I know a mother of a teenage girl who had been through the trauma of discovering her daughter is pregnant and taking her for an abortion. When I asked her how her daughter was doing in her relationship, the mother became a little tearful, saying she felt she had done all she could. She was clearly feeling powerless to do more or influence her daughter. She seemed emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed by the culture her daughter was growing up in. So I wrote this for her to give to her daughter. And for all girls and women seeing a boy or man.
Is your relationship healthy? Here are the signs:
1. Your partner is supportive of your interests, including those that do not involve him.
2. He understands and accepts your need to see your friends, without him.
3. He NEVER puts you down or criticises your body or your appearance.
4. He NEVER puts pressure on you to engage in a sexual act, and always checks in with you that you feel comfortable during sex.
5. He’ll use a condom and won’t pressure you to take sole responsibility for contraception.
6. He’s happy to share costs.
7. He NEVER uses language such as, ‘If you loved me, you’d do this…’, ‘Other girls would do this..’ , or ‘I’ll dump you if you don’t do this…’
8. Many boys and men consume porn, which sends the message that non-consenting, punishing and degrading acts on women is ‘sex’. Porn tells young people that anal sex is normal and expected, that women should shave off all their body hair, and that spitting, slapping, choking and ejaculating on a girl or woman’s face is ‘sex’. Porn doesn’t even address female desire. A healthy relationship is one where the male asks or gently explores how to give female pleasure. And you can tell each other what you like. Expecting anal sex, no body hair and abusive acts is not healthy or to be passed off as ‘the norm’. Spitting, slapping and choking are not the behaviours of a ‘real man’. Being uncomfortable with porn is not ‘anti-sex’, it’s anti-sexism.
9. Domestic violence means violence in an intimate relationship and can include controlling behaviours such as trying to dictate what you wear, who you see or how you spend your money. If your partner is paying loads of attention to someone else or in a relationship with someone else, and repeatedly tells you you are wrong or imagining things, this is a form of control called gaslighting. In a healthy relationship, no one tries to control the other person.
10. Being young is a tough time, with study, work, appearance, peer and social media pressures. Your partner should understand your need to study, work or enjoy hobbies to achieve your dreams and sense of wellbeing.
Your confidence toolbox to take away:
* Remember, YOU get to define who you are and your value, not the media, or another boy or man or group of girls. Practise saying, ‘I am OK with me, inside and out.’ No-one gets to say or decide that you’re ugly or a slag, YOU define that you are beautiful, you get to be the sexual being YOU want to be. Know that your most awesome beauty lies in your uniqueness.
* Everybody feels lonely, depressed or worth less than others at some point. Tap on your collarbone and repeat, ‘Even though I feel nervous/sad/whatever, I love and respect myself.’ Hang with people that see you and make you feel good. You have the right to a voice and confidence. Own both. Don’t let some schmuck who is threatened by your confidence take it away.
* Write down 10 things that are good/interesting/unique about you. This can include 10 things that you have done or are proud of. These Affirmations can be revisited when you are feeling low.
• Write down all the compliments you have received, all the people that have fancied you and all the people you get on with/have a rapport with.
Be Awesome by Hadley Freeman
What is gaslighting?