Tag Archives: relationships

Focus: Chocolate or Checkbooks?

Typically, the short month of February is a blur due to our focus for the perfect Valentine’s Day plans. Whether or not we are in a relationship, we succumb to the pressure of buying or planning something for someone we know. Doused in reds and pinks, we forget to realize that this is a capitalist holiday which causes us to empty our wallets on a dime.

In a relationship, both parties should love one another, and celebrate that love when it is felt. It should not be feasted upon by some day on a calendar that claims that waxy chocolates and overly priced dinner reservations will portray a perfect relationship. The US News Forum reports that annual spending for the holiday is approaching $19 billion dollars. Most of the money is typically spent between candy, flowers, and eating out. As the second biggest “Hallmark Holiday,” it is not surprising that greeting cards follow. If you’re doing it right, you shouldn’t need the stigma of the day to remind you of why you are in a relationship with someone.

Single people? They are targeting you too. You don’t need that “singles mixer” that is dragging every person you could find on Tinder out of their house, only for the venue to serve you overpriced drinks. It’s unfair to push yourself into a toxic or ill-fitting relationship to meet a “standard.” It’s easy to think that you are alone at this time of year, but think about how buying and receiving affects us as everyday consumers. Buying and receiving things makes us feel better, makes us feel like we ARE more when we HAVE more. Just think, you are saving money, saving calories, and keeping out the clutter of oversized teddy bears.

Moral of the story is, a cheaper restaurant is still as good as any restaurant. Netflix and RedBox are a lot less expensive than movie tickets, and it is just another day.


Written by Zoe Pierson

Life at the Middle: Opposites Attract

My husband and I are close, but we don’t always agree. The first four years of our marriage, we lived in a house with bare white walls, because we couldn’t settle on even one single picture. Over time our tastes have converged. We can now buy a couch or decorate a room without busting into an argument. But there is one thing about which we still disagree.

Despite my love of running, I am not an outdoorsy person, and I accept this about myself.  I’m a city girl, a New Yorker in fact. I moved there when I was 17, and it never occurred to me that I would live anywhere else.

I stay pale all summer. I love to walk too, but on city streets thank you, with shop windows, restaurants and street lights at night. I get nervous when the concrete ends. Plants are pretty (although don’t make the mistake of trusting me with yours); flowers are lovely, and I love trees. But I do not care for moving nature. What I’m trying to tell you, is that nature is fine with me, as long as it stays in place.

My husband, on the other hand, is a bona-fide nature boy. Having grown up a scholar, with most of his time spent reading and writing, he loves the outdoors.  He’s a self-declared friend of nature- and all those who live in it. He stops to admire frogs, or marvel at the geometric simplicity of certain bugs. And as often as the not too bright squirrels in our neighborhood fling themselves under the wheels of the car, he always swerves to avoid hitting them. 

His true weakness however, is turtles. My husband fancies himself a friend of the turtle, and like every nine year old boy, he loves to touch them. Driving with him is an adventure because whenever possible, he brakes for turtles.  If they’ve wandered into the street, he jumps out of the car and moves them to safety. And although I have tried to make my position on moving nature clear to him, this once almost became a problem.  

Out for a drive one day, my husband spied a turtle in distress. He put on his turtle saving super hero costume and leapt out of the car. But instead of delivering the turtle to safety, he decided to present it to me as a gift. As the turtle’s tiny head got closer and closer to mine, it’s wrinkled neck craning up to see me, I got more and more nervous, until I finally shouted, “I do not need to meet that tortoise!”

Seven years have passed since that near tete a tete encounter. While we now have clarity regarding what constitutes cute (puppies) versus gross (amphibians), my distaste for moving nature remains unchanged. I still do not appreciate turtles, frogs and the dreaded S creatures. On the issue of bugs, a division of labor has been arranged; I spot the nasty critters, and my husband disposes of them.

Beth Herman in an artist and essayist. She enjoys running the hills of Charlottesville and the city streets of Washington D.C., in almost equal measure.

Healthy Relationships for Your Teenager

Parenting for Healthy Relationships

As a parent, you might assume that your teen knows what a “good” relationship looks like and how to develop one. Teens need to learn about “violence-free” relationships, and what it takes to engage in healthy relationships. Information, awareness, and the attention of parents will ensure their children can identify a healthy relationship.

teen dating

Characteristics of Healthy Relationships 

A healthy relationship includes more than feelings of love, passion, affection, and shared likes and dislikes. Parents and other adults can engage teens in discussing the following characteristics of healthy relationships:

Give and take: both partners get their way some of the time and compromise some of the time

  • Respect: valuing one another’s opinions and accepting each other for who they are
  • Support and encourage: being positive with each other’s goals, ambitions, friendships, and activities outside the relationship
  • Trust, without jealous restrictions
  • Emotionally and physically safe: feeling comfortable being themselves without the fear of being put down or hurt
  • Communicate openly and honestly, and allowing partners feel safe in expressing themselves

 Parents’ Roles

As your child goes through stages of adolescence, you have an important role to play in your teen’s ability to have good relationships with peers and intimate partners. Parents evolve from being “managers” who are actively in charge of almost everything in their child’s life, to “consultants” who provide an important connection, along with values, information, and feedback, supporting their children’s increasing abilities to make decisions for themselves.


Encourage your teen to think about his or her relationships, both present and future, by discussing healthy relationships, pointing out features of relationships they see in books and movies, and opening a dialogue so they can think about what they want in a boyfriend or girlfriend. This will help them to identify differences between relationships that are built on respect and those that are not.

Parents can be great resources for teens with open communication, being aware and informed, fostering good self-esteem and empowerment, encouraging assertiveness, talking about sensitive and volatile issues with teens, and respecting their opinions and emotions.

One of the most effective ways of teaching a child about healthy relationships is to model positive qualities in your own relationships. Even if you think your teen is not listening to your conversations with your partner, they often are.

Guidelines for Conversations with Teens

Create opportunities for discussion by “showing up” in a relaxed manner when you know your teen is available: hang out with them at night, or drive someplace together. Or you can ask your teen questions about something they read or saw, and take interest in your teen’s opinion. It is important for parents to include same sex couples in their discussions, to let teens know that these issues are important for all relationships.

Parents can take advantage of “teachable moments” when the subject of relationships comes up. For example, after watching a movie together, ask about the relationship in the movie and what they think worked and didn’t work. When they see something in the media about famous actors or sports figures, discuss those relationships. If there is a situation involving someone they know, chat with your teen about what he or she thinks about the situation.

Conversation Starters

Open-ended questions can start a conversation with teens. Use these opportunities to have a relaxed dialogue about different points of view. Here are some examples of open-ended questions to ask:

  • “What do you think about [a situation in a TV show….]?”
  • “I saw your friend at the mall with her boyfriend. How do you think their relationship is going?”
  • “What if your date drinks at a party and wants to drive you home? How would you handle that?”
  • “Did you notice how different guys treated [a woman in a movie you watched together]? Which guy do you think did the right thing and why?”

Teen relationships provide a way to experiment and practice for future long-term relationships and marriages. Talking with your teen about what they are looking for in their relationships will help him or her develop healthy relationship skills, and teach them differences between unhealthy, abusive behavior and healthy behavior. Then your teen will begin to understand what it takes to be a healthy relationship partner: to be treated with respect and to treat others with respect.


About the authors:

Barrie Levy and Patti Giggans are co-authors of When Dating Becomes Dangerous: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Relationship Abuse. Patti is the executive director of Peace Over Violence, and blogs regularly for The Joyful Heart Foundation, which was founded by Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Barrie, a violence prevention specialist, is the editor of Dating Violence, a collection of writings about adolescent dating abuse and violence.