Valentine’s Day can make many people feel left out. Teens and young adults are particularly susceptible to harmful relationship beliefs and peer pressure. They take in messages like, “If you love me, you will . . . .” Fill in the blank with any conditional requirement. This raises a red flag. Young people are learning about the many con games and romantic masks that create toxic relationships. Your patients may sense that their relationship is imbalanced in terms of commitment. If relationships are a problem for your patients or clients, consider the way OPTIONS can help them make better choices. Inform patients and clients that they can always rewind a relationship, take a time-out from a relationship, or start over completely!
Recent findings from the University of Northern Colorado indicate that 18% of the sample of participants aged 14 – 24 years of age (N=109) have low satisfaction with their decision to have sex. In addition, 69% do not use risk reduction strategies correctly.
This Valentine’s Day make a commitment to helping young people learn how to establish authentic intimate relationships. Ask your patients questions such as, “Is sex everything you thought it would be?” “Have you ever thought about taking a time-out from sex in order to recalibrate your decisions about intimate relationships?” One client’s decision to take a time-out from sex exemplifies the challenges young adults may experience with intimate relationships:
I realized that I had nothing to show for the numerous sexual encounters that I had had. And I began to hate the fact that I had so frivolously given away the most intimate and sacred parts of myself. Instead of finding acceptance and love I found loneliness and a broken heart and I realized that in actuality I didn’t feel any more beautiful and I didn’t feel any more valuable. Instead, I felt misunderstood, insignificant and empty. – Female, Age 21
Timeouts, rewinds, and relationship do-overs create intentionality, reducing ambiguity and increases the use of risk reduction strategies in future relationships. School and community-based relationship education support knowledge and skills that help young people pursue healthy relationships. Clinicians, educators and parents have crucial roles in helping teens and young adults think differently about their sexual choices. The digital app cliexa-OPTIONS fosters effective and brief clinical interventions between providers and patients.
In addition, a recent meta-analysis found relationship education improves communication skills and reduces unhealthy relationship beliefs. School-based relationship education such as the evidence-based Healthy Futures program supports relationship skills for middle school students. Young people deserve the best relationships. This Valentine’s Day help teens and young adults take advantage of new approaches.
For more information on cliexa-OPTIONS research, contact Dr. William Merchant at the University of Northern Colorado: William.Merchant@unco.edu.