How do you Know if a Relationship is Healthy?

Relationships can be great. Sometimes they can be hurtful. Sometimes it’s a mix of both at the same time. So figuring out if a relationship is healthy for you can be tricky. In this video, people talk about some ways they figure out if their relationship is healthy.

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Scarleteen

abOUT Group

Shift Education

Qmunity

The Health Initiative For Men

Smart Sex Resource

What we Talk About and Why

Consent

Consent is the foundation of healthy partnered sexuality. Knowing that everyone is an enthusiastic, informed, freely-given ‘yes’ to a sexual activity before it happens is mandatory.

Adults with cognitive disabilities often get told what to do – by staff or families or even by strangers like medical specialists they only meet once. They may be punished if they don’t comply. When this happens, they learn that it’s not important whether or not they consent to something. They have to do what they’re told.

Given these experiences, consent is a concept that needs to be talked about a lot and reinforced so that people know how to ask for it in sexual situations, and know how to give it or to NOT give it.

It’s also valuable for staff and families to think about how we can model consent in our daily interactions with the people we support so that they are not getting mixed messages from us. (eg “No always means no… except when I’m telling you to eat your broccoli.”)

 

Pleasure and Sensuality

We can get so focused on talking about the risks of sex (like pregnancy or assault or STIs) that we forget that many people like to have sex (alone in masturbation or with others) because it feels pleasurable. Talking about pleasure in sex acknowledges one of the main reasons why people choose to have it.

People with cognitive disabilities are often denied information about how sex can be pleasurable. This can leave them with the impression that it’s a dangerous thing best left alone – thus denying them the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether sex is something they want to pursue.

Many people who are having partnered sex are discouraged from valuing their own pleasure. They may be having sex in ways that are pleasurable for the other person, but not for them. Talking about pleasure makes it a valid thing to want to get out of sex, and to negotiate for in sexual relationships.

There are lots of products out there like toys, lubricant, and erotica that many people use to increase their sexual pleasure (alone in masturbation or with others). People with cognitive disabilities who are having solo or partnered sex are often denied access to information about these products. This reduces their potential for pleasure. It can also lead to injury. For example, people sometimes injure their genitals by using slippery but caustic products as lubricants. (shampoos, detergents, chemically perfumed lotions etc.) Safer products specifically designed for this purpose are available, and people deserve to know about them so they don’t hurt themselves.

Our videos embrace sexual pleasure as valid and positive, but they also acknowledge that people have varied experiences with sex, and that there are many nonsexual ways people can experience pleasure and intimacy with their partners.

 

Rejection

Everyone experiences rejection. People with cognitive disabilities likely experience it more than most. They get turned down for dates. Staff who they are close to move on to other jobs. It can feel terrible. In our videos, people talk about their experiences of rejection, and their recovery from rejection. Hearing these stories can bring hope and build resilience.

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