By: Eltuan Dawson
Research suggests that in an estimated 30 to 60% of the families where domestic violence is identified, some form of co-occurring child maltreatment is also present. The following guest blog post discusses how a program offered to Kentucky youth and young adults teaches the importance of seeking and maintaining healthy relationships in all facets of life, including setting healthy and safe boundaries regarding physical intimacy. It is critical that parents and trusted adults discuss these important topics with their teens and pre-teens early and often.
I am Eltuan Dawson. I am a member of True Up’s Peer Network and over the last year, I have been a certified facilitator of Love Notes. Love Notes is a research based comprehensive healthy relationship education curriculum that offers youth and young adults opportunities to learn and build skills to promote healthy relationships, avoid or address unhealthy and abusive relationships, and cope with the impact of relationships on various areas of well-being. In this blog, I will briefly introduce ideas from the Love Notes curriculum and I’ll even share a few pro tips for choosing the right partner, noticing relationship warning signs, setting healthy boundaries, and the dangers of domestic violence in relationships today.
Choosing the RIGHT✅ Partner
In a typical Love Notes session participants will have the opportunity to visualize, with the use of marbles, the difference between choosing the right partner versus choosing the wrong partner. How often do we take time to observe what relationships look like today compared to the vision we have for the relationships we actually want to involve ourselves in? Do you have expectations for potential partner(s)? Do you set reasonable or unreasonable expectations? An example of setting expectations in relationships could be deciding how we expect to be treated by our partner or who pays for what and when, when we go on outings or dates. No matter what expectations we have, it is important that we communicate clearly and talk to each other about them. This can help us to limit confusion and set healthy boundaries that allow us to move forward in our relationships. This is also true about the friendships we choose to uphold and adapt to.
Are you falling in love? Ever asked yourself how you got where you are with a person at some point you cared tremendously for? The brain science here can be explained fairly simply. Phenethylamine and norepinephrine are chemicals in the brain that give us feelings of joy and excitement. As dopamine or the “ feel good” neurochemical increases it gives us a rush for pleasure, motivation to accomplish goals, and helps us become more sociable. Oxytocin is a bonding hormone and can be triggered by something as simple as touching or holding hands. As these chemicals increase, the level of serotonin in our brain decreases. This helps explain obsessive tendencies, reduces our ability to make clear judgments, and is why we could have a hard time seeing “red flags” because negative feelings are substantially deactivated. This also explains why we may have a hard time noticing when our partner is lying or cheating. You could also be in an abusive relationship where you are experiencing anger or control issues and you might even overlook things like substance abuse or basic lack of commitment and shared values. It is important you have a trusted adult connection that can help you to see clearly when you are involved in a relationship that isn’t right for you.
Let’s Talk About Intimacy and Setting Boundaries
Communication about sex and physical intimacy can be difficult or uncomfortable but is very important to ensure safety. If your personal values and views are aligned with practicing abstinence until marriage or adulthood, teens and their parents or trusted adults should discuss those values.
First things first, if you are sexually active, the best practice is for you to do what’s best for both you and your partner(s). Doing this could look like:
-Having a birth control plan – Talk to a health practitioner to decide what’s best for you and your body
-Using “Condom Use” agreements – Hormonal Contraceptive/ IUDs give zero (0) protection from STDs. Condoms are a must ALWAYS. Love means not putting a loved one in harm’s way.
-Getting Regular STD Testing – STDs often have no symptoms. Most are unaware of transmission. Are you both willing to be tested regularly?
-Discussing & Agreeing – Talk about what you and your partner(s) will do in the event of a pregnancy BEFORE a decision to have sex is made. Do you agree you’d commit and parent together or explore alternatives? Have you talked about how it would feel to a child to have a reluctant or absent parent.
No matter what you and your partner decide about sex understand that sex should be affirming and safe.
The pyramid demonstrates what it might look like when people are dating in healthy ways. Relationships that have solid foundations allow partner(s) to grow closer through positive factors like communication, friendship, and chemistry.
When individuals participate in a Love Notes training they begin to understand these seven key concepts:
➔ Seek a good match
➔ Pay attention to values
➔ Don’t try to change a person into someone they are not
➔ Don’t change yourself just to keep someone’s love or friendship
➔ It is okay to expect good communication and willingness from our partner(s) to work at a better or improving relationship
➔ Don’t play games, be phony, pressure, or use someone and
➔ Expect respect. Have standards for how you will be treated.
More about Love Notes
With the utilization of Love Notes materials participants have opportunities to learn about several other important topics. A few of these topics are what dangerous love might look like and how dangerous love can have an impact on children, how to plan choices in healthy ways while in relationships with others, and how our family history may contribute to the relationships we have today.
Louisville has become the “hub” for Love Notes training and curriculum. The YMCA of Louisville has recently partnered with the University of Louisville – Kent School of Social Work’s Center for Family and Community Wellbeing to train community members from all walks of life in this research based curriculum. No matter who you are or where you come from, the Love Notes training can provide you with skills and tools that can help you to have healthy ways in any and all of your relationships.
For more information or to schedule a Love Notes training for the youth you serve, contact Carol Frame at email@example.com.