a technological age where “people are communicating with emojis”.

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This month, there was a special focus on women and relationships, adding a little more depth to the discussion.  We started by discussing why females are objectified and pressured into certain behaviours to “get a man”, which sparked off an interesting dialogue.

Alana stated that “It’s a man’s world” and that women are being seen as toys or things to be used.  However, Andrae thinks that it’s because of the way a women dress, but Billie, 24, strongly expressed that “it’s insulting to think that people don’t think you dress for yourself.”

Rhianna thinks that some women feel like they have to act a certain way, while Billie added that “it’s all to do with money and consumerism.”  There was also the important point of males trying to have more control with less effort, wanting females to come to them and do whatever they want them to do.

When asked why some females portray themselves in a certain way to get male attention and affection, Alana said insecurity and the pressure that they have to be sexually active all the time.  Rhianna made the brilliant point that a lot of women are confusing attention for affection, and Alana also thinks that it’s because they’re not getting affection from the places they need it.

I then posed the question, as women, what do we associate affection with?  Responses included:

  • Being in close proximity with a person
  • A guy paying for you on the first date
  • Being shown that you have his attention
  • Showing that you really care
  • Intimacy and physical affection (not sex, but touching).

Finally, I asked how we can develop healthy relationships, which resulted in some really nice answers.  They were:

  • Communicating more – Andrae
  • Getting to know yourself, loving yourself better and forgiveness – Alana
  • In terms of friendships, people understanding boundaries and learning not to blur lines – Rhianna
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people and not watching certain programmes – Randy, 21
  • Being in tune with God – Sh’kira
  • Experience – Billie

The next forum will be Relationships Part 2 with a special focus on the men, at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm on August 16th.  You definitely won’t want to miss it, so tell a friend to tell a friend.

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