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Relationship lessons from young people
We’ve looked at the results of a recent survey to see what can be learned from young people’s experiences of being in relationships. Looking back on the roller coaster ride of your own early relationships might fill you with a mix of fondness, amusement, and utter cringing horror. That shouldn’t mean you can’t learn from those experience but, if you can only bear to look through the narrow gaps between your fingers, then these insights from other people’s early experiences might help. Why relationship quality matters Love is complicated and it can take many forms – the love you feel for a sibling, is different from the love you feel for a friend, and the love you feel for your parents is different to the love you feel for a freshly baked marinara pizza. Mmmm, freshly baked marinara pizza. Anyway. When it comes to romantic partners, love gets even more complicated. When two people are in love, they depend on each other for support, but they also have to make each other feel special. Your lover may be your closest confidant, your source of safety and belonging, and the heart of your passion [1]. This isn’t an easy balance to get right. Relationship quality plays a huge part of our health, happiness and wellbeing. We all have ups and downs in life, and it’s the people we share them with that help shape the way we celebrate the good times and cope with the bad. As we enter adolescence, our closest relationships tend to be those we have with our romantic partners [2]. This doesn’t mean you should go rushing into a relationship with the next person who pays you the remotest bit of attention! Remember – it’s the quality of your relationships that makes the difference [1]. Learning from early relationships If you’re young and in a relationship, you might feel like you’ve found the one (and maybe you have – if so, congrats!) or you might be testing the water to find out what you want from relationships in the future. Either way, you can always work on the skills that will help you be a better and happier partner in the future. In a recent study, young people were asked what they’d learned from being in relationships. The most significant lessons these young people had learned from their early relationships included: Sensitivity. It’s important to keep an eye on your partner’s needs, without losing sight of your own. Realistic expectations. In the early days, we present our best sides. As we get more comfortable with each other, our quirks and foibles start to spill out. While this can lead to some relationships breaking down, it can also be a time when couples strengthen their bond as they start to see each other more completely. Honesty. Being honest and trusting your partner are essential components of any successful relationship. Compromise. A relationship is an ongoing process. You will both have to keep checking in on each other’s needs and making compromises, no matter how long you’ve been together. Balance. Many young people highlighted the importance of keeping intense emotions under control. Not just the negative ones like jealousy and anger, but also the overflowing excitement of falling in love in the first place. Freedom. While your romantic partner might also be your best friend and the most important person in your life, you both also need the freedom to be apart from each other. Stay connected to other friends and family members and remind yourself that you still have a life outside of your relationship. Communication. If you’re a regular on Click, you’ll know how much value we place on good communication. This is reflected in young people’s early relationship experiences too [3]. Whether you’re looking back at everything you’ve had to learn the hard way, or looking ahead to your next romantic adventure, take heed of these words of wisdom, and learn from the brave pioneers who went before you. References [1] Viejo, C., Ortega-Ruiz, R., & Sánchez, V. (2015). Adolescent love and well-being: the role of dating relationships for psychological adjustment. Journal of Youth Studies, 18(9), 1219–1236. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2015.1039967 [2] La Greca, A. M., & Harrison, H. M. (2005). Adolescent peer relations, friendships, and romantic relationships: do they predict social anxiety and depression? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology: The Official Journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53, 34(1), 49–61. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp3401_5 [3] Norona, J. C., Roberson, P. N. E., & Welsh, D. P. (2017). ‘I Learned Things That Make Me Happy, Things That Bring Me Down’: Lessons From Romantic Relationships in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Research, 32(2), 155–182. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558415605166
Article | dating, new partner
7 4 min read
Why does someone become addicted?
A person with a substance use problem can behave in a way that seems reckless and selfish, causing chaos in their life and the lives of those close to them. If your partner has a substance use problem, it can be very worrying and you may wonder what’s behind the issue. Addiction isn’t usually a deliberate attempt to behave in a way that is out of control. Often, when someone develops an addiction, it’s an attempt to control how they feel about a situation that feels unmanageable, or to block out thoughts and feelings they find hard to cope with. Imagine you have had a really bad day. Stress at work, a row with your partner, or money worries may leave you feeling anxious, angry, and sad. Or, perhaps something upsetting in your past still disturbs you when you think about it. At these times, you might find that drinking, smoking, escaping into the internet, or playing a video game helps you to switch off and relax. For a time, it feels as if your problems have gone away. Escaping from the real world and forgetting your problems now and then is often OK. For example, a few drinks after work at the weekend can be fun. However, even those feelings of letting go of inhibitions can leave you wanting more… Just check that, whatever it is you are doing to escape, you still feel you can ‘take it or leave it’. If you feel powerless to deal with problems, you may find you crave more and more of whatever helps you escape instead. Unresolved problems often get worse. You feel trapped and turn more and more to your means of escape. This is when the destructive cycle of addiction can begin. By this stage it feels like the ‘take it or leave it’ option has gone. Stopping the addictive behaviour is scary because you feel so dependent on it. Addiction can damage your self-esteem and confidence, leaving you doubting whether you can ever break free and face your problems. The addiction may have caused problems in your relationships. You may feel ashamed to ask for help or be scared that others will refuse to help you. Maybe you feel your life is such a mess that you don’t know where to start making changes. It might feel like the only choice is to block everything out with the additive behaviour. Take it step by step – acknowledging that you have a substance use problem is a big first step. If you are experiencing any of these issues and are concerned it may be triggering addictive behaviour, a valuable next step would be to seek advice or support. Online support, information, and counselling can be very helpful in many cases. However, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling from a specialist agency or via your GP, particularly if: You have a long term addiction problem. You are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Your problem involves cutting or physically harming yourself in some way. You are aware your addiction has been triggered by a traumatic life event. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
“Post 16 court contact”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   We have had a court order in place for a number of years. The children have never missed a contact; however they are now 16 and 15 and have made it clear to me that they are "fed up" with spending their time with someone who - apparently - has little to say to them, and makes nasty comments to the kids all the time when he does open his mouth. It is almost as if the contact order is just being observed to serve his need to control them - it doesn't seem to be about spending quality time with 2 kids who are brilliant company. The kids have said that once the younger son gets to 16, they "are done" - I have told them things will get better, but after 6 years of this contact and support from me, encouragement and assurances it will get better, it just hasn't. It breaks my heart to see how angry they get when they come back and have had an unsuccessful contact. I am at a loss, and my ex will not speak to me (only via Solicitors and hasn't spoken to me for over 8 years). If they tell him they no longer wish to go, can I be dragged back to court? Should this come from them to him? I doubt he will listen as they have asked before for things to improve with him and he just laughs at them and says they are idiots. One time my elder son was poorly during contact and had asked to go home earlier; he refused and made them stay until the appointed time. My eldest is about to turn 17 and will be driving soon. He wishes to get a Saturday job, and this will prove impossible - the Court Order clearly states a Saturday, and we have persistently re-jigged our lives to make sure they attend (which we do because I want them to have a positive male role model). I am also bitterly disappointed that this could have been seen as a chance for my ex to build a lovely relationship with his kids, but seems to have used it as a controlling mechanism instead. I would have expected them to say they were having a great time and ask that they have extra time - which would have been great, but it just hasn't happened. I see other kids who have a great time with their dads and my heart bleeds for them. I never badmouth or speak ill of my ex - it was a shame it didn't work out, but the kids did not need to suffer the way that they have been subjected to such nastiness from someone who is supposed to love them unconditionally (regardless of the fact he hates my guts - I appreciate I am 50% DNA of the kids and I think that may be the issue). If they turn round and refuse to go once the youngest is 16, can I force them? Can I physically drag them to contact? My eldest son is a strapping lad now and this may prove difficult. If I get taken back to court if they refuse, will the court listen to the kids as they will be 16 and 17? I am worrying now that after all these years of being compliant and supportive, I may get jailed.
User article | breach, legal rights, contact
“I'm in love with him but it's complicated”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I met him about 4 years ago. We got along right away and became friends. He said he liked my friend but I kind of thought he liked me. After a while I told my best friend I liked him and she told me I should tell him so I did after I thought about it. he felt the same. It was so simple. Not complicated. It was too easy, I wasn't worried about girls liking him or him talking to other girls. It just worked. It freaked me out and I also wasn't ready for a relationship at the time. So I broke up with him. He was hurt. Really hurt. We continued to be friends and my friend started dating him with my permission. He then texted me one night and said “I still like you”. I wanted to say I felt the same but I couldn't hurt my friend so I just talked him through it. We continued to be friends. Some things happened that didn't have to do with him that caused us to be distant. We didn't talk for almost a year and he broke up with my friend and after a bit he started dating another girl. He didn't want to talk to me. I asked him why and he kept switching his reasons. I missed him. A month ago he texted me only saying "hey" I deleted his contact to help me get over him so I replied "who's this" he said a week later "this is" I replied "K?" He said "yes" we talked for a bit then I apologized for not being the greatest friend and the end of my sentence was "I want to say more but I don't think it'd do so much right now" hinting at me liking him. He said it wasn't my fault and that it was his. We were okay. We have been talking lots more. Last week we both went to a fire, he brought his girlfriend and he hugged me. He gave me these looks. And talked to his friend whiling looking at me. After he left I texted him and said "hey there", he replied "hey A!! It was nice to see you, how's the party going" we talked for a bit and then he said he had to go to bed an he would text me tomorrow. He sent me a good morning text. It was so nice to wake up to. He was flirting with me, he even sent a heart and corrected it to be a laugh face. I want to tell him but it'll hurt his girlfriend and what if he doesn't feel the same? Ugh. I think I should tell one of my friends that's good friends with him. Maybe he would know. What do you guys think?
Ask the community | someone else, flirting
Shared parental leave
Shared parental leave could be the answer to a number of tricky issues like sharing childcare and other housework, but studies have shown that it may not be as straightforward as first thought. Since April 2015, parents have been entitled to take 12 months of shared leave. In the past, dads could only take two weeks’ parental leave but parents can now choose how to divide up the first year between themselves. We know that the transition to parenthood is one of the toughest hurdles a couple can face together (though it doesn’t have to hurt!). Shared parental leave can make this transition easier, but there are some practical and financial factors to consider. Managing the demands of a new born baby, along with all the existing household chores, is a lot to ask of one parent alone. Shared parental leave means that both parents can sometimes be at home together and the load can be shared during the day. It can also help new dads – who often experience the transition differently to mums – adjust better to the demands of parenting [1]. One study showed that dads who take parental leave spend more time with their family, get more involved with the children, and take more of a shared role in parenting and other household tasks than those who don’t [2]. Your decision about whether and how to share leave is likely to be influenced by a number of factors, including which of you earns the most, and how parental leave is handled by your employers [3]. There are also a number of social factors such as the traditional gender roles of dad as breadwinner and mum as caregiver, and more practical needs like breastfeeding [3], all of which may play a part in your decision. Couples who reject traditional gender roles are more likely to take up shared leave [2]. But it’s not always easy to break down these barriers, and some dads may find their workplace culture getting in the way of taking parental leave. One study showed dads facing negative reactions from colleagues and bosses at the idea of reducing their working hours to look after babies [3]. This range of influential factors gives an idea of just how complex the decision to share leave can actually be. So, what does this all mean for couple relationships? Well, there isn’t yet much evidence about the effect of dads’ parental leave on relationships. But, what we do know is that shared leave can help dads be more involved with childcare and housework, and that people whose relationships have a more balanced share of chores often report feeling more satisfied [4]. Whatever you decide, you might find it helpful to read an overview of the law and your entitlement over on gov.uk. If you are expecting a new baby, you and your partner should consider these factors together and decide what might be best for you and your family. References [1] Wisensale, S. K. (2001). Family leave policy: The political economy of work and family in America. ME Sharpe. [2] Seward, R. R., Yeatts, D. E., Zottarelli, L. K., & Fletcher, R. G. (2006). Fathers taking parental leave and their involvement with children: An exploratory study. Community, Work and Family, 9(1), 1-9. [3] McKay, L., & Doucet, A. (2010).  Without taking away her leave: A Canadian case study of couples’ decisions on fathers’ use of paid parental leave. Fathering, 8(3), 300. [4] Kershaw, T., Murphy, A., Divney, A., Magriples, U., Niccolai, L., & Gordon, D. (2013). What's love got to do with it: Relationship functioning and mental and physical quality of life among pregnant adolescent couples. American journal of community psychology, 52(3-4), 288-301.
Article | parenting, work
0 3 min read
How to be a happy young parent
As teenagers, we are still figuring out who we are, and what we want from life. We are forging our adult identities, and our romantic relationships set the tone for the future. Finding out you’re going to become a young parent plunges you into another major life transition just as you’re figuring out how to deal with the rest of life’s struggles [1]. Ensuring you have the right support in place can make all the difference. If you’re in a relationship, the increased stress of pregnancy and raising a child can lead to putting extra strain on the relationship. One study found nearly half of young parents’ relationships had broken up by the time the child was a year old [2]. You can protect against this by knowing about the factors that keep relationships strong, and where to get extra support. Getting support Just having a partner can be beneficial to you as a parent. Studies have shown that young mums supported by their partners feel more satisfied with their lives, have higher self-esteem, and are less likely to be stressed [3] [4] [5]. They are also likely to feel readier for parenthood. However, if you don’t have a partner, you needn’t despair. Research shows that single young parents who have good support from their parents and other family members can also report feeling more satisfied with their lives, and are less likely to be depressed or anxious [5]. Even if you don’t have support from your family, you can still feel the benefits of external support by connecting with other young parents or expectant parents through online forums. This kind of social support and parenting advice is also linked to stronger wellbeing [6], so it’s worth seeking support wherever you can get it. Relationship quality To protect against the breakdown of a relationship, it’s important to think about relationship quality. Evidence shows that the good bits of your relationship not only protect against breakup, but also help you feel more confident as a parent [1]. This is true even if your partner isn’t the child’s biological parent [5]. A positive relationship between you and your partner is also good for your child, as they are less likely to be exposed to conflict and stress [7] [8]. A strong sense of mutual love and attraction can often be enough to protect your relationship, but if you want to do something to make things stronger, consider upping your relationship equity. This means that you both make an equal contribution to the relationship. You can do this by sharing chores and childcare, but also by showing equal affection and support [9]. If your relationship breaks down, and you’re not getting the support you need from family and friends, you can try visiting the young parents section of the Family Lives website or posting a comment or question on Click to ask for tips and social support from other young parents. References [1] Gee, C. B., McNerney, C. M., Reiter, M. J., & Leaman, S. C. (2007). Adolescent and young adult mothers’ relationship quality during the transition to parenthood: Associations with father involvement in fragile families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(2), 213-224. [2] Sipsma, H., Biello, K. B., Cole-Lewis, H., & Kershaw, T. (2010). Like father, like son: the intergenerational cycle of adolescent fatherhood. American Journal of Public Health, 100(3), 517-524. [3] Dhayanandhan, B., Bohr, Y., & Connolly, J. A. (2010). Understanding the link between developmental tasks and child abuse potential among adolescent mothers living below the poverty line. In Poster presented at the Annual Meeting for the Society for Research on Adolescence, Philadelphia PA. [4] Gee, C. B., & Rhodes, J. E. (1999). Postpartum transitions in adolescent mothers' romantic and maternal relationships. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly (1982-), 512-532. [5] Stevenson, W., Maton, K. I., & Teti, D. M. (1999). Social support, relationship quality, and well-being among pregnant adolescents. Journal of adolescence, 22(1), 109-121. [6] Sherman, L. E., & Greenfield, P. M. (2013). Forging friendship, soliciting support: A mixed-method examination of message boards for pregnant teens and teen mothers. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), 75-85. [7] Cutrona, C. E., Hessling, R. M., Bacon, P. L., & Russell, D. W. (1998). Predictors and correlates of continuing involvement with the baby's father among adolescent mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 12(3), 369. [8] Hetherington, E. M., & Stanley-Hagan, M. M. (1997). The effects of divorce on fathers and their children. The role of the father in child development, 3, 191-211. [9] Kershaw, T., Murphy, A., Divney, A., Magriples, U., Niccolai, L., & Gordon, D. (2013). What's love got to do with it: Relationship functioning and mental and physical quality of life among pregnant adolescent couples. American journal of community psychology, 52(3-4), 288-301.
Article | parenting, young
0 4 min read
Choosing to be childfree
Many couples are choosing not to have children, opting to focus on the couple relationship instead. But, according to a new study, it’s not a decision they’re making lightly. The study [1] looked at how couples arrive at the decision not to become parents. The term ‘childfree’, as opposed to ‘childless’, refers to people who have chosen not to have children. The study showed that the decision not to have children is usually a conscious one, rather than something that ‘just happens’. It’s usually something that’s arrived at over a length of time and it’s an ongoing choice. This is particularly true for heterosexual couples, who often have to choose to continue using contraception, and avoid unplanned pregnancy. How is the decision made? By the time couples are having their first conversations about children, they have often already given years of thought to the matter. If both know that they don’t want children, it may only take a single conversation to form an agreement. Reasons for opting out of parenthood could include wider factors such as: Increased reproductive choices. Since the feminist movement of the 1970s, more of us are free to make this choice in the first place [2]. More career options for women. Childfree women are more likely to be employed in professional and managerial positions [3]. Worry about jobs. In one study conducted during the recession of the ‘90s [4], many men said they had opted out of parenthood due to uncertainty in the labour market. Wider society. Women in particular referred to concerns about overpopulation when discussing their decisions [5]. But many also cite more individual reasons such as: Personal freedom. More opportunity for self-fulfilment. Keeping spontaneity, such as the opportunity to travel. Making the most of adult relationships. Experiences of other people’s parenting [6]. Focusing on the couple relationship. Many couples cited their own relationship quality as a major factor in choosing to remain childfree [7]. We know from other studies that the transition to parenthood is one of the biggest hurdles for couples. If you’re still undecided about whether you’re ready for children, or just want to know more, you might find it useful to read our article on managing this transition. Whatever your choice, take the time to discuss it with your partner, so you both know what each other wants and why. Talking about big decisions like this allows you, as a couple, to work together and pursue a life path that suits both of you. One of the childfree people in the study said: ‘‘I wish it were normal to decide whether or not you were going to have children’’.
Article | children, childfree