Holidays can be wonderful, but they can also bring serious stress to those whose love lives are not living up to the glowing Disney images. They can be times where both romantic expectations and relationship tensions can be charged. Those who are not presently in relationships might be noticing their single status and those in relationships might be questioning the health and vitality of their partnership. Knowing how to create and maintain a healthy relationship is a basic life skill, but for too many of us, relationships are a source of struggle and even abuse.
Dating violence is most common between the ages of 15 and 24 and just as in spousal violence, a large proportion of dating violence happens after the relationship has ended.
On Dec. 6 people across Canada commemorated the women who were killed at the Ecole Polytechnique. At Selkirk college there were some classroom discussions with men and women about the factors that contribute to healthy and unhealthy relationships. Some of the men had poignant reflections about how difficult it is for guys to talk to someone when they are scared or jealous or frustrated. They encouraged men to talk to anyone – – a buddy, a lover, a teacher or a counsellor when they are overwhelmed. Here are some of the class reflections on what an equal, respectful relationship looks like and questions to ask yourself if you are concerned:
In a healthy relationship between romantic partners, power is shared. In an unhealthy relationship, power is used to control and dominate.
In a brainstorm with a group of students about how they see healthy relationships these were some of the qualities they valued:
- Communicating needs and expectations in the beginning of the relationship
- Assertive communication skills
- Mutual trust
- Having clear boundaries
- Each having some friends and interests outside the relationship
- Mutual attraction
- Conflict resolution skills
- Great listening skills
- Mutual respect
- Ability to laugh together
- Sharing power and decision-making
Here are some questions they encouraged people to reflect on:
- Do I feel respected? Is my opinion and way of seeing things valued?
- Do verbal exchanges include belittling, degrading or threats?
- Does my partner want me to be isolated and show excessive jealousy over time spent with friends or family?
- Is there spiritual abuse where spiritual or religious beliefs are used to manipulate, dominate or control?
- Do I feel physically and emotionally safe?
- Is there listening and mutual, collaborative problem solving?
- Is there an imbalance in the control of money or decisions about finances?
If you are wondering if your relationship is healthy, you may want to talk to a counsellor or someone at the Women’s Centre or Crisis Line. There may be ways you can learn more effective skills for communication or conflict resolution or you may want help exploring whether this relationship is a safe, healthy, nurturing place for you to be.
Selkirk Counselling: 250-352-6601 or 250-365-1273 to set up appointments
Nelson Women’s Centre: http://www.nelsonwomenscentre.com/
or you can phone the CRISIS LINE 1-888-353-2273 There is someone there 24/7 to talk to. They will also help you find resources: http://trailfair.ca/ProgramPages/CLine.html