Relationships are an important part of everyone’s life.  Relationships can be especially helpful to young men who are involved in the daily struggles of working a program.  Appropriate relationships can often time offer a new perspective and a feeling of hope, future, excitement, and desire to be successful.  This can be very rewarding during a time when you may be feeling the emotions of responsibility, obligation, stress and accountability.  While these factors are all important in moving you toward a successful transition, the addition of healthy relationships can help make the experience easier to handle. 


Unfortunately, the wrong relationship can also sink a youth’s program.  While on program, it is most important to follow the conditions of your parole/probation, and therefore the expectations of your community placement at the Haag Home.  These program rules were designed to test your commitment to prosocial behavior while in a community setting.  If your relationship causes you to choose to engage in negative behavior such as sneaking out after curfew, returning late from a checkout, and/or choosing a partner that may not have your best interest in mind, the experience can end up being quite negative.  If you are a person who is prone to impulsive behavior with a lack of regard for consequences, then a relationship at this time is a bad idea, and may ultimately cost you the freedom that you have earned. 


Who is this person?


Like the role of a good parent, staff at the Haag Home are interested in meeting those people who you wish to spend time with.  Program staff are ALWAYS obligated to consider your safety, and the safety of the community.  We are interested in who this person is, how you met, and what is their understanding of our program and mission.  There has to be a limited disclosure to anyone who is deciding to have a relationship with someone required to complete a program.


 During this initial meeting, we will also be trying to assess the speed of the relationship.  For example, knowing how you met, how long you have known each other, and what kind, and frequency, of contact you have (i.e. phone, letters, in person) will help determine the intensity of the relationship.  If you met someone yesterday, and today you are making wedding plans, then the relationship is likely out of balance, and moving at an unhealthy pace. 


Although there isn’t a science to finding healthy relationships, there is evidence that can indicate whether or not a relationship will last.  There is also evidence on what makes a relationship healthy as opposed to unhealthy and sometimes abusive.  This module is designed to help you better understand if you are ready for a relationship, if you are choosing the right partner, and if your relationship is a healthy one.


A healthy start


There are a lot of reasons that someone may choose to become involved in a relationship.  Most of these reasons are positive in nature, and a few are not.  Perhaps the best indicator that you are seeking a relationship for the wrong reason is for sexual expression.  Sexuality is a vital aspect of a teenagers’ life. Mature sexual desire usually begins to appear with the onset of puberty.  Sexual expression can take the form of masturbation or sex with a partner.  Choosing a relationship for sexual expression is nothing more than objectifying a person, even if the sex is consensual. This decision can have unintended consequences such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.  When you choose to engage in sexual activity you have to be ready and prepared for these consequences.  An impulsive decision can have a negative consequence that may last a lifetime.  As a teenager, you should be in a position to enjoy your transition into freedom and opportunity.  Few teenagers (or adults for that matter) are emotionally prepared to be the parent of a newborn, or the recipient of a possible disease.  Keep in mind; the decision to engage in a sexual relationship can affect more than just you and your partner.   An unintended pregnancy unfairly creates a victim that cannot choose to not be involved.  


The physical act of sex is designed to be a pleasurable experience.  Few teenagers, however, consider the other effects of sexual activity.  Often times, sexual activity can put an unwanted pressure on one of the partners.  Most often this is the female in the relationship.  Men can grow obsessed with sexuality often pressuring their partner into having sex, becoming upset with their partner when sex is refused, or in a worst case scenario having sex with your partner without consent: rape.


“No means no”


 “No means no.”  If your partner tells you to “stop”, or indicates that the act is no longer consensual, there is no room for debate - you stop!  Whether or not it seems fair, you should be very aware that being on parole and a ward of the court, places an additional burden on you.  If, for ANY reason, you are accused of having sexual activity without the consent of your partner, you are in a poor position to appropriately defend yourself.  If you have ever been adjudicated for a sex crime, an accusation (whether true or not) can mean the end of your freedom. 


If you are 18 years old, or over, you cannot have sex with a minor (even if the minor will soon turn 18), even if the minor consents to sexual activity. This is the law.  Before beginning a relationship, flirting, etc. ask to see the ID of the person. “She told me she was 18” is not something that will hold up in the court of law.  Also, a parent cannot give consensual permission for their minor child.


Having a healthy relationship can be a very difficult task even for children that had parents that modeled healthy relationships.  However studies show that children that witnessed domestic violence, were victims of abuse, or didn’t observe healthy relationships growing up, can take these unhealthy perspectives of relationships as they mature into adults.  These youth often have a difficult time initiating, maintaining and enjoying relationships.  Relationships may reflect the all-or-nothing syndrome: either too few or too many relationships that seem to come and go like people through a revolving door.


Relationships can be difficult because they call upon personal characteristics and emotional capabilities that are often new to young people.  Characteristics such as trust, assertiveness, intimacy, self-confidence, good communication skills, the ability to give and receive affection, self-awareness and empathy for others, and acceptance of one’s own feelings and needs.  Many youth find their relationships characterized by fighting, feeling misunderstood, projecting blame on each other, and feeling overwhelmed by powerful moods.  Frequently, youth anticipate rejection or non-acceptance and protect themselves by withdrawing or becoming overly aggressive.


Do you find it hard to maintain close, trusting relationships?

Do you have a habit of choosing relationships that don’t work?

Do you find it difficult to give and receive affection?

Do you find yourself testing others’ commitment to you?

Do you expect to be left or rejected by your relationships?

Do you get anxious or scared when someone gets too close?


It is not uncommon for children of unhealthy relationships to find themselves with partners that in some way parallel or resemble the relationships they witnessed as children. In some cases, these relationships are actually abusive-if not physically or sexually, then emotionally.  If you have never acknowledged or resolved your childhood experience, you stand a surprisingly high chance of unconsciously repeating it fully or partially.  This denial can create problems in your future relationships.


A good idea is to ask your partner about their experiences growing up and what sort of relationships did they witness as a child.


Did they witness physical violence?

Were they victims of abuse?

Did they have anyone that modeled a healthy relationship?


If you determine that your personal relationships are abusive, then you will need to resolve them. Your interactions with others need to support your overall recovery goals, not to destroy your current efforts.


Signs of a bad relationship


Ten signs of an abusive relationship are:


  1. A history of legal or discipline problems
  2. Blame placed on you for his/her anger
  3. Serious drug or alcohol abuse
  4. A history of violent behavior
  5. Threatens others regularly
  6. Insults you or calls you names
  7. Trouble controlling feelings like anger
  8. Tells you what to wear, what to do or how to act
  9. Threatens or intimidates you to get their way.
  10. Prevents you from spending time with your friends or family.


This isn’t to make it sound as if all relationships are unhealthy.  No relationship is perfect.  Knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships can help you see the potential problems before they arise.  If you see something unhealthy in a relationship then try and work out why this is and see if you can work towards resolving it.  Here are some simple guidelines to have a healthy relationship:


1. Do not expect anyone to be responsible for your happiness.  Make yourself happy first, and then share this with your partner.


2. Forgive one another.  Forgiveness is a process of ending your anger or resentment towards another individual.  When given freely and sincerely in a relationship, forgiveness may heal relationships that are suffering.


3. Make and keep clear agreements.  For example, if you agree to have a monogamous relationship, keep that agreement and/or tell the truth about any feelings you’re having about someone else before you act on them.  Keeping agreements shows respect for yourself and your partner, as well as creating a sense of trust and safety.


4. Approach your relationship as a learning experience.  A truly healthy relationship will consist of both partners who are interested in learning and expanding a relationship so that it continues to improve.


5. Review your expectations.  Try to be as clear as you can about any expectations-including acceptable and unacceptable behavior and attitudes, especially attitudes toward money.



Relationships Mod – Worksheet


1.    List three negative behaviors that could indicate that the relationship you have chosen is a negative one: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________

2.    During the initial meeting staff will try to assess the: _________________________________________________________________________

3.    List three examples of how staff will assess the intensity of a relationship: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4.    This module is designed to help you better understand if you are ready for a __________________________, if you are choosing the right _______________________, and if your relationship is a __________________________________________________.

5.    What is the best indicator that you are seeking a relationship for the wrong reason: ________________________________________________________________________.

6.    What does “No means no” mean? ________________________________________________________________________.

7.    Before beginning a relationship, flirting, etc., what should you do to confirm the person you are interested is over the age of 18? _______________________________________________________________________.

8.    A good idea is to ask your partner about their _________________________ growing up and what sort of relationships did they ________________________________ as a child.

9.    List three good questions to ask your partner about what sort of relationships they had, or witnessed growing up: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

10.  List three signs of an abusive relationship: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

11.  Of the five guidelines to a healthy relationship list the one you think is most important: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.