ifIknew

ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Category: Healthy Relationships

It’s Okay to be Sexually Confident!

Sex can be confusing! Not just the act itself, but all of the social and emotional aspects surrounding it. We are constantly given mixed messages about sex: Be dominant! Be submissive! Ask for what you want! Be coy! Too slutty! It’s a whirlwind of contradicting information. No wonder it’s so hard to be sexually confident. We want to be ourselves and have great sex lives, but we don’t want to get rejected or hurt anyone, and we want to protect ourselves. The first thing to remember on the path to sexual confidence is this: You deserve a wonderful, healthy sex life. Beyond that, everyone is different. Likes and dislikes, religious beliefs, long-distance relationships, sexual orientation—all of these things can determine a person’s current feelings on sex. But the key is in treating sex seriously, but with a dose of humor as well. Two willing adult partners in a safe environment sounds clinical, but it is really the starter for great sex for a lifetime. So long as we respect our bodies and each other, great sex is out there for the having.

The Changing Family

We all know that the two parent, two child household is now just one of many, many combinations that make up a family. That said, how do we navigate traditional family dynamics with the new reality? What is the polite thing to call a former mother-in-law? Do you buy your step-dad a Father’s Day card? Do you continue to call your uncle’s husband your uncle? Do you have to have your half-sister in your wedding if you aren’t close? You’ll find all of the correct answers to these questions and more below:

Just kidding. For every familial relationship, for every holiday and reunion, for every plane ride back to your home town there is a new set of rules. So why not just stick to the basics:

When in doubt, be as kind as you can. Your step mom knows she’s not your mom, there is no need to remind her. Odds are, she’s not trying to be, she’s just trying to make you (and herself) feel as comfortable as possible. Why not indulge her? Instead of acting defensive around new family, no matter who they are, don’t punish them for not knowing you yet. Offer gracious thanks and try to interact.

Sometimes, it’s gonna be awkward. And that’s okay. If you are in a new relationship with someone who has kids or your elderly parent is getting remarried, whatever the case may be, there is plenty of uncharted territory. The only recourse is to accept this as a fact and try to move forward. That may even mean acknowledging the surprising nature of life, making a joke of it and pushing along.

New and “non-traditional” family can provide new and “non-traditional” love. The beauty of forging ahead into an uncharted family dynamic is that there aren’t a million examples all around you. This can feel lonely, but it can also be a good thing. Most people could talk for hours about their relationship with their mother, and it’s easy to compare and contrast which can often lead to one party feeling badly. But a blended family might have less to compare it to, leaving more room to avoid unnecessary hang-ups.

Just be yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a cliché, but it’s so true! Let these people in a little bit, show them who you are, and the family-like love we’re all supposed to feel for anyone who is remotely related to us, may flow more freely. Or it may not, but at least you can say you were kind, and that you tried.

Navigating your new relationship with your parents now that you are a grown-up

We all grew up differently. Some of us had married parents, some divorced. Rural, urban, only children, or one of many.  Some of us had lots of independence, some were nearly smothered.  No matter who you were or how you grew up, at a certain age there is a shift in the parent/child relationship. That is, when the child of this scenario becomes an adult, but the parent is still a parent.  Can you navigate that without anger, hurt feelings, confusion, and miscommunication? Well if there was an easy answer to that, we all would have heard it by now. It can be tough dealing with parents.  Maybe they let go a long time ago and you are still feeling lost.  Maybe you were independent from the moment the clock struck 18 (or 21 or 16 or, or, or…), and your parents are having a hard time letting you go.  The only consistent problem seems to be communication. Sometimes one party has a harder time admitting and accepting that kids grow up and often move on or away.

What to do? Talk about it.   Allow your new status as an adult to give you the confidence to approach your parents.

Make sure you’re honest about where you are in your life.  Show them that they are still such an important part of that life that they deserve to know about it. Career, relationships, milestones are likely to be important to them too, and they may bask in your successes and have sage advice for your struggles.

Speaking of advice, it may be more valuable than cash.  If you are having financial trouble (or any other kind), ask them what they think before you ask to borrow. Not only will they appreciate being used for their wisdom more than an ATM machine, you may even get something more valuable out of it.

Set boundaries. Both parties need to know what’s appropriate in your new dynamic, and this is different with every family. Try to tell them one thing about your relationship that you love for everything that you have an issue with. Be honest and direct, but kind.

Thank them. Profusely. Just do. And mean it.

What if You Are the Bully?

We live in a world of snark. Online comments, rude texts, flippant snarkemails, and snappy comebacks are all part of daily life for most people. Often we are the on the receiving end of rude remarks, but sometimes we are the perpetrators. Why do we feel so justified when we come up with what we think is a clever retort to someone’s perceived deficiency? For starters, snark is cyclical. When we feel threatened or stung by someone else’s rudeness, we carry that with us and in turn often throw it at someone else. If we read something uncomfortable directed toward us on Facebook in the morning, we keep that with us when we leave the house, we wear a scowl, we snap at the Starbucks barista. Then the barista feels stung and tweets something uncouth to someone she barely knows, and so on and so on.

We also use wit, sass, and sometimes outright meanness to protect ourselves.  It’s a classic defense mechanism: we say something nasty before someone else does. There is also a flipside to this. In a world where we are constantly plugged-in, it can feel boring when nothing happens for minutes, even seconds. So in the online world, it’s easy to prod and provoke, all in the name of playing Devil’s Advocate.

How do we stop negative behavior? Cold turkey. Before you type, before you speak, before you roll your eyes far back enough that you can see your own brain: think. Who benefits from what you are about to say? If the person you are saying it to doesn’t benefit in any way, stop and take a moment. Close your laptop, turn off your phone, shut your mouth and breathe. It’s a beautiful day.

Making up for our old wrongs

We’ve all done something nasty to someone. We all have at least one regret about how we’ve treated a stranger, a friend, or a loved one. More often than not, an apology (even a belated one) can mean a lot to the injured party. A heartfelt, apologysincere “I’m sorry” goes a long way in repairing relationships. But what if it doesn’t work? What if you hurt someone and they are not ready to accept your apology? That’s okay. It’s tough and it can make us feel heartbroken and vulnerable, but it is not our apology to accept. Once an apology is out there, hanging in the air, it’s no longer ours. The injured party has every right to reject apologies or even good wishes. This is one of the truest hardships about human relationships- there is no rewind button. If we are lucky the person we hurt will accept our regrets with warmth and strength, but sometimes the hurt is too deep, even if we never intended to cause any pain.

So how do we accept a refusal? Breathe in, breathe out and let it go. An apology is truly sincere if the goal is not for the other person to blindly accept it, but if the issuer is remorseful. Once a sincere apology has been put out there, all we can do is let it be.  With any luck, the other person will accept it and you can move on together. If not, you can still move on.

Learning to be Alone Makes us Better Partners

We’ve all been there:  basking in the glow of sharing a life, an intimate moment, a new experience. The googly eyes we get when someone has left us enchanted is all a part of what makes us human. Meeting someone new, or a change in a trusted relationship (like engagement, cohabitation, or marriage) can lead us to slip into what’s commonly referred to as “the honeymoon phase”.  But then in time something else happens. Suddenly the house, the apartment, the bed (heck, even the city) feel small. The charming nuggets about your partner can now feel like intolerable ticks. Being alone isn’t always easy, but neither is being with someone. The expression “the grass is always greener” was invented specifically for this type of conundrum. We want a partner, but we don’t want to lose ourselves in the process of finding a special someone. How can we adapt?

Maintaining some semblance of life separate from your partner may help. A social group, a class, a job, or a hobby that your mate could really care less about may not be a bad thing. If kids are in the picture, that may mean that a biweekly book club without your partner is not in the cards, and that’s okay. Start small. It can be helpful to have different tastes in books and movies and if possible allowing a little private time for yourself to enjoy your romcoms (romantic comedies)or war novels without the love of your life looking over your shoulder.

If you are wracking your brain to think of the last time you’ve been alone for a night, a meal, or even a few hours, it may be time to devote a little time to the other person in your relationship: you. An activity meant just for yourself will not automatically lead to separate bedrooms, so don’t hesitate to tell your partner if you need some time for yourself. The happier you are, the happier they are. Besides, of course you should hang out with yourself; who wouldn’t want to hang out with you?

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

The economy is in a rut and the student loan collectors are beginning to call. So where do you go next? The answer for many of us is moving back in with our “ ‘rents.” Moving home after being independent for an extended period of time can feel like a major downer.  It’s easy to feel demotivated and depressed as you confront this major lifestyle change.  However, it really doesn’t have to be that bad! Here are some tips to help make living with the “ ’rents” a more positive experience:

1)      Remember first and foremost that your parents are doing you a favor by providing you free or discounted shelter.  Remember to say thank you – your parents will appreciate your gratitude.

2)      Set a time frame for how long you plan to live at home. If you are job-hunting, don’t allow yourself to get too distracted.  Make yourself a schedule and stick to it.

3)      Set ground rules with your parents.  If you are living with any new roommates, it’s important to assert your needs and set boundaries.  Your dad might not want you coming home after the sun has already risen…however, you also have the right to tell him not to snoop through your stuff.   Mutual respect will go a long way.

4)      Remind yourself that your time with your parents is still an opportunity to move forward and build your life.  You can continue seeing friends, dating, and more.

5)      Establish local support networks.  Give your friend from high school a call, hang out in local coffee shops, and reintegrate yourself in your community.  Seek new friends.

6)      Stay the responsible adult you are or are becoming. Contribute. Regressing to being taken care of by our folks is so tempting but so stunting. You don’t want to be living on their couch in your 30’s.

 

Going Home for the Holidays? How to keep your cool...

You walk in the door and your mother nags you about your hair.  Your father comments on your lack of drive.  Your uber-successful big brother rubs his new car in your face.  Sound familiar?  Why is it when we go home we somehow become a kid again?  We resume our childhood roles –the older responsible one, the rebel, the baby.  How can we get through the holidays without letting our family drive us crazy?  The first thing to remember is that families install and push each other’s buttons.  Don’t take things so personally.  Parents are parents and it’s a job that never stops.  Mothers especially have a language all their own.  It’s their job to turn us into productive members of society.  Think of the National Geographic shows where the mother lioness cuffs her cubs.  It’s the same thing.  If we think of nagging as a mother’s way of saying “I love you,” it takes the sting out of it.

Try non-reaction.  We can’t change our family but we can change how we react to them.  When we stop reacting, things change.  When we don’t engage and let our buttons be pushed, the roles tend to change naturally.   Like a radio station, try a 10 second delay.  Before you react to something, take a deep breath and exhale slowly.  You’ll be able to react more like an adult and less like a kid.