Hey! Welcome to Lesson Three!
At the Reality Project we definitely talk a lot about sex, but our main focus is relationships. We want you guys to have some helpful tools whether you choose to date or not. This information doesn't just help us to understand how to have healthier relationships in general, but also helps us to be healthier people.
We hope you guys enjoy learning a bit about healthy and unhealthy relationships and that through this you will also learn a bit about how we, as humans beings, deserve to be treated.
Watch Margarette's intro about family and history and how we can be healthy in relationship even if we don't have great role models.
Read about healthy and relationships, including introducing the trust triangle and highlighting the importance of respect.
Read about unhealthy relationships and some common reasons people stay in them.
Answer today's questions from the worksheet and send in any questions to be answered in the Q&A tomorrow.
If today's lesson brought up any questions or comments, feel free to let us know!
family & history
There are five things that every relationship needs in order to be healthy. Click on each of the letters around the triangle to find out what it stands for and read a little about what it means in a relationship. When you're done, keep reading below to learn about unhealthy relationships.
If someone asked you to list characteristics of a toxic relationship maybe it would be easy. You might say lying, cheating, abuse, constant fighting, manipulation, or any number of things we all know make for a bad love life.
Think about this, though: what if you were actually in a relationship with someone you love, and there were some unhealthy aspects of that relationship. Do you think you’d be able to see or admit that it’s a toxic relationship? Might that be a little harder than just listing those characteristics?
In reality, one out of three high school relationships is unhealthy. Crazy, right? Now, this makes sense in some ways. High school can be really difficult, and frustrating, and in high school we don’t always have all the tools we need to build a healthy relationship. Honestly, a lot of people I know have been in a relationship that was a little bit toxic. These can be really good learning experiences, but the important thing is not to stay there.
Let’s try to understand a bit more about why people stay in toxic relationships so that we can learn to avoid it ourselves. There are a few common reasons people who are in toxic relationships give as arguments to change.
1. “I know they don’t treat me so well, but we love each other and I really think I can change them.”
We all want to see the best in people, and when we become attached it can be hard to give up on the person we’re attached to. Of course, we all have our problems, but it’s important to make sure they are making an effort on their own. People don’t change unless they want to and make decisions on their own to make that change happen.
Here are some good questions to ask: Do they have a plan for handling the things they struggle with? Do their good days outweigh their bad? Do they apologize genuinely when they do or say something they know was wrong?
Also, check your own intentions. Have you heard of codependency? Whether they know the term or not, it’s something that many couples are experiencing these days.
Here’s an example: Sometimes one person in a relationship has an addiction. Often in these cases, the person with the addiction needs a lot of help and can cause a lot of problems. While this isn’t fair, often what happens is that the other person enables their addiction, because they are also addicted to something—to be needed. The moment someone’s mindset goes from “we can fix this” to “I can fix you,” there is a problem.
2. “I’m afraid of being alone.”
This is super relatable for us. A lot of times we see other people in a relationship and we want that togetherness and connection with someone else because we feel alone. I’m sure you’ve told, too, “Oh, you’re not alone, you have family and friends!” I was told this in high school and sometimes I wanted to be like... yeah, okay, but that’s not the same thing. It felt like a cop-out answer. Over time, I learned that is a lot of value in our friendships and family relationships. (Not to mention, they tend to stick around longer than romantic relationships, especially in high school.)
Still though, we can roll our eyes because we know it’s different. Think about it. We attach a lot more self-worth to romantic relationships. We think, “Well, if I’m in a relationship, someone like-likes me, so at least that means I’m likable.” If someone likes me right now it’s reassuring and easier to imagine I might not end up alone someday.
But when we are single we can get caught up in thinking, “Well, I guess since nobody wants to be with me, I must not be very likable, or attractive, so... I guess I must kind of suck, and I’ll probably never really be happy.” See how that negative thought spiraled?
This is such a lie, y’all! How many of us know someone who is in a relationship and still unhappy, even depressed or lonely? A relationship can’t buy happiness, and it is not the answer to loneliness. We act like we can’t have fulfilling and great relationships that aren’t romantic, but we totally can! A person who’s single can be just as happy as people who are dating. And if you want to date someday, being single now doesn’t mean you never will!
Ask yourself: would you rather be in a relationship than be single even if the relationship is unhealthy? Some people are so eager to be in a relationship that they are not thoughtful enough about the person they choose, and then end up in an unhealthy relationship where they feel more alone than they did when they were single.
3. “I don’t want to hurt them.”
Now, this one can be really tough. No one wants to hurt the people closest to them. Sometimes, though, not ending an unhealthy relationship can be more harmful than staying in it.
If you’ve had an ankle or foot injury, you know that for a while it’s important to keep weight off the injury by using crutches or one of those weird scooter things. Eventually, though, if the foot is ever going to heal properly, a person has to put some weight on it. Even if it hurts. This is because if the foot heals entirely without any weight on it, scar tissue will develop around the injured muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and the foot will never regain its full range of motion. If that happens, often physical therapy is required to tear that scar tissue so that a person can regain the full use of that foot, and that’s even more painful than it would have been just to walk on it as it was healing the first time. Sounds awful, right?
The thing is, our hearts operate in kind of the same way. (Not physically, of course, but you get what we mean.) Emotional stability and physical health can be similar. People who are really emotionally immature, clingy, insecure, or paranoid, usually aren’t like that by accident.
A lot of times it’s because they grew up in an unstable family system, meaning wherever they call home isn’t a safe place for them. Maybe there’s a parent who’s an alcoholic, or who is verbally, physically, or even sexually abusive. Maybe they don’t have anyone at home telling them how amazing, beautiful, and important they are. So, when this person finally meets someone who cares about them and desires to be with them, they grab on to it so tightly that it suffocates the relationship because they are afraid of losing it. The problem is, while that emotionally unhealthy person is clinging onto someone else, leaning on them, they are never learning to stand on their own, to be their own person, to be secure in who they are. This is called codependency, where someone basically makes their significant other their whole world. They cannot imagine life without them, which often causes them to enable their unhealthy problems. It’s really important that we know how to stand on our own two feet before we get into a relationship. It is important to know what we want as well. It can be really unhealthy to make someone the center of your world.
We all need people to lean on sometimes, but that’s different from leaning on someone all the time. That’s not healthy for anyone involved. Sometimes the healthiest thing to do in that situation is to break it off, because being with that person is actually going to hurt them in the long run.
What did you learn?
Answer the lesson questions in your Google Docs worksheet. Be sure you followed the instructions and that the document is shared with your teacher!
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