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.

Another Beautiful Night at Poetic Insight: Mental Health 2018

Wrapping up May’s focus on mental health was Poetic Insight on the 29th.  This was an event I was really looking forward to after last year’s raw, beautiful Poetic Insight: Mental Health, and this year delivered another beautiful night, despite being different to the last one.

Clouds were covering up the shining sun from May 2017 and the night’s line up was smaller than the previous year, but the raw words expressed, emotion conveyed and talent displayed remained the same.

Miss Yankey graced the Poetic Insight stage for the first time at our mental health themed night in 2017, and she was back in 2018 to deliver another powerful performance.  She went in deep as always with a performance of a poem about mental health and domestic violence.

Coming to the Poetic Insight stage for the very first time was Clemmie, who shared a really beautiful poem, filled with wonderful words, about the personal struggles that come with mental issues.

Kris also returned to Poetic Insight, going in with a deep performance of a poem about masculinity, which in itself has ties to mental health.

I began the night by performing a poem entitled Me and Myself, which I wrote especially for the night, about the internal battle attacking my mind.  To end the night, I shared my story of how I had been battling with mental health issues and how I was still battling them, rounding it off with my poem The Beautiful, Brutal Blade, about my struggle with self-harm.

However, what made the night so beautiful for me was watching the different connections forming around the room.  A part of me didn’t even want to start the performances, because I was loving all of the conversations that were happening and relationships starting to develop.  For me, that is the key part of what Young People Insight is all about.  I hope the conversations keep going, the connections strengthen and the relationships continue to grow.

Poetic Insight will be joining with The Kickback when it returns on June 19th for a very special event as part of Croydon’s Festival of Peace.  We’ve got three amazing feature poets, as well as the traditional open mic, so stay tuned for more information.  You are going to love it.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Relationships Formed at Poetic Insight

Relationships was the theme for Poetic Insight on November 28th, aptly following on from the topic of Online Dating at The Kickback a week before.  However, I wanted to emphasise that relationships are more than just romance, which let to a great mixture of poems on different types of relationships.

As you probably know by now, we love welcoming new performers to the Poetic Insight stage and this month was no different, with three individuals coming to the stage for the first time.  Diego was the first person to take to the stage, sharing a really sweet poem based on that elusive phrase, “I miss you.”  On the other hand, Kris closed out the show with a fire piece of spoken word about his relationship with London.

Newcomer, Chantelle, used poetical language to give us a very honest insight into a relationship she had with another poet.  Considering it was her first time at Poetic Insight, it was amazing at how open and honest she was with us.  Mahmoud was also incredibly open with us,  as we welcomed him back for the second time,  sharing a poem about a romantic relationship he had engaged in relatively recently.

Completing the line up for the night were what I would now call Poetic Insight veterans.  Rhianna graced the stage twice, first letting us know that she would always be there and then she got into a situation that a lot of us girls have experienced with guys who are not interested in relationships, but just casual hook ups.

Alana took to the stage twice as well, with two pieces of spoken word that focused on relationships that are often bypassed.  Her initial poem focused on developing the relationship she has with herself and the second one touched on our relationships with each other, as she urged us to integrate and show love to one another.

Annotate only came on stage once, but he shared two moving poems about family relationships.  The first was a beautiful poem about an estranged sister he misses, which he followed up with ‘Gratitude’, a really special poem about his younger brother who has autism and Down’s Syndrome.

We also had Kat from the production company, Electric Ray, present on the night.  Kat took the Poetic Insight stage towards the beginning to tell us about a project she is working on, which is all about estranged family relationships and possibly rebuilding those connections.  If you are interested in learning more, please email kat.airy@electricray.com

It was a really enjoyable night filled with talent and amazing people in the room, which I am continuing to forge and develop relationships with, and I can’t wait to carry these relationships forward.

Poetic Insight will combine with The Kickback on December 19th for our final event of 2017.  We’ll be ‘Looking Back, Moving Forward’ as I continue to develop Young People Insight going into its second year.  However, there is no theme for the poetry, so you can speak out on whatever you want, but you need to get in touch with me ASAP if you would like to perform, because performance slots are limited.  Email me at shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or send a message to 07910092565 to let me know.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

What are your thoughts on online dating?

Online Dating was the topic of conversation at The Kickback on November 21st, chosen by regular participant Stephen, who also took the lead this month.  His experience with online dating and desire to talk about it made him the ideal individual to start off and navigate the conversation, making the night a lot of fun.

Stephen got the conversation warmed up by telling us a little bit about why he started online dating.  If you didn’t know, Stephen is American, and he said that coming from a different country to the UK “with no social circle, I found it hard meeting people.”

After explaining to us why he began using online dating, he asked if we had ever used something that is specifically designed for us to find a partner.  Most said yes, with some having used most of the online dating websites and apps out there, while a couple of us said no.

There seemed to have been a mixture of experiences when using the apps or websites, with some saying that it wasn’t the best experience and others saying that it had been okay.  Thuy believes that there’s some bad ones, but “generally it’s positive.  You get to meet cool people you never would have met.”

Stephen shared one of his negative online dating experiences with us, which was a story he can laugh about now, but at the time wasn’t funny – “With online dating, it can be a bad experience or a good experience,” he said.

We later spoken about whether we see online dating effecting how we meet people in 10 years time.  It seemed that a lot of us were unsure and thought that social media would probably have a greater effect on dating.  Chris thought that Tinder might become quite corny for the younger generation and Stephen thinks that “even now, it’s starting to become a joke.”  Thuy also added, “I don’t like this whole thing of messaging for ages and not arranging to meet up.  Like, I don’t want a pen pal.”

For those of us who don’t use online dating, Stephen asked why that was.  I said that it’s not really my thing and I prefer to do things in a relatively old-fashioned way.  Alana said that she’s a 1950s vibe kind of girl and she would like for man to ask her out on a date.  She also finds online dating quite threatening, because of catfishes and some people who only want one-night stands.

We then went on to have an interesting discussion on how we felt about girls approaching guys, attraction and guys with topless photos on their dating profiles.  It seems that our interest in guys with topless photos would depend on how we were feeling at the time and what their bio may be saying, but we all agreed that we don’t feel when guys are taking themselves too seriously in their topless photos.

Speaking about looks led on to whether believe in preferences.  Gus gave a strong, assured yes when answering, while Rhianna also agreed.  However, Rhianna later added, “I don’t feel like anyone has a set preference.  They know what they don’t like.”  Gus responded to that point with, “If they know what they don’t like, they must know what they do like… Certain boxes may be ticked.”

Stephen made the point, “What we’re all dating for, I’m hoping, is a long-term relationship.”  For Chris, he said that he’s always upfront with what he wants from the outset, as “there’s so much more to relationships that so many people don’t talk about.”

The final question Stephen asked us was, do you think online dating has made people force things?  Is there added pressure?  Gus would say social media as a whole is adding pressure – “It’s all intertwined.  It’s a double-edged sword.”  Thuy thinks that you’ve got to put a lot of effort into it and that getting the balance right on the profile is tricky.

Chris made a thought-provoking point about everything “converging into that Instagram world.”  He believes that there will eventually be a service to create the perfect profile and photo for online dating.  “It’s anxiety inducting as well, like all social media,” he also added.

We also got onto a very interesting discussion about online dating bios, questioning whether it is important to have a bio or not, and perceptions others may have on you based on that.  Does no bio mean you’re not trying or do you simply want people to ask you questions organically, rather than focusing on what is already in your bio?  Also, is all that in a person’s bio necessarily true – “Everything is a half-truth,” said Alana.

As we spoke more about personality, characteristics and physicality, we came back to simply being humans.  Alana said, “Every human is on their own path and makes their own mistakes.  Some paths are longer than others.”

This was later followed by a statement from Chris, which was a great way of summing up all that we had been talking about on the night:  “You’ve got to be empathetic to the other gender.”

The Kickback will join forces with Poetic Insight on December 19th for our final event of the year, when we’ll be ‘Looking Back, Moving Forward’.  This is a chance for you to make known what you’ve enjoyed about YP Insight this year and what improvements you’d like to see made for next year.  Make sure you save the date, because you will not want to miss it.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

What’s Your Idea of Dating?

Our youth forum returned with a loud voice on February 21st, as we sat down to talk about dating and romance in Project B.  However, the focus of the conversation stayed on the many aspects of dating, not giving us a chance to get on to romance.

It was a lively and diverse discussion, which went in a number of different directions that took me by surprise.  That is why I love holding these forums though, because the conversation can start one place and end up right on the other end of the spectrum.

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We started by responding to the question, what is dating?  Andrae said that it was getting to know a person, which most of us agreed with, but he also added the element of “having that chemistry and connection” – “I wouldn’t date someone I haven’t spoken to.”

Rianna thinks that it is “when both of you get to spend time together”, while Alana believes that it is a filtering process.  I got into the mix and revealed that I think dating is a courting process, to which Alana’s response was, “I love that”.  Rianna also agreed, saying that “it’s a bit quick now”.

This then moved on to the subject of whether we would date someone again if they didn’t pay for the first date.  Alana said no – “If he says no, I’m gonna say bye, see you later.”  On the other hand, Rhi, Sh’kira and Rianna said yes – “I don’t watch people and their money,” Rianna added.  Randy added a male perspective, saying, “If a girl really wants to pay, I’m not gonna stop her… [but]… on the first date, I’d say no.”

Later, Rianna asked a great question: Do you think it’s okay to date more than one person at the same time?  This led to some interesting responses on the complexity of feelings and physicality while dating.

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Alana and Princess gave a definite yes – “The more people you date, the more value you have,” says Alana – while Rebecca said, “Yeah, as long as there’s a limit.”  Andrae’s yes was a little unsure, as his response was, “Yes, to a degree; to find out what a person’s like.”

“Me personally, I would feel bad,” Rhi expressed, but she also added that if the person simply asked her out and she didn’t really know them or the other person, then she wouldn’t feel bad.  Princess responded by saying, “You don’t owe that person anything.  You haven’t made a commitment to each other,” as she believes that getting to know someone takes a long time, and that you’re exploring your options through dating.

In response to her own question, Rianna said she thought it was fine, “but if you get close and physical, you’re taking it to another level.”  Princess added, “If you’re newly dating someone, that don’t mean nothing.  But if you’ve been dating for months, that’s different.”  Rhi also made the point of dating getting complicated when there’s no clarity.

My next question was, do you think the concept of dating has changed?  We agreed that it had changed vastly over the years from when our parents or grandparents used to date, but Princess made the interesting point that the concept of dating has always been the same for our generation, so we haven’t seen it change.

When Rhi expressed that some people think sex is part of the package when it comes to dating, Princess’ response was that it has always been the case for our generation.  “I think that’s why I’m so strict on the sexual part,” said Alana.

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The conversation took a different turn, as we spoke about the oldest and youngest age we consider dating, and whether we would date outside of our race.  Most of us would date individuals younger than us, with the strong exception of Rhi, as we understood that age does not always mean maturity.

I added that there are a lot of guys out there not acting their age – some guys in their early twenties have the wisdom and maturity of someone older, while there are guys in their thirties acting and talking like they are in their late teens.

All of us had different preferences when it came to dating, with some of us happy to date individuals outside our race, and others having a preference for those of the same race.  However, we agreed that preferences are not set in stone – “You love who you love,” said Princess.”

Finally, I asked: What advice would you give to anyone dating?  The responses were:

  • Ask the right questions.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. – Princess
  • Be straight up.  Know what you want. – Rebecca
  • Don’t sell dreams. – Randy
  • Choose a guy that has a firm financial foundation. – Alana

Dating is a complicated concept with our generation, but it is necessary for you to get to know someone you want to get into a relationship with.  I’ll leave you with two gems from Princess:

  • “The important thing to remember is that we all want love.”
  • “You have you, I have me, and we have we.”

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Our next forum will be on March 21st from 6.30-8.30pm in Project B, when we’ll be talking Freedom of Speech.  It’s going to be another great discussion, so don’t forget to tell a friend to tell a friend.

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