Ever feel like there’s a mass market for wrong information about relationships? Do you leave a conversation with a friend or finish reading an article or website and wonder if what you’ve learned is the truth or one of those nasty myths? Just about any subject you’d hear about has them … and relationships certainly has it’s fair share. Now Scarleteen’s taking the time to debunk some of the most common misconceptions.
We believe that all people have the right to be in a healthy relationship. In order to be sure that a relationship is healthy, it is vitally important to be able to distinguish between the facts and the myths. Do you know the facts about relationships, or have you fallen for some myths?
FACT: While it'd sometimes be really cool to be psychic, none of us are. That means that you cannot read your partner's mind, and you won't know what's going on inside their head unless you ask them. All relationships are different, as they are made up of the individuals in them, and we all have our completely individual likes and dislikes and desires and quirks. So even if you feel like you know your partner extremely well, or if you've had a few relationships and think you know how they work, you'll always want to talk to your partner about the relationship and anything happening within it.
Having to ask questions (anything from crucial questions like “what sort of relationship model are we going to have” to mundane things like “are you okay with me doing x”) does not mean that you don't know your partner well enough, do not have enough experience or fail at relationships. We can never know our partners inside out, experience from past relationships may not hold true for this one and it's not possible to 'fail' at relationships, anyway. Sharing your life with someone is an on-going process and the single most effective tool for making it work is communication.
Check the research: Scarleteen: Be a Blabbermouth: The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking about Sex with a Partner, Tenwire: He Said, She Said (Nothing), Center for Young Women's Health: Healthy Relationships: A Guide For Teens
FACT: Sexual activity in and of itself can't really do anything to affect a relationship. What sex does or does not do to a relationship always depends on the context – that is, on the people in the relationship and how they relate to each other and communicate with each other. If you are a secure, mature and responsible person and you decide to have sex with a partner whom you trust, feel comfortable with and can communicate with openly, then sex is not likely to destroy that relationship - regardless of whether you become sexually active three days, three months or three years into the relationship.
If, however, you struggle with self-esteem issues, are not ready to deal with the risks of sexual activity and become sexually active with a partner you do not fully trust and cannot communicate well with, then the chances are big that the sexual experience will not be very satisfying. It could very well place additional strain on the relationship, regardless of how long you wait. It may be helpful to think of sex like a magnifying glass: it is unlikely to create anything new, but it can magnify already existing emotions or conflicts.
FACT: People in a relationship are just that: people. They are not trained poodles. Thus, what your partner says, does or wears is up to them and it is never okay to make demands on someone's behavior or appearances. We all get the right to be ourselves and express ourselves. If your partner is engaging in behaviors you feel may be harmful to them, it's absolutely okay to point this out to them calmly and rationally, but if they do not agree with you, then you will have to either learn to accept it, or consider leaving the relationship.
Check the research: Scarleteen: The Abusive Partner Checklist
FACT: Anyone should always be able to wait as long as they need to until they feel ready to engage in sexual activity. Any respectful, loving partner will be willing to wait and have no interest in pressuring you to have sex before you feel ready for it. A partner who's not willing to wait? isn't a partner you really want to be with, anyway.
FACT: Sex does not equal love. It's entirely possible to have safe, satisfying sex with someone one does not love. By the same token, it is possible to love someone deeply and yet not feel ready for a sexual relationship. If you are with a partner who is pressuring you to have sex with them by telling you that it is a proof of your love, than they are either under a false impression, or trying to manipulate you.
FACT: At the risk of sounding patronizing and/or ancient: Once you've had a few relationships, you'll realize that the notion of the One Big Love, while romantic, isn't very realistic. Chances are that your first relationship won't last. That doesn't detract from the emotions you're feeling – the first real relationship can be an awesome headrush and it definitely can feel like you've found the partner you want to spend the rest of your life with. But people grow, and change, especially when they're still in their teens and are only starting to figure out their own identity. And so it follows naturally that the relationships formed in that time might not last too long, and many people will eventually end the relationship with their first partner and find a new one.
So once you get to a certain age, it gets harder and harder to find someone who doesn't have some sort of a history, and that's just how it is. And there isn't a thing wrong with that. Because here's the thing: we aren't born with a finite amount of love to give. We can fall in and out of love, and will do so more than once over the course of our lifetimes. This doesn't devalue our past relationships, nor does it mean that you'll feel less for a new partner. It's perfectly possible to always have a special place in your heart for that first love or that first sexual partner and yet develop new feelings for a new partner. Similarly, there is no need to feel threatened by a partner's sexual history. After all, you appreciate the person they are now, and their past has shaped that person.
Check the research: Scarleteen: Can My Girlfriend Really Love me if She Lost her Virginity to Someone Else?, Scarleteen: She's My First Sexual Partner, I Love her, but Should I only Ever be With Her?, Teen Health: Jealous of Boyfriend's Past Relationshps
FACT: No relationship model is inherently harmful, provided that all partners involved are on the same page. That doesn't mean that some relationship models aren't more difficult than others, depending on the people involved and the context. For example, if partners are in a long distance relationship because one partner unexpectedly had to relocate, and thus the distance is not their choice, then maintaining the relationship can be difficult.
On the other hand, some people choose to intentionally engage in an LDR, either because they cannot fit a traditional relationship into their busy schedule, or simply because they are content only to see their partner once a week/month/etc, or for any other of a myriad of individual reasons. The bottom line is that how beneficial and healthy a relationship is depends entirely on the people in them. If it works for you and your partner, then that's all that matters.
FACT: The short answer is: No. There is no one way that relationships are supposed to work, and no one recipe for relationship-bliss. What works best for you and your partner is up to, yep, you and your partner. There are as many relationship models as people out there, and it's up to you to figure what you want and need in a relationship and how you and your partner can work together to meet both of your wants and needs.
Don't let yourself be limited by thinking that something's too weird or too unconventional. If it's what you and your partner want and what makes you happy, then it's what's right for you. And besides, it's probably been done before. Because really: very few relationships are simple and straight-forward. People are way too unique and quirky for one relationship model to be right for all of them. So just do things your way.
FACT: Actually, it's like this: To keep someone interested, you should be yourself and honestly voice your thoughts and feelings. No one wants to have to guess at what their date or partner is thinking or feeling. Not to mention that keeping quiet about what you're looking for is a sure-fire way for your date/partner to misinterpret what you want.
No one is expecting you to divulge your life story right away; but you should always make sure to let the other person know what you want and what you don't want. Communication isn't a turn-off. It's probably the single most important thing for making a relationship - any sort of a relationship - work.
FACT: Well, no. None of us ever owe our partners sex. We're not sex machines and it is not our job to keep our partners satisfied. We won't always be ready and rearing to go when our partner is, and it's not really a good idea to force yourself into sexual activities you're just not feeling at that time. And that's okay.
If it's release that your partner is looking for, they can get that via masturbation. If they're looking to share intimacy with you, they'll happily wait until that's what you want, too. No respectful, caring partner wants to have sex with someone who's just not into it. Part of being in a healthy relationship with another person means being able to openly voice your boundaries and having the knowledge that those boundaries will be respected.