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Posts Tagged ‘healthy relationship’

Your daughter’s boyfriend

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Remember this? Pull off the first petal and say: “He loves me.” And the next: “He loves me not.” Repeat until you get to the last petal to find out whether your boyfriend loves you or not. Sound crazy? Have you talked to your daughter about love? Or left it up to Google?

The other day, riding the bus, I overheard one woman tell another about her daughter’s great boyfriend. I almost turned and said, “You are one lucky duck.” Instead I eavesdropped as she went through her criteria—he comes from a good family (his dad’s a doctor), owns his own car, buys her daughter bling, and so on. Nothing about his traits (was he thoughtful, honest, kind?) or his character (did he respect her?). How, I wondered, could she know if he was actually a great guy?

Often the standards we use to assess what makes for a great guy don’t include what makes for a healthy relationship. Ask Tiger Woods’s mother-in-law. Since we can’t choose or criticize our daughters’ boyfriends, it’s our daughters who need to be able to determine who’s a great guy. Other than her feelings, what criteria does she use?

Beliefs influence actions. Our daughters believe lots of things about what makes for a great relationship—like, you have to accept a guy as he is, warts and all. Poppycock! To truly know if her guy is great, she must really know him, and like his traits, and be able to accept how he gets his needs met from her.

One healthy relationship criterion—met needs—can help a girl determine if she’s with a great guy. Is your daughter really familiar with her boyfriend? Say you asked her to describe him—would she list the same traits his ex-girlfriend would (aggressive, funny, dependable, jealous, for example)? To meet her need to be familiar with him, she must know what his best and worst personality traits are. If she really likes him, she may have to come to terms with some traits she may not like. But she can’t accept a guy’s annoying traits if they undermine her self-respect.  

Some girls set their bar too low. A girl might accept the way a guy treats her because she loves him, wants a boyfriend at any price, or doesn’t understand how a guy should show her respect. Some girls think jealousy is a “slam-dunk” sign that a guy loves her. It’s not. Jealousy can be a precursor to stalking.

Share this heart-saving shortcut with your daughter: “A guy who’s always jealous, controlling, never trusting, feels he’s not worth your trust. His lack of self-worth makes him afraid of anything that might take you away from him—friends, family, a job, other guys. He doesn’t respect himself, so how could he respect you? If you let him control you, you’re confirming what he believes: that you don’t respect yourself enough to stand up to him and leave.”

Your daughter can tell if her guy respects her by how he gets his needs met from her. Does he use character—saying what he means, doing what he says, knowing right from wrong—to get what he wants? Tiger’s wife can attest to how important a guy’s character is. An important part of getting to know a guy is finding out whether she can trust what he says. If he lies to her about where he was/what he did, he doesn’t respect her (or himself) enough to tell the truth.

How does her guy act when it’s difficult for her to meet his needs (for example, when he wants something she doesn’t want to give him)? “The Teen Relationships Project” is studying bullying, harassment, and dating violence in relationships of Canadian children and youth. Half of surveyed students are victims of verbal aggression (spreading rumors, getting even, hurtful teasing). One in four is a victim of minor physical aggression (pushing, grabbing, smashing an object). One in five is a victim of major physical aggression.

Share another heart-saving shortcut with your daughter: “You deserve to be treated with respect. These unhealthy behaviors shouldn’t clear any woman’s bar. A guy doesn’t respect you if, when he can’t get his way, he punishes you, or calls you names like ‘bitch’ or ‘slut,’ or gets even by spreading rumors, or threatens to post embarrassing pictures of you on Facebook. If a guy is physically rough in any way, tell me, and we’ll find a way for you to respect yourself—and EXIT!”

Teens are easily confused between what’s healthy and what’s not. So are more than a few adults. Does your daughter understand that Tiger’s behavior reflects his lack of understanding of a healthy relationship? And that Elin’s leaving him reflects her self-respect. Stand by your man? Not when he’s a Frog!

In a healthy relationship, your daughter’s most important needs are met, there are heart-to-heart conversations, and the respect—self-respect, respect for others, and the expectation to be treated respectfully—is mutual.  Taking care of herself—meeting her own needs—is an act of self-respect, and a big step toward coming to know what she needs and expects in an adult relationship.

Talk to your daughter about love—to show her a way to see love. Share this heart-saving shortcut: “When a guy tells you he loves you, those are just words. Love is what you experience when he’s happily meeting your needs (and maybe some you didn’t even know you had!) and you’re happily meeting his, all the while maintaining your self-respect and meeting your own needs, too.”

Kaycee Jane is the author of Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends (Amazon only). Jane blogs at www.frogorprince.ca. When life with your teen seems overwhelming, try www.TeenCentral. Net’s Parent section and get help from a professional.

Healthy Relationship?—how to tell

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I read “Kiss and Tell: What Teens Say about Love, Trust, and Other Relationship Stuff” at www.stayteen.org and I found it quite insightful. The survey results said, for example, that “a healthy relationship is one that includes love, trust, mutual respect and honesty”—true!  I also agree that “a healthy relationship means different things to different people,” and that’s why I’d like to share my perspective of what a healthy relationship is. I believe you can use healthy relationship criteria to make better choices—choosing who your boyfriend is, and deciding whether to stay in a relationship or exit it.

I started to write Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends for my daughter after I saw her holding the hand of a Frog. I wanted her to have more knowledge about healthy relationships. When we know better, we do better—it’s that simple. The Prince and the Frog in the title of the book are metaphors for a healthy relationship—or its opposite.

We all have different rules for how boyfriends should treat us and what needs we deserve to get met. The common factor: in a healthy relationship, our most important needs are met, there are heart-to-heart conversations, and the respect—self-respect, respect for others, and the expectation to be treated respectfully—is mutual.

How can you recognize when you’re in a healthy relationship? To repeat, your needs are met. Like the need to become familiar with him (knowing if he has character, for example). The need to happily accept how he treats you. The need to value him (being able to tell him what you think and feel) and be important to him (knowing that he includes your feelings and needs in his choices).

Our needs in a relationship are actually pretty simple: the need to be familiar with, to accept, to forgive and value yourself and him, to expect the same in return. When these needs are met, you have a chance to build a healthy relationship. A Prince meets these needs. A Frog doesn’t.  If you and your boyfriend keep having re-run arguments about the same need—say, your need to feel special—you’ve discovered an unmet need.

Is your guy really familiar with you?  Does he really know you? Say you asked him to describe you—would he list the same traits your best friends would (funny, thoughtful, dependable, for example)? What about your need to feel accepted—is he critical of you? If he’s always trying to change the way you do things, you won’t get your need for acceptance met. Forgiven—does he bring stuff up you said you were sorry for? If so, you’ve identified another unmet need. Valued—when you ask him questions, does he say, “I dunno” or “I don’t want to talk right now”? If so, he isn’t valuing you. Your need to be valued will be met when a guy trusts you enough to tell you how he really feels and thinks—about himself, and you, and your relationship.

Another way to tell if you’re in a healthy relationship?—Can you have a heart-to-heart with your guy? Conversations are where you learn about yourself and your needs, and where you negotiate to get those needs met. You can have those conversations with a Prince—you can’t with a Frog.  A Prince really listens, meeting your need to be heard and understood. He may challenge your view, but he’ll adjust his perspective if you raise good points. A Frog doesn’t listen, doesn’t add to his own self-knowledge or his understanding of you. Which means he can’t learn and grow in the relationship. And you won’t be able to work through your feelings with a Frog—i.e., get your needs met.

Other ways to know if you’re in a healthy relationship? A Prince uses respect to get his needs met. A Frog doesn’t. A Prince will ask for (not demand) what he wants, then wait for your “Yes” or “No” answer. He respects that you’re the one who gets to decide if his want is reasonable or not. He may negotiate, but if he can’t get his way, he’ll respect your “No” answer. A Frog, by contrast, uses controlling behaviour, making up rules—“Pick up the phone when I call, no matter what” for example—or pressuring you to get his wants met.

Who your guy really is, deep down, will determine how well he can meet your needs. A big part of self-respect is realizing we can’t stay in a relationship if we have unmet needs, or if we can’t happily accept how our guy treats us. When you realize that, you must act on it. A Prince uses character to get his needs met—he says what he means, does what he says, knows right from wrong. A Frog doesn’t.

Finally, let’s look at how love, trust, self-respect and honesty play out when you want to have sex with a guy. Every woman has her own beliefs about when to have sex. The choice is a very personal one, partly dependent upon your beliefs. A big part of self-respect is making informed choices—choices that include your own feelings, needs and beliefs, not just his. If you know and love yourself, you’ll choose what’s good for you—not just him. You’ll know when you’re ready for sex. Healthy relationship criteria will help you decide if your guy is right for you—help you make good choices about who to have sex with (and, ultimately, who to marry).

A dishonest guy might tell you he loves you when he doesn’t. A confused guy might tell you he loves you (and think he does), then afterwards decide he doesn’t really love you after all. A controlling guy might try to make his problem your problem: if you don’t want sex, he might say, you’re frigid. Or pressure you—if you don’t give in, I’ll leave.

The dishonest guy is obviously a Frog. He doesn’t respect himself, or you, enough to tell the truth. And the confused guy is also a Frog, though he might not seem to be. The confused Frog doesn’t respect himself enough to understand his own needs and feelings before professing love and asking for sex. That’s why it’s good to find out what your guy is shopping for in a relationship—good to ask questions like “How long do you expect our relationship will last?” As for the controlling guy, he’s basically saying, “You can’t be with me unless you behave the way I want you to.” He doesn’t respect himself, or you. He thinks the only way he can get sex is to manipulate you. If he doesn’t believe he’s worth your time, why should you?

Remember, when a guy tells you he loves you, those are just words—unless you can see and feel that he’s actively, deliberately, trying to meet your needs, not just his own. How do you know if your guy’s honest? An important part of getting to know him is finding out whether you can trust what he says. It’s common to trust him right off the bat, but then you must start asking if his words are matching his actions. Pay attention to the gap between words (“I love you”) and actions (investing time and energy to meet your needs). If a guy has character, he knows himself. You can trust him. You can forgive him for honest mistakes. If he lacks character, though, you can’t trust him. He’s a Frog. Time to exit.

When we make decisions that ignore our beliefs, or we fail to take fully into account our own feelings and needs, we pay a price in self-respect. Chemistry is not love. Chemistry is a reminder: “Pay attention to the consequences!” Chemistry leads to actions, and actions lead to consequences. If the consequences leave you feeling respected and healthy—if you can look in the mirror and see yourself growing happy—then the chemistry might turn into real love. If the consequences leave you feeling guilty, hurt, frightened or confused—perhaps unable to look in the mirror at all—that’s a danger sign.

Healthy relationships are built on trust and respect. That doesn’t just mean trusting and respecting your guy — it means trusting and respecting yourself. Be careful about diving into a new relationship until you can see and feel genuine trust and respect. Before you dive in, wet your toes, splash around, check how deep the water is—make sure you’re in a healthy relationship. So that when you do take the plunge, you’ll be able to surface again—still you, but even happier and even more certain of who you are and what you need.


Kaycee Jane