Articles for Dating Couples

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

    There has been much conversation lately about the number of people who have experienced sexual assault.

    According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), someone experiences sexual assault in the United States every 98 seconds. Of those victims, 44 percent will be younger than 18, and approximately 80 percent of those same victims will be under 30. Research indicates that a college with a population of 10,000 can have up to 350 sexual assaults annually. And, in 7 out of 10 sexual assaults, the perpetrator knows the victim personally.

    On a positive note, the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63 percent since 1993, from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993, to 1.6 per 1000 in 2015. However, only 6 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison. 

    Many are asking, how do we teach people to protect themselves from sexual assault? And, how do we teach them what respect looks like? These are important questions for sure, especially in light of recent findings in a study by Harvard’s Making Caring Common project. Based on responses from 3,000 young adults and high school students, the lead researcher found it troubling that at least one-third of respondents said:

    • It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television;
    • Society has reached a point that there is no more double-standard against women; and
    • Too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

    What is sexual assault, exactly?

    According to the Department of Justice, sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape all fall under the definition of sexual assault.

    Here’s what consent DOESN'T look like:

    • Refusing to take no for an answer
    • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting or kissing is an invitation for anything more
    • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state
    • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
    • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
    • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

    According to RAINN, consent is about communication. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.

    Although there is no guarantee of personal safety for anyone, each of us has a role to play in preventing sexual assault. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself or someone else from becoming a victim.

    • Don’t trust everyone, but let people earn your trust over time.
    • Be careful about putting yourself in a sticky situation. If you are going out with friends you trust, keeping an eye on each other and planning to leave together can be helpful. 
    • Never leave your drink (alcohol or not) unattended or take a drink from someone else. 
    • Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Ask for an escort to your car if you feel unsafe. Lock your doors and secure the windows when you are asleep or leaving your home.
    • Be wise about posting your location on social media. Consider privately sharing your location with someone you really trust in case something goes awry.
    • Have a backup plan for emergencies, and anticipate how you would react in various scenarios. Memorize important phone numbers, keep some cash on hand and hide an extra set of keys in case yours turn up missing. 
    • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, leave or get a friend to help you out.
    • If you see a potentially dangerous situation, step in and say something, either by yourself or with backup.

    Sexual assault is evidence that without respect for one another, people and our society suffer greatly. It is not ok under any circumstance, and silence about it can allow it to happen over and over again. 

    It’s crucial that we promote healthy, respectful relationships in all areas of life if we want to make a difference. Everyone could benefit from recognizing that respect involves valuing the opinions and decisions of others without attempting to control them. A respectful person does not take advantage of another person and honors boundaries that are set. Showing respect also involves concern for others’ well-being and safety. 

    You can play a role in changing the culture when it comes to issues surrounding sexual assault. Educate your children. Model respect in all relationships. Talk about this issue at home, in the workplace, at school, at your place of worship and in the community. If you see something, say something. 

    Coming together around this issue can help everyone have healthier relationships, which is a good thing for people and a very good thing for our community and country.

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    What Happens in Vegas Stays With You

    What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. That's especially true when it comes to premarital experiences and future marital quality among young adults.

    The relationship sequence these days goes something like – sex, cohabitation and sometimes children before marriage. With 80 percent of young adults reporting that marriage is an important part of their plans, Drs. Galena Rhoades and Scott Stanley wanted to examine whether premarital experiences, both with others and a future spouse, affect marital happiness and stability down the line. (Before “I Do”: What Do Premarital Experiences Have to Do with Marital Quality Among Today’s Young Adults?)

    For five years, Rhoades and Stanley examined this issue. They looked at 418 married individuals, the history of their spouses’ relationships, their prior romantic experience and the quality of their marriages. Their data revealed three significant findings.

    What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. Past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex and children, are linked to future marital quality. 

    Sex with many different partners may be risky for those who hope for a high-quality future marriage. Research conducted by Finer in 2007 indicates about 90 percent of Americans have sex before marriage. Rhoades and Stanley found that the number of sexual partners one has prior to marriage directly impacts future marital quality. Those with 10 or more partners experienced the lowest marital quality.

    “Starting the relationship by having sex may make a person feel constrained to the relationship sooner because the emphasis is on the physical relationship, which trumps getting to know each other,” says Dr. Rhoades. “I often refer to this as DUI: dating under the influence.”

    Some couples slide through major relationship transitions while others make intentional decisions about moving through them. 

    Decisions matter. 

    For example, many couples believe they should confirm they are right for each other by living together first. However, research shows that living together before committing to marriage can negatively affect marital quality because cohabitation may make it harder for a couple to break up. 

    Cohabiting couples buy furniture, adopt pets and sign leases together. These are all constraints that may keep people in a relationship even when they're not sure they want to stay. Rhoades and Stanley found that couples who slide through relationship transitions have poorer marital quality than those who make intentional decisions about major milestones. Making time to talk clearly about potential transitions may contribute to better marriages.

    Choices about weddings also seem to say something important about the quality of marriages. 

    Most of the individuals who married over the course of the study (89 percent) had a formal wedding. Those couples reported higher marital quality than those who did not have a formal wedding. It could be that making a clear, deliberate commitment to one option strengthens a person’s tendency to follow through on it.

    Clearly the relationship sequencing of the past no longer guides most young adults today. To help ensure high marital quality in the future, it is crucial that young adults recognize a few things. They need to understand the importance of their past, avoid sliding through major relationship milestones and maintain important friendships and family connections. These can all enhance a couple’s relationship, and lead to a more fulfilling marriage.

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    50 Shades of What?

    Women are more than just sexual objects. Even after the height of the women's movement, they fight to seen as bright, capable of great accomplishments and worthy of respect. For years, women have taught other females about the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.

    Now, there's Fifty Shades of Grey. Married women, college women and even young teen girls are so infatuated with it that they have actually bought more than 30 million copies.

    It is the story of Ana, a college student who is pursued by an older guy, Christian Grey. Ana is attracted to Grey when they meet, but she believes the attraction is not mutual. Through a series of events, Grey reveals that he wants to have sex with Ana. However, he requires her to complete paperwork beforehand: a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her to discuss anything they do together. There is also a second contract: one of dominance and submission, with the understanding that there will be no romantic relationship, only a sexual one. Grey is into bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (BDSM).

    While Ana finds Grey intriguing, he confuses her. He showers her with gifts and takes her to meet his family. Yet he wants to control what she eats, tell her what to wear and require her to obey him. And, he does not allow her to touch him or look him in the eyes. Grey beats her with a belt when Ana asks him to show her how extreme the BDSM could get.

    Why does this novel draw so many women in? Doesn't it promote women as sexual objects? What is the book's message about love? Would you want your daughter to date or marry Christian Grey?

    “I think women who are intrigued by this book must ask themselves, ‘Why does this guy appeal to me?’” says Pam Johnson, licensed clinical social worker. “Being willing to turn over the keys to your life to someone who wants to dominate and control you has a very high price tag.”

    Trust and support, mutual respect, non-threatening behavior, negotiation, healthy boundaries and fairness are the hallmarks of healthy relationships. Contracts forbidding conversation about the relationship or treating one of the people in the relationship as less than the other are not healthy or loving behaviors.

    Why would a woman offer herself to a man who makes it perfectly clear he only wants to dominate her and have sex with her?

    “In many instances, this 'Christian Grey' kind of person attracts women who are looking for safety and security,” Johnson says. “At first it may be very appealing to have someone who will take all the hard decisions away when things feel scary and out of control. However, you cannot mistake control over your life for a real love that is safe and secure.”

    Any relationship that dominates, degrades, and fails to nourish and cherish is nothing more than a work of fiction. When a woman learns to first love herself for who she is, there is no room for shades of gray.