Written by: Jaida Green, MSW, LSW, Family Support Program Therapist
Love: [noun] “Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). Such a simple definition for a complex topic. Love is complex issue that people of all ages, races, and gender are faced with on a daily basis. This is especially true for the young people that we serve at Huckleberry House. As a therapist, people assume that the majority of what I talk to our youth about are topics such as depression, anxiety, and anger. While this is true, something that is also frequently brought up with our youth in therapy is love and healthy relationships. Being young and falling in love for the first time is sometimes a tough transition; finding out who you are as a teenager is difficult enough. Add learning how to love, and it is often twice as difficult. There are two specific lessons focusing on love and health relationships that frequently come up for our youth – “The Five Love Languages” and “Healthy Boundaries”.
Generally, there are five categories of ways that people prefer to both express and receive love. These categories are acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. Acts of service are considered completing tasks that ease daily responsibilities (i.e. doing the dishes, making dinner, etc.). Gifts are self-explanatory, however it should be noted that the gifts don’t have to be over the top. Gifts can be small things that have thought and effort behind them and make the person feel loved. Physical touch is typically thought of as sexual contact, but this can also be things like hugs, pats of affection, or even holding hands. Quality time is spending time with a person while giving them your undivided attention. For many people this is one on one time doing things like going out to eat or talking over coffee. Lastly, words of affirmation are positive comments or things that are commonly thought of as nice to say (i.e. “You look great today,” or “I love you”). If you’re interested in finding out more about love languages, click here to take a quiz for yourself, or your child. You will need to click on the purple box that says “Learn your love language”.
As mentioned above, healthy boundaries are also a common piece to consider when discussing healthy relationships. Knowing when to say “no” is something that can be difficult at any age, but is especially true for some of our youth. Often, this isn’t a conversation that is explicitly had with our youth outside of sexual consent. Knowing when to say no in other areas of a relationship and knowing what’s important to you has proven to be helpful as well. It’s also important to be assertive in relationships, specifically when setting a new boundary. An additional piece to having healthy boundaries is having respect for yourself and others. Arguments can sometimes be about winning, but that’s not a helpful mindset. Instead, helping all involved to feel that no one person’s needs are more important than the other can help to make arguments less confrontational. Lastly, considering the long term implications or consequences of an interaction can help to establish healthy boundaries. This allows for you to think more deeply about the situation and how to communicate respect. It should be noted that a relationship should not be one sided where one person is constantly giving or taking. Healthy relationships are born out of understanding, not only of yourself but also, the person you are in a relationship with. Whether it be a romantic relationship, friendship, or a relationship with a loved one, taking the time to learn more about yourself and the role you play, as well as the other person involved, can help to foster a positive healthy relationship.