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What teens should know about Healthy Dating Relationships

Dating can be a wonderful way to learn how to be part of a loving healthy relationship during your teen years.  Dating gives you a chance to learn more about yourself, learn more about other people, and have positive new experiences.  But, sometimes, relationships can take an unhealthy turn.  In unhealthy relationships, people can get hurt emotionally as well as physically.

Know the myths and truths about relationships.

Myth:  “He’s the boss.”

Truth:  In a healthy relationship, neither person controls or serves the other.  Each person is the relationship should be an equal and compliment the other.  Working together as a unit strengthens the relationship.

Myth:  “Love at first sight is true love.”

Truth:  Instant love can be exciting and intense.  However, no guarantee will make it last.  True loves takes time to grow and nourish.

Myth:  “Jealousy is a sign of love.”

Truth:  You may feel flattered if your boyfriend or girlfriend acts jealous.  In reality, jealousy and possessiveness are not signs of love.  They are signs of insecurity.  Jealousy and possessiveness are signs of a need to control you.  Trust and respect are signs of love.

Myth:  “No really means yes.”

Truth:  No means no.  Simple.  Even if the person says it another way.  If a person says “I don’t know.” or “Let’s take our time.”, it still means no.  In a healthy relationship, each person finds out what the other person is really feeling and respects that limit.

Qualities of a Healthy Relationship

In a dating relationship, these qualities have to grow to have a nurturing relationship.

Trust each other-The couple view each other as equals, with equally important needs.

Value each other’s views- Each person values the other’s opinions and ideas.

Support each other’s goals- Each person encourages the other person to do his or her best.

Share in making decisions-Each person compromises, gives and takes, when they don’t agree.  An example is “let’s go to your movie Saturday and I will pick the movie next week”.

Express feelings openly- Each person expresses worry, insecurity, and other feelings without fear of ridicule or put-downs.  The couple can disagree without fighting.

Intently listen to each other- Each person takes the time to hear and understand what the other is saying.

Encourage each other’s interests- Each person encourages the other to have friendships and interests such as sports or hobbies outside of the relationship.

Understand the need for time alone or with family- The couple doesn’t insist on constantly being together.

Accept each other’s differences- Each person doesn’t try to change the other.  A person can only change his or herself.

Basic Rules for dating

Get to know the person as a friend before you start dating.  Find out if you have similar interests and values.

Go out in groups or double-date in the beginning.  Avoid being alone until you know each other better.

Make your limits clear and stick to them.  Talking about these things can be awkward.  But it can reduce misunderstandings and the risk of being hurt.

Have a backup plan for getting home if the situation takes an unhealthy turn.  Always let someone know where you plan to be and when you will be back.

Don’t rush the relationship.  Trust takes time to develop.  A relationship is moving too quickly if the other calls you constantly, always wants to be with you, and pressures you to get serious right away.  This attention can be alluring.  But it can also be a sign of a person who could become abusive.

Assertive communication is the key to handling disagreements.  Aggressive people try to control others.  Assertive people stand up for their rights while respecting others’ rights.

Speak up for yourself.  This means using “I” statements to talk about how you feel.  Avoid blaming others or name calling.  For example, say “I felt hurt when you did that.” instead of “You always make me feel bad.”

Listen for feelings as well as facts.  Avoid getting defensive or planning what you will say next.  Repeat what the person just said in your own words to make sure you understood.

Stick to the subject.  Don’t bring up past mistakes.  Stick to the current or present matter.

There is never an excuse for abuse!  It is never the victim’s fault!  Face the truth.  This can be difficult.  You may feel that you really love the person and change him or her.  But you can’t change someone else.  You may believe that no one else will love you.  That isn’t the truth.  You do deserve better.

Don’t accept excuses.  The person may try to blame you, alcohol, drugs, or even friends for the abuse.  For example, “I wouldn’t have hit you if you stopped doing that.” or “I couldn’t help it.  I was drunk.”  That person chose to abuse you.   Don’t believe the excuses.

REMEMBER, YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME!

If you have questions about relationships, talk to an adult you trust.  You can talk to a parent, relative, friend’s parent, teacher, school counselor, or clergy member.  You can always contact us at Victim Services at (432)263-3312 or our website at http://www.vsob.org