This week of teach yourself sex ed is all about relationships. Again, this is sex and relationships education, not advice, the difference being that it’s more about getting you to think critically about relationships.
Why do people have them? Which kinds of love are important? What kinds of relationships might you want (and with whom)? Why don’t we talk about values in relationships? Thinking about what a good relationship looks like and how you might communicate in relationships.
This is part of a course, so if this is new to you, go back to the first one.
If you want advice you could start with the Bish guide to Relationships. But for some proper relationships education, stay here.
As you can see, it’s a lot. So let’s crack on.
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1. Why do people have them?
Get your pen and pencil and a blank sheet of paper, please, if you want to. Write down all of the different reasons for why people have romantic relationships. It could be all the reasons why you might want one, but mostly think about people generally. You should be able to come up with at least 20 reasons. Give yourself at least 10 minutes. There are no right or wrong answers, just answers.
Once you’ve done that think about the following and spend at least 10 minutes answering them.
- Look at your list, what do you notice? That there’s a lot or not many? They’re different, or the same?
- Are there reasons on there that you personally wouldn’t think are right or advisable?
- If someone heads into a romantic relationship wanting all of these things from it, what might happen?
- Which of these can only be achieved from being in a romantic relationship?
- At the top of your piece of paper write down ‘the things a person needs in life’. Would your answers still make sense? What does that tell you about what we want from relationships?
Read what I wrote about why people have romantic relationships.
2. Different kinds of love
Instead of wanting all of these things from romantic love, could we think about getting them from different kinds of love?
Write down the headings: SELF, SPIRITUAL, FAMILY, FRIENDS, ROMANTIC, SEXUAL, CARING, PLAYFUL. Then have a think about the people in your life and which headings you might put them under. Try to spend at least 15 minutes thinking about this for you.
You might find this a bit tricky so be gentle with yourself. It’s okay not to be able to fill all of this in. Relationships are hard, but we can make them easier by not putting pressure on us to have one kind of relationship. Culture puts a lot of pressure on us to have one kind of relationship and then judges us for having them or not. Remember that we are all in progress and always changing.
Read more about the different kinds of love and why we could learn more from the Ancient Greeks.
3. Who you want relationships with
Remember the second lesson when I asked you to think about what kind of a person you are? Let’s head back to that again
If you did this activity for yourself a few weeks ago, has anything changed already? Remember how I said that we’re always changing, well we are. Think about the people in your life from above. Do your words to describe you change depending on the people you are with and the situations you are in?
Now I want you to think about other people and these words. It could be people you know or people you fantasise about knowing. Use some of these words to describe what you value in these people. What kind of a person do you want to have around? What’s important to you?
We don’t often pick and choose people like this, unless we’re doing online dating, but it’s useful to think about. How do your relationships influence each other? Think about your relationship with yourself and how that affects your relationship with others. Go back to the different kinds of love section and consider who might give us some of the things we might find valuable.
4. Relationship circles
Now let’s think about different kinds of relationships but also, how they might overlap. Draw some circles on a piece of paper like this and then think about the words or labels for the different kinds of relationships. How would you describe them?
Then think about the relationships that you have at the moment and about how much they overlap. Is there one relationship that is more overlappy than others? Would you like this to change? Perhaps there’s a relationship that you would like to overlap a bit more. How have the circles moved around over time? What is the origin story of each of the overlapping circles? Think about the kinds of conversations (said out loud, or implied) that have made these relationships what they are. If you want to change them, what kinds of conversations do you need to have to help them move?
Read more on relationship venn diagrams
5. Relationship graph
Next up we’re going to think about what makes for a healthy relationship. Ooops, sorry, that was meant to say you’re going to think about what makes for a healthy relationship. Can you think of 12 key things that for you, makes a healthy relationship. If you want to cheat, scroll down, but please don’t.
Now draw a graph like below with your 12 key things around a circle like a clock. Then draw spokes into the middle like spokes on a wheel. After that draw 10 circles from small to big.
As you can see with this relationships graph I’ve chosen some things that might be important in a sexual and romantic relationship. Your 12 key things could be about a different kind of relationship and that’s good too.
Next, think about a fictional relationship from a TV show, or a book, or film or whatever. It could be any kind of relationship. Once you’ve thought of one, plot them on the graph. How is their relationship doing? Spend at least 10 minutes doing this. If I was doing this with a group of you I’d get you all to talk to the rest of the group about the relationship you chose. So you could do this with some friends, or just do a few different kinds of relationships.
If you want to do this for your relationships, give yourself a relationships check up.
Okay we’re near the end. Values are important and I don’t think we are encouraged to think about them nearly enough. Just like everything else our values, see also our ethical code, or what we think is right, can change. Our values are something we make as well as given to us. They are also shaped by the culture that we live in and where we are within that culture.
We all have values and values in relationships are important to think about because they tell us what we want from a relationship as well as what we can’t have. They are also just interesting to think about.
This is a ‘Talk For A Minute’ activity where you pick a topic and see if you can talk for a minute about it. Say what you think about it, whether it’s for you or not, what might make it easier, what would make it harder. Some of them are about ethics and values, some of them also relate to issues.
The headings are:
- Open relationships (ethical non-monogamy)
- Being friends with benefits
- Believing in The One
- Where someone is often jealous
- Only having sex when the relationship is serious
- A relationship where they have different beliefs
- Going out with someone that others don’t like
- Being the first to say I Love You
- Being in love with the first person you go out with
- Sexing someone you’ve only known for hours
- A couple who want different amounts (or kinds) of sex
- Sex without love
Pick one and talk for a minute about it. Either to yourself, or you could record it, or you could do it with a friend. If you feel embarrassed talking out loud you could write down some bullet points, or just think about them in your head.
The next in the course is about consent.
© Justin Hancock, 2021.
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. Find out more about Justin here