The following module was created using supplemental information from the Love is Respect program. Love is Respect is a program created by the Domestic Abuse Holtine in order to educate teenagers on how to prevent and end domestic abuse. After completing this module, check out their website for more information and resources if you need additional guidance.
Types of Relationships
No matter what type of relatinship you are in, there are certain rights that you have in each. All healthy relationships start with respect for the other person involved, and should follow the rights outlined below.
Family Relationships Rights
- You have the right to be loved, accepted and taken care of by your family.
- You have the right to have a stable and safe home/residnece.
- You have the right to have your basic needs met and provided for, including food, clothes, and addressing all medical needs.
- You have the right to to be provided an opportunity for education.
- You have the right to engage in social activities and experiences outside of your family.
- You have the right to express thoughts, values and beliefs of your own, even if they differ from your family’s.
- You have the right to live free of abuse or neglect, violence and harassment.
- You have the right to say no to things that make you uncomfortable.
- You have the right to report family members who hurt you, or who hurt others.
- You have the right to walk away from family relationships that are harmful or unhealthy for you.
- You have the right to choose who your friends are.
- You have the right to feel included and accepted by your friend/friend group.
- You have the right to have various different friendships outside of your relationship with other friends.
- You have the right to choose which values and characteristics you find important in a friendship, even if they differ from your friend’s.
- You have the right to feel like a valued member of the friendship/friend group.
- You have the right to trust and expect information your tell your friends in confidence will remain between you two only.
- You have the right to say no to any activity you do not feel comfortable engaging in (drugs, alcohol, violence or other).
- You have the right to your own behaviors, actions and choices.
- You have the right to end friendships that are unhealthy for you.
- You have the right to express your opinions and believes without fear of judgment or harassment from your friends.
Romantic Relationship Rights
- You have the right to privacy, both online and offline.
- You have the right to feel safe and respected.
- You have the right to decide who you want to date, or not to date.
- You have the right to decide if/when you have sex and who you have sex with.
- You have the right to say no at anytime (to sex, to drugs or alcohol, to a relationship), even if you’ve said yes before.
- You have the right to hang out with your friends and family, and do things you enjoy without your partner getting jealous or controlling.
- You have the right to express yourself through words and actions, without fear of judgment or harassment from your partner.
- You have the right to define the type of relationship you want to be in, be it casual or committed.
- You have the right to end a relationship that isn’t right or healthy for you.
- You have the right to live free from violence and abuse.
It is important to have a strong support network made up of a variety of people and relationships. Odds are you have already been building this support system without even realizing it. Let’s take a moment to reflect and look at who fits these roles in our lives.
- How often do you talk to your best friend?
- What do you two talk about?
- How often do you talk to your parent(s)/guardian?
- What do you talk about with your parent(s)/guardian?
- When was the last time you made plans and went out with a group of friends?
- Was it your idea, or someone else’s?
- Do you see your friends often, or do you wish you got to see them more?
- Have you been on a date, or when was your last date?
- Are you seeing someone, or are you looking to date?
- Is being in a relationship important to you? Why or why not?
The answers to these questions can help you begin to recognize the support system you have build for yourself or the areas of your support system you are currently missing. Having people you love and enjoy being with is important, but it is just as important to have people in your life who can trust to be there for you in your times of need.
It is important to know our rights in each type of relationship, but it is equally as important to respect others rights as well.
The Relationship Spectrum
The relationships we have exist on a spectrum ranging from healthy, to unhealthy, to abusive. The following handouts provide some examples of characteristics of each type of relationship. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of all types of relationships in order to keep ourselves safe.
How to Spot the Warning Signs
Since relationships exist on a spectrum, they can fluctuate between all three levels. Abusive relationships often start as seemingly healthy relationships and progress into unhealthy or abusive. As a result, it is often difficult to spot signs of unhealthy or abusive relationships we are in. Knowing some common, important warnings sings to constantly look for can help you to see early signs and prevent unhealthy relationships from turning abusive.
Warning Signs of Abuse can include:
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Mood Swings (nice to you one minute and angry the next)
- Explosive temper
- Controlling what someone wears or what they do
- Isolating someone from their family and friends by dictating who their partner is allowed to hang out with
- Checking text messages, social media or other digital communication services without the person’s permission
- Physically hurting someone
- Emotionally hurting someone
Often we find it easier to identify signs of unhealthy or abusive relationships when looking from an outside perspective. It is common for us to notice signs in other people’s relationships long before we recognize the signs in our relationships. If you are questioning whether some of the above characteristics apply to your relationships, talk to your friends and family to see if they have recognized any of the following characteristics.
Signs of Unhealthy or Abusive Relationships from an Outside Perspective:
- Lack of interest in former hobbies and pastimes
- A noticeable change in weight, demeanor or physical appearance
- Isolation from former friend group
- Little contact with anyone outside of their partner
- Making excuses or apologizing for their partners’ behavior
- Unexplained bruises or injuries
Sometimes stepping back and looking at a problem from a different approach will help you to see something you may have been missing. It is also important to know the outside perspective signs of unhealthy or abusive relationships so that you can better protect your friends.
When we love someone, we tend to make excuses for their bad behavior. Often when we see sings of abusive, controlling behaviors the perpetrator will state it is out of love or that it is a one time incident. This can cause us to ignore warning signs, or make excuses that the person does not deserve.
Practicing identifying these signs in simulated situations is a good way to start learning how to recognize signs of unhealthy and abusive relationships. But it is just as important to be able to recognize sings of healthy relationships so that you know who you can rely on and trust. Click the following link to practice identifying healthy, unhealthy and abusive signs in relationships.
Strategies for Building Healthy Relationships
Before we learn how to create healthy relationships, let’s take a minute to identify the healthy relationships we already have.
Provide the name of a person who fits each of the following prompts, and tell your GAL why you chose that person.
- The person I call/talk to when I have a bad day.
- The person I call/talk to when I have a problem I cannot solve on my own.
- The person I would call if I was ever in serious trouble (arrested, threatened, physically harmed, etc.).
- The person I trust the most to keep my secrets.
- The person who makes me feel my best.
Were you able to name different people for some of the prompts? Or is there only one person in your life who you feel can fill these roles?
It is more important to have a few strong, healthy relationships than it is to have many shallow, unhealthy relationships. However, we want to have more than one healthy relationship, as our relationships with others are the foundation of our support system.
If you were only able to name one or two people for the prompts above, spend some time thinking about other relationships you have and why you do not feel confident enough to have chosen them. By reflecting on your relationships with others you can look to see if what is preventing them from being meaningful, healthy relationships.
What should I expect out of a healthy relationship?
Personal boundaries are important in all relationships. Many people feel as if relationships should not have boundaries, as our culture has taught us that love is all-encompassing. The relationships we see in movies and on TV want us to believe that healthy relationships mean both people are naturally in sync with the other person’s wants and needs. Media often portrays abusive relationships in which the victim remains in the relationship because the two people are just “meant to be”.
The truth is that all healthy relationships have boundaries. By setting boundaries for yourself, and respecting your partner’s boundaries, we can create relationships based off of respect and understanding. Boundaries help create healthy relationships, as they provide a set list of do’s an don’ts for each person in the relationship.
Boundaries can be big, or small. For example, stating you are uncomfortable letting your partner into your house without you being there, or that you are not comfortable sending sexts and nude photos via social media are both examples of big personal boundaries. But small personal boundaries are just as important. Stating that you you not want to hold hands in public, or that you would prefer not to have to text all day, eveyday, may seem like small boundaries that do not matter as much. However, these are still important boundaries to respect and be taken seriously, as they are things that make you uncomfortable or that you simply dislike.
A Personal Policy
It can be difficult to stick to our boundaries when surrounded by peer pressure, harassment or disrespect. One tool to help give strength and power to our boundaries is to create a Personal Policy.
A policy is a plan of action that is used to guide decision making politics. Once a policy is created, it is often the guiding force for the creation of new laws. A Personal Policy is a plan that you create to outline your values, wants and needs. Just like in politics, once you have your Personal Policy, you can use it to create laws that guide your behavior and decisions. These laws are your boundaries.
By thinking of and explaining your boundaries as laws that are a part of your Personal Policy, you give power to these boundaries. Laws are universally recognized as important and enforced rules that we all have to follow. By associating your boundaries with the idea of laws, you are demonstrating that your boundaries are important, and that you take them seriously and so should others.
Telling someone, “I don’t want to” or “I don’t like that” doesn’t always get the severity of your point across. Learn how to create your Personal Policy, so that next time you are put in a situation where you need to defend your boundaries, you can say “I can’t, that is against my policy”.
Identify things that make you uncomfortable, angry or upset.
For example, maybe you always say yes to helping a friend with their homework, but after doing so you get mad that you had to waste your time when you were already very busy.
Think of a policy that could prevent these things form happening.
For example, I can only help others after all of my own work is done.
In this scenario, instead of agreeing to help a friend with homework when you busy with your own work, you can respond with, “I’m sorry I can’t help you today. I have a policy where I can only help others after all my own works is done, and I haven’t finished the two other assignments yet”.
Identify aspects of yourself you are proud of.
For example, maybe you say that you are proud of the fact that you have lot friends.
It is important to make policies that encourage our strengths to continue to grow.
Your Personal Policy may be, “I will not let others tell me who I can and cannot be friends with. I believe I can be friends with whoever I want.”
With this Personal Policy next time your boyfriend says he doens’t want you hanging out with your friends, you can respond, “I’m going go to spend time with them because I have a personal policy that I will not let others tell me who I can and can’t be friend with”.
Identify your values and morals. Values are the characteristics that you find important in yourself and others. This includes things such as trust, responsibility, kindness, intelligence and many more. Morals are how we apply our values to our behavior to know what is right and what is wrong. For example, if you value trust, a common moral to have is that you do not share other peoples secrets without their consent.
It is important to have Personal Policies that fit with our values and morals.
For example, you may value responsibility and know that your morals tell you to always be in accountable for your own behavior. In this situation, next time you find yourself at a party you can tell your friend, “I won’t let you drive us home because it goes against my policy to never drive drunk, or get in the car with a driver who has been drinking.”
Identify areas of your life you wish you could improve on.
For example, “I want to be better at communicating my feelings when I am upset”.
A Personal Policy should help you define your boundaries to others, but also to yourself.
Your Personal Policy may be, “I have a policy to talk to my friends and family when I am upset, instead of keeping my feelings to myself”.