Race and Relationships

Ryan Knapick and Josh Baker have been best friends since fifth grade. Colette Gregory entered the picture in high school. She and Josh are dating now. Knapick is white, Gregory is black and Baker is half-Hispanic. To them, race doesn’t matter.

“People are finding people with common interests and common perspectives and are putting race aside,” says Knapick, 22, a May graduate of Indiana University who works at a machine shop and lives with his parents in Munster, Ind.

He and his friends are among an estimated 46.3 million Americans ages 14 to 24 — the older segment of the most diverse generation in American society. (Most demographers say this “Millennial” generation began in the early 1980s, after Generation X.) These young people have friends of different races and also may date someone of another race.

This age group is more tolerant and open-minded than previous generations, according to an analysis of studies released last year by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, part of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. The center focuses on ages 15 to 25.

Another study by Teenage Research Unlimited in Northbrook, Ill., found six of 10 teens say their friends include members of diverse racial backgrounds.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, today’s teens and twentysomethings grew up with “diversity,” “multicultural” and “inclusion” as buzzwords. Many were required to take college courses in cultural diversity. Now the media fuel this colorblindness as movies, TV and advertising portray interracial friendship and romance.

Some attitudinal changes are based in demographics. About 33% of those under 18 are racial or ethnic minorities, and about 20% of elementary- and high school-age students are immigrants or children of immigrants, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Racial diversity is especially common in college friendships because that age group is exposed to a wider range of people, and college students have more opportunities to become friends with peers of other races, says Anthony Lising Antonio, an associate professor of education at Stanford University, who has conducted research on friendship diversity.

It’s not that young people are specifically seeking out friendships with other races, kids say.

“It goes beyond that to who you get along with,” says Karina Anglada, 17, a high school senior in Chicago whose parents are from Puerto Rico.

The ‘color-mute’ syndrome

Rebecca Bigler, 42, a psychology professor who directs the Gender and Racial Attitudes Lab at the University of Texas-Austin, traces such attitudes to baby boomer parents who may have set a tone for raising colorblind kids.

“It makes us feel racist if we acknowledge race, so we try not to, and we end up being color-mute,” she says. “Children learn from their parents that you don’t talk about race.”

Bigler is white. Her former husband, the father of her teenage son, is black. People talked about race when she was a child in the ’70s, she says, but now the younger generation — especially white kids — believe that racial injustice is “a thing of the past.”

“Society is still marked by racial inequality, and my worry is that it won’t get addressed,” she says.

Evidence of inequity is ubiquitous: A Department of Justice study released last year shows that blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to be searched, arrested and subjected to police use of force. And last month, the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University issued a report about inequality in American schools, even as the system becomes increasingly multiracial.

Where students go to school depends on where they live, which is dependent upon family wealth. The Harvard study found that segregation isn’t simply a black/white divide but a multiracial one, in which whites remain the most isolated group and the least likely to attend multiracial schools. California schools are the nation’s most segregated, the study found.

‘Common interests, not color’

Gregory, 24, knows that firsthand. She was born in Gary, Ind., and grew up in Los Angeles; she was the only black person in a private school in her Bel Air neighborhood. She returned to Indiana for high school, the same Catholic school Knapick and Baker attended.

“It’s more natural to me to be in a diverse setting and to be attracted to people because of common interests and not because of common color,” says Gregory, who works in fundraising at a Chicago theater company. She earned two degrees from Northwestern University.

Baker, 23, who graduated from Loyola University in Chicago and is an accounts manager for a Chicago consulting firm, says his high school’s diversity allowed him to be friends with whites, blacks and Hispanics. He says he’s Hispanic, like his mother. His father is white but is unsure of his heritage because he was adopted, Baker says.

Knapick, who is seeking work in his college major of criminal justice, bonded with Baker playing basketball, running track and as Boy Scouts. Both are Eagle Scouts and earned their honors at the same ceremony.

Some of the mixing is a result of record numbers of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, totaling more than 35 million over the past two decades and representing the largest wave of immigration in American history, says Marcelo Surez-Orozco, founder of the Harvard Immigration Project, now known as Immigration Studies @ NYU. He is a professor of globalization and education at New York University.

“We have more groups coming at a faster rate and changing our society with a speed we’ve never seen before,” he says.

In addition to immigrant families, the number of children from other countries adopted by U.S. parents has tripled from 1990 to 2005.  The fact that white parents are adopting babies from China, Guatemala or South Korea who don’t look like them reinforces the idea that race matters less. So does the fact that interracial marriages, though still not common, have increased from less than 1% of U.S. marriages in 1970 to almost 6% of marriages in the 2000 Census.

The tide began turning when the Supreme Court in 1967 struck down laws in 16 states forbidding marriage between blacks and whites.

No pressure to ‘choose sides’

A Gallup Poll on interracial dating in June found that 95% of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of blacks and whites dating. About 60% of that age group said they have dated someone of a different race.

Olivia Lin, 18, of Brooklyn, N.Y., is Asian; she’s dating someone who is Puerto Rican and says her family is “pretty open to it.” Lin, who will graduate in the spring with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, in the fall will attend Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., the only non-sectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the country.

High school freshman Aliya Whitaker, 14, of Montclair, N.J., says her mother is Jamaican and her father is African-American. Her mother encourages her to make friends with those of other races.

“She’s never told me to stick with my own people or choose sides,” Whitaker says. “When my friends have quinceaeras (Hispanic girls’ 15th-birthday celebrations) or bar mitzvahs (a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony for 13-year-olds), she encourages me to go.

“But she says: ‘Remember where you come from.’ ”

This post was originally written by Sharon Jayson in USA Today.   Click here to read the entire article.

PRIDE at the White House

I found this article about President Barack Obama having a reception at the White House to celebrate gay pride month.  I thought it would be a good idea to post it on my blog since the Pride Parade is in Chicago this weekend.  For those who are unaware, June has been celebrated as Gay Pride Month since the Stonewall Riots in 1969.  I think this is huge step forward.  Things definitely aren’t perfect, but they are moving in the right direction.  I’m hopeful for more positive change for all LGBT people in the future.

Proud About Pride at the White House

Simi Singh JunejaSimi Singh Juneja

My sister emailed me her invitation to the White House to celebrate LGBT Pride. I had to take a pause. Never in my or my children’s lifetime would I ever have imagined that a sitting president would stand up and welcome her — that he would see her.

I have issues with being seen…

As the third daughter of Punjabi Indian immigrants who landed in Statesboro, Georgia — a one-year-old with wavy green lines across my baby-faced, curly-haired green card photo — I figured as I grew, the best had already happened because we reached the land of opportunity. In a family of five daughters, it was easy to get lost in the sheer volume of siblings, and the intensity of my parents establishing a new life.

When I learned that my younger sister was gay, I was terrified, confused, angry and worried. As the years progressed and I realized that this was not a passing phase, and more of a growing into who she was meant to be, part of her identity, I felt protective. As her big sister, I worried for her future and feared for her career. I know her heart and her strength. Living in the closet was never an option for her. It felt to me like a death sentence for her dreams. How was such a brilliant and talented woman going to navigate a country and a world that might not give her the dignity, respect and inclusion she deserved? She has never let anything stop her from living her life with integrity.

When she and her Southern Belle sweetheart decided to commit the rest of their lives to each other with a three-day traditional Indian wedding, my parents, sisters and I decided to “come out” to our communities and the extended family in India. My mom called her 60-something younger sister in Gurdaspur and wrote a letter to her 80-plus older brother in New Delhi explaining that love was love and that her daughter was marrying a girl. We held our breath and waited for the worst. Instead, my mom’s sister showed up bearing gifts welcoming the newest Arkansan members of our family. My aunt danced the night away and joyously took first prize at a very competitive game of musical chairs after the rehearsal dinner.

In my lifetime, my sister has been recognized. She is seen. President Obama celebrated Pride at the White House and she was there. Words can’t express my pride in our president and our country’s courage. Nobody should be invisible to their own government.

And I can’t stop the tears…

A long time ago, on a sweltering southern evening, we sisters played on our smooth concrete driveway. We weren’t busy judging whom we would marry; we were laughing and counting nickels for the ice cream man. The world was spinning and we were home. As my sister and her spouse — and many other LGBT couples were welcomed to the White House, the world was still spinning and they finally got to go home.

Is Sexting Safe?

I wrote a post over a year ago called Safe Sexting.  I thought it might be smart to reiterate some of the things I said in that post plus add a few new things to think about.  Sexting has become very popular among younger people, and probably some older folks too.  People have told me it is a new way of flirting.  However, you can do some pretty stupid things with a smart phone these days.

Students have asked me if I think sexting is a good idea.  It really depends.  In some cases, it is a very stupid idea.  If you don’t really know the person you are sexting or sending naked pictures to, then it can get out of hand pretty quick.  If this person lives on the other side of the world, it may be relatively safer.  They don’t know any of your friends and family and it is a lot less likely that what you said or the pictures you sent could come back to haunt you.  However, if you just sent off a few pictures of yourself to a person you just met in your anatomy lab, be prepared to have their friends looking at you like they’ve seen you naked.  Chances are, they have.  Colleges and universities are like small communities.  People talk and others around you may know more about you than you think.

Another thing to think about is WHY you’re sexting with someone.  Some students have told me they feel pressured into it.  They start out just flirting with someone else through text, but then it quickly becomes sexual.  They tell me they want this person to like them so they continue to say suggestive things through text.  The next thing they know, the person is asking for a naked photo.  Sending this person a naked photo because you just want to get them to like you isn’t a good reason.  You should engage in sexual behavior because it is your choice and what YOU want to do, not because it is what someone else wants you to do.  Do what you feel comfortable with.  Don’t do something to impress someone or make someone else like you.

Be yourself.  If you aren’t overtly sexual in person, don’t pretend to be through text.  This person may then expect you to follow through with some of those sexual suggestions you made when they see you in person.  If you don’t feel comfortable following through, you shouldn’t be making the suggestions in the first place.  It is important to be confident about your decisions.  If you don’t mind being more sexual both through text and in person, then go ahead.  However, if you don’t feel comfortable than feel confident enough to say so.  If you say no and the other person stops texting you, it is a pretty good indication they only wanted to use you for sex any way.  If you want more than sex, it’s better to be disappointed now rather than later.

Is it smart to send naked pics to your boyfriend or girlfriend who you love and trust?  Maybe.  You could be with someone who you know loves you and would never betray you.  However, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories, so please think twice before sending that naked photo off into cyber land.  Once you send that picture you lose all control, so it is still a big risk.  Relationships break up all the time.  This would be a perfect opportunity for your now ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to get back at you.   The so-called love of your life could save that picture and when they feel angry or upset with you, they may send it to anyone and everyone you know.  Who knows where it could end up after the two of you decide to break up?

Also be aware that if you are in a committed relationship with someone and you are sexting someone else, that is considered cheating.  You can cheat with technology very easily.  Even if the person lives across the world, doing anything behind your boyfriend or girlfriend’s back, is considered deceitful.  You may also want to remove those photos that friends have forwarded to you if you are in a relationship.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend finds a naked photo on your phone that a friend passed along, that could still look very bad for you.  Keeping it on your phone even though it was sent from a buddy of yours, is not considered a smart idea.

Another not so smart idea is sending naked pictures of yourself to someone who doesn’t desire to receive one.  This person is NOT going to consider you irresistibly sexy if they receive unsolicited texts or pictures of a sexual nature.  It is usually a huge turn off.  Don’t just assume someone is willing.  Ask the person if they are okay with it before sending anything sexual.  If that person says no, be respectful.  It is also not a turn on to beg someone for sexual material either.  NO means NO.  If you proceed after this point it is considered sexual harassment.

If you want to be a little smarter while sexting it is a good idea not to send any pictures with your face also in the photo.  Some people say it is a little less likely that you will be able to identified in case the picture gets out to others.  Yet, remember, many famous people have been identified in naked photos even though their face wasn’t in the picture.  You may also want to set some ground rules before you engage in sexting as well.  Let the person know how far you want to go.  You may want to tell them upfront that you don’t mind flirting sexually, but you don’t want to receive or send any naked pictures.  If you aren’t ready to have sex with this person, it is also a good idea to let them know up front that you like to flirt, but don’t plan on meeting up with them at 2am to hook up.

I said this in my last post, but I think it is worth repeating.  As a counselor, I recommend you educate yourself before engaging in sexting with anyone.  It may seem fun, harmless and safer than having sex, but there are still consequences that can be devastating.  Be aware of all the risks before deciding what is best for you.  If you are over 18 it isn’t illegal to send sexual material over your phone to someone else that is over 18.  You have to decide what you are comfortable with and be strong about setting a clear boundary with others who are trying to engage you in this behavior.  If you start something and then feel uncomfortable, stop and let the other person know.  If they won’t stop, find a way to block them from your phone if possible or report them for harassment.  Be smart and be safe!

 

Say What You Mean

Why is it so hard to say what we really mean?  Our feelings of pride often conflict with being vulnerable.  Its hard to let our guard down.  Even in a relationship.  A former student said to me once that her boyfriend never listened to her.  She explained by saying that one night she went over to see him.  She told him she had a hard day and she was exhausted.  She then stated that she was mad because he went on to tell her about how hard his day was.   I mentioned that he seemed to listen to what she said, but she wasn’t happy with his response.  She said that she was mad because he didn’t ask her what was hard about her day, or offer to give her a hug, or tell her how great she was anyway.  We discussed the fact that she didn’t ask for those things, but still expected him to get that message.

So often we want something from someone, but instead of being direct, we assume people are mind readers.   This student wanted a hug, she wanted to talk about her day and be encouraged, but she never asked for those things.  She wanted her boyfriend to just “know” she needed them.  A lot of times in relationships people don’t want to risk rejection, so they don’t always ask for what they want.  Or they believe that they shouldn’t even have to ask.  You may believe it doesn’t mean as much if you have to ask for something because you think it is less sincere.  I disagree.  If you tell someone what you want and they are willing to make that adjustment or change, it says a lot about their feelings for you.  I think its important to let your boyfriend or girlfriend know what you want or need, especially in a relationship.  If they ignore you, then you have a problem to address.

Communication is complicated in relationships especially because its hard to find someone that thinks, feels, and believes the exact same way you do.  It is easy to become upset when people don’t always interpret your needs in the right way.  It can cause a lot of conflict.  The first person to look at when it comes to communication is you.  Find out if there is anything you can do differently to communicate your thoughts and feelings in a way that others can understand you more easily.  Ask yourself if you are sending “coded” messages to your partner.  Is it fair that they should always know what you mean without you having to open yourself up a little more?  Remember, its not always the listener that is at fault.

It is difficult to be vulnerable.  You may be rejected.  You may ask your partner for a hug and they may look at you like you’re crazy.  You may come to realize that your partner isn’t ever going to be the physically affectionate type.  They aren’t going to automatically hug you when you’re feeling upset.  You can handle this a couple of different ways.  You can choose to let it go and get that affection from other friends and family.  You may talk to your mom or your best friend if you need a hug.  It may decide its enough that your partner does other great things for you when you feel down.  Maybe they offer great advice or cook you your favorite dinner to make you feel better.  Look for the other things that your partner brings to the table and ask yourself if that is enough for you to feel good about your relationship?

The other thing you can do is decide that it isn’t enough.  Maybe you’ve opened up to your boyfriend or girlfriend about things you need in the relationship and they’ve ignored all of them.  You may come to the conclusion that they aren’t able to give you what you need.  Sometimes a couple may have similar interests, but the way they communicate or show love is completely opposite.  This can be overcome, but it requires a lot of compromise.  Again, you can look outside your relationship to meet some of your needs.  One person is never going to meet all of your needs anyway.  Which is why friends and family are so important.  However, if you are going outside of your relationship to meet almost all of your emotional or physical needs, then you may want to consider the fact you may not be in the right relationship.

The key is first ask for or explain what you want or need.  Don’t let yourself get upset over something your partner may not even know you are wanting.  Again, not everyone comes from the same background or thinks the same way.  What may seem obvious to you, may not be obvious to your partner.  Give them a chance to know what you need.  Also, remember that you may need to remind them sometimes.  Habits are hard to break and they may not always react the way you want or need them to.  If they ask you to do something that seems odd or different to you, you’ll realize that it isn’t always so easy to remember something that doesn’t come naturally to you.  However, if you both can be patient, it will be worth it.  It always better if both you and your partner open up  and help each other make a few healthy changes.  However, sometimes the person can promise to make a change and never follow through.  You’ll feel like you have to constantly remind them and they constantly forget or fall off after one or two times.  The anger and resentment will build and start to really damage the relationship.

In this case, you may come to realize that you need to leave the relationship because you’ll start to feel rejected by your partner.  It does happen.  Not everyone can give you what you need in a relationship.  This is why you date before you get married.  You want to find out what works and what doesn’t.  Dating helps you realize what you can and can not compromise on.  You can either change what you need or change the person you depend on to meet those needs.  It isn’t easy, but definitely necessary to live your life with someone and be happy.

Gonorrhea resistant to antibiotics???

This will be horrific if it is true.  I’ve heard on the news that a certain strain of Gonorrhea has become resistant to antibiotics.  The Center for Disease Control has this information on their website.  Right now, this horrible STI is very curable with antibiotics.  If you realize you have it, it can freak you out.  However, with one pill, Gonorrhea is eliminated from your body.  Unlike Herpes Simplex Virus 1 & 2, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Hepatitis and HIV which can be treated, but can’t be cured.  Gonorrhea may join these incurable STI’s if it continues to become resistant to antibiotics.  It is important to know the facts and do what you can to prevent contracting this or any STI”s at all.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection which can be contracted through semen or vaginal fluids during unprotected sexual contact, heterosexual or homosexual, with an infected partner:

  • vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner
  • oral sex, although this is less common
  • sharing sex toys
  • touching parts of the body with fingers (for example, touching the private parts and then the eyes)
  • any very close physical contact
  • the bacteria can be passed from hand to hand (very rare isolated cases)
  • from a mother to her baby at birth

You can NOT catch it from simple kissing, sharing baths, towels, cups, or from toilet seats according to the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Guide.

The best way to prevent contracting Gonorrhea is abstinence from sex.  If this is not realistic, then it is advised to follow these guidelines to reduce your risk of contracting Gonorrhea or any other STI:

  • Use latex condoms from start to finish every time you have oral, vaginal or anal sex.
  • Have sex with only one uninfected partner whom only has sex with you (mutual monogamy).
  • Water-based spermicides can be used along with latex condoms for additional protection during vaginal intercourse. Use of spermicide is not recommended nor found to be effective for oral or anal intercourse.
  • Have regular check-ups if you are sexually active.
  • If you have an STD, don’t have sex (oral, vaginal, anal) until all partners have been treated.
  • Prompt, qualified and appropriate medical intervention, treatment and follow-up are important steps in breaking the disease cycle.
  • Know your partner(s). Careful consideration and open communication between partners may protect all partners involved from infection.

Gonorrhea has several symptoms which can appear 1-14 days after sexual contact.

In women the symptoms appear as:

  • strong smelling vaginal discharge that may be thin & watery or thick & yellow/green
  • irritation or discharge from the anus
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • possibly some low abdominal or pelvic tenderness
  • pain or a burning sensation when passing urine
  • low abdominal pain sometimes with nausea

In men the symptoms appear as:

  • white, yellow or green thick discharge from the tip of the penis
  • inflammation of the testicles & prostate gland
  • irritation or discharge from the anus
  • urethral itch & pain or burning sensation when passing urine

50% of women and 10% of men do NOT have symptoms of Gonorrhea.  You may pass on the infection because you don’t know you are infected.  The only way to know for sure you have not contracted Gonorrhea is by getting tested.  Very often Gonorrhea is contracted along with Chlamydia.  50% of people who contract Gonorrhea, also contract Chlamydia at the same time.  Make sure you also get treated for Chlamydia if it is not ruled out when you are tested for Gonorrhea.  If Gonorrhea is not treated it can have long term effects on the body.

In women it can cause:

  • life-threatening complications such as ectopic pregnancy (outside the womb)
  • blocked fallopian tubes (the tubes which carry the egg from the ovaries to the womb), which can result in reduced fertility or infertility
  • long-term pelvic pain

In men, it can lead to:

  • painful inflammation of the testicles, which may result in reduced fertility or sterility

It is so important to protect yourself during any sexual contact.  STI’s are real.  Gonorrhea is one of the most common STI’s out there among young people.  It is known that over 65 million people in the United States are living with an STI and 15 million new cases are reported every year.  Please be smart about your sex life and practice safe sex every time you have sex.

Feeling Helpless

One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling helpless.  When you feel like you have no control over your life or the situation you’re in.  When someone you love wants to leave or break up with you.  It can leave you with this horrible feeling which can turn you to become someone you don’t even recognize.

I’ve met with many people who have been faced with feeling very helpless.  Nine times out of ten they react with an obsessive compulsion to regain some control.  I hear students tell me how they couldn’t stop themselves from texting their recent ex, or driving by their apartment or house, or stalking them on Facebook, or hacking into their email account.  Normal, kind, caring people can become self-absorbed, insecure, and very obsessive people when going through a situation that puts them out of control.

Especially when a boyfriend or girlfriend breaks things off.  You can have this overwhelming feeling that if you only explained how much you still love them, or asked them to give you another chance, or got them to see you ONE more time, then they would take you back with open arms.  You may think the only way to get them back is to fight for them.  In your mind, getting back together with you ex is the only way you can imagine ending your pain.  Other people may tell you to let it go and move on, but your brain can’t even comprehend that statement.  Even if your ex treated you like crap, if you loved them, then you want them back.

So, what can you do during this time when you feel so helpless?

1.  Do not obsessively contact your ex.    Trust me, this will not help your situation.  They are pulling back for a reason.  It may even be for a stupid reason.  However, if you continually bother your ex with texts, emails and Facebook messages, it is going to annoy them.  This is only going to push them away further.  Your instinct to choke hold them to you will only have the opposite effect.  After the break up, I suggest contacting them one time to let them know you still love them and want to get back together.  Also tell them you’re going to give them the space they asked for, and that your silence doesn’t mean you want the relationship to be over.  Say what you have to say, then leave it alone.  Give them time to think and possibly even miss you.  This way it isn’t like you’re giving up and just moving on, but you aren’t pissing them off either.

2.  Distract yourself.    Enlist the help of good friends and family to help you occupy your time.  They can listen to you and hug you when you cry.  They can take you out and help you to forget for a few hours that you feel so crappy.  They can also take your cell phone away or reset your passwords on your Facebook and email account so you can’t login without them.  They can help you avoid the urge to contact your ex.  It is hard to give up control.  However, it is the best way to get through those first really hard days and weeks.  If your ex has asked for space, then show them that you heard them by choosing not to contact them.  It may be exactly what your ex needs to want you back.  If they are just breaking up with you to get you to beg them to come back, then you aren’t giving them what they want.  If they are trying to manipulate you, distracting yourself from contacting them will be a way to stop it and you may find they come to find you sooner than later.

3.  Build back your confidence.   Break-ups have a way of reducing your self-confidence.  You can feel like you aren’t good enough or that something is wrong with you.  This is a good time to take an evaluation of yourself.  Did you mess up?  Did you do something you regret?  Since you can’t change the past, why not focus on the future?  What would you do different if you had the chance?  This way if your ex comes back, you’ll be able to tell them realistically what you would change and do differently.  This may help build trust back into the relationship.  Even if your ex doesn’t come back, you’ll be able to avoid making the same mistakes with someone new.  If you’ve evaluated yourself and feel like you didn’t do anything wrong in the relationship, then work to own that reality.  Don’t let your brain trick you into thinking, “If only I had…”   You can get caught up in tearing yourself down.  Sometimes there isn’t anything you could have done to save the relationship.  Remember all the positive things you have to offer to someone in a relationship.  Eventually one day you will be ready to find someone who will see those things in you.

4.  Focus on yourself.    I know I said break-ups have a way of making people self-absorbed.  There is a right and wrong way to focus on yourself.  You don’t want to talk to your friends for weeks about you’re ex and completely ignore the fact that your friend lost a job or just failed a major test.  Sometimes it even helps to get out of your own pain and listen to others.  Don’t ignore other things going on around you just because your life is upside down.  Some days it is okay to just focus on your own pain, but don’t let that go on for weeks at a time.  The right way to focus on yourself is to get back those things you may have lost in your relationship.  You may have spent a lot of time focusing on your ex when you were together or always helping them with their problems.  Now is the time to go back to things you enjoy doing.  Remember those hobbies or sports you used enjoy?  Find time to do those things again.  They will help you process your feelings of grief and get those pieces of yourself back.

There are a lot of positive things you can do when someone puts you in a situation that makes you feel helpless.  Remember that you can choose to give up control, even though it isn’t easy.  Doing what comes naturally isn’t always the smartest or best thing.  Fighting your instincts to chase your ex may end up getting exactly what you want a lot faster.  Even if it doesn’t, you’ll feel proud of yourself in the long run.

Nominated for the Illuminating Blogger Award!!!

On Wednesday I was nominated for the Illuminating Blogger Award!  I was nominated by the blog, So It Must Be True…, written by Valerie.  The nomination is for blogs with illuminating and informative content.  I’m honored by this nomination, and I’m truly grateful to all the readers out there that either enjoy or have been helped by reading my blog.

In accepting this award, I have to share one random thing about myself.  I guess it is no secret that I love to help people.  What some people may not know is that I love animals.  I am addicted to reading blogs about cats and dogs.  They crack me up and the pictures are usually too cute for words.  I get a chance to see the lighter side of life, and it really helps me cope with the things I hear in my counseling sessions.  Here are my three favorite blogs about cats and dogs.   The Blog of Otis, Rumpydog, and Kitty Bloger

Another part of accepting this award is being able to nominate five other talented bloggers. Therefore, I would like to give the Illuminating Blogger Award to the following blogs:

One Gay at a Time–  I started to read his blog a couple of months after I started writing College Life.  He gives a very honest and open inside view into his dating life as a gay man in New York City.  I started adding a few LGBT relationship posts onto my blog soon after I started reading his blog and used some of the insights I learned from his life to benefit the LGBT students who may read my blog.

Rewriting Life– This blog is written by Kaleigh.  She uses her blog to help people, especially younger girls gain strength and build their confidence.  She just finished her senior year in college and may have just graduated in the last few weeks.  She is also the founder of the website, HUGstronger.  I have been inspired by her writing and can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Singleosophy–  This blog is written by friends, Grant, Max, Les and Heather.  Although, I think Les is taking a hiatus from the blog.  They write using a lot of their own experiences with dating and life in general.  It is very humorous, yet insightful at the same time.

The Unforseen Wisdom Ahead–  Lauren writes this blog.  She opens her heart and soul in her blog posts.  I love to read her posts about life, love, dating and her dreams.  Her blog has inspired some of my ideas for my posts.

Finding Roots–  I love this blog by Jarryd.  He is a college student who is finding himself.  His writing is genuine and honest.  He writes about dating, friendships, being gay, his major which is public relations, entertainment,inspiration and life in general.  His blog is entertaining and full of great information.

The Heat of the Moment

Why is it that some things seem so right in the moment, but later you think to yourself, “How the hell did that happen”?  Living in the moment has it’s upside.  It can be fun to be spontaneous and carefree at times.  However, in the heat of the moment some people make choices they really live to regret.  A lot of the time I have students come into my office who are upset about cheating on their boyfriend or girlfriend in a moment of anger.  Why is it so easy to seek comfort from someone else even though you know you’ll probably regret it later?

Our emotions have a lot to do with why we act certain ways at different times.  If you have been in a relationship for more than a few weeks you know that it isn’t always always perfect.  It is normal to have disagreements and not always get along with the one you love.  You will have moments of anger and disappointment with the relationship and with one another.  It is in these moments of anger that you can easily veer off track.  The temptation to turn to someone else can be very alluring when you are angry or frustrated with your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Then, it’s only one more step before you’re doing something impulsive that can alter the course of your relationship if it ever became known to your partner.

Sometimes people don’t necessarily have sex with someone else in that impulsive moment, but they may have texted some things they now regret or said something to someone else that would be seen as a betrayal to their partner.  If you are feeling angry or upset it is very easy to convince yourself that you deserve to have this little bit of comfort, or that your partner deserves to hurt like you’re hurting.  You can justify any action in the moment. It is only later when you feel calm or less angry that you may regret the action you took.  When the dust settles and your anger goes away then the love for your current partner comes back.  This can make you feel very selfish and guilty for cheating either emotionally or physically while you were angry.

It is easy to forget that angry or frustrating moments pass.  Anger usually fades with a little time and perspective.  You wake up the next day and decide you still really love your partner and want to stay with them.  What do you do now?  Do you tell them about your momentary mental lapse in judgment?  Do you let it slide and pretend it never happened?  I can not answer this question for you.  I can tell you that you take a risk if you don’t say anything because it may come out to your partner anyway.  I can assure you being caught in a lie is definitely worse than coming clean.  Although, either way, your relationship will never be the same again.  Only you know what decision you can live with in this circumstance.  Of course from the outside, it would be easy for me to say be honest, but I’m well aware that it doesn’t always make everything okay in the end.

The one answer I can give you is this…What is done is done.  You can’t go back and change it.  We all make mistakes we have to learn from and forgive ourselves for.  The brain is just looking to make things fair.  If we’ve been hurt it is easy to justify hurting someone back.  The biggest thing to remember is that life isn’t fair and hurting someone else doesn’t usually take our own hurt away.  Anger is a gift that keeps on giving and usually ends up biting you back in the end.

It is better to deal with your anger in other ways that won’t hurt you or someone else.   If you can remember that your anger will pass if you give yourself some time, you can do things during that time to help you process your anger.  Some people like to write and use their blog or journal to vent.  Other people need physical exercise to work out their feelings.  You can run, walk, lift weights, do yoga, or play your favorite sport.  Sometimes just taking a nap or going to bed for the night will help you feel better.  You may wake up and feel a lot better.  You can also watch tv, play with a pet, or engage in a favorite hobby.  Whatever you do, find something you enjoy and will get your mind off of your anger for a little while.  There are a lot of healthier ways to deal with your feelings rather than turning to someone else.  Once you’ve dealt with your feelings, you can think through what you want to do about your relationship.  Is there something you need to discuss or do you need to work on letting something go?  The answer is usually more logical when you wait for your feelings to calm down.

I also suggest talking to one person of the same sex who you really trust if you are having problems in your relationship. Or talk to a counselor if there isn’t anyone you can trust.  I don’t recommend talking about your relationship with everyone you know when you’re angry because you don’t want to poison others against your partner.  It will be easier for you to forgive your boyfriend or girlfriend than for your friends or family to do the same.  Sometimes your anger won’t resolve itself.  At that time you may need to decide to leave the relationship, even though it may seem easier to turn to someone else and cheat.  However, most of the time, anger is temporary.  In those times, it may seem innocent at first to reach out to talk to a friend of the opposite sex.  Just remember that boundaries can be crossed really easily when you’re angry at your current partner.  It is too easy to want to be comforted or wanted by this person who is “listening” to you.  It seems like a good idea in the moment, but you may end up really regretting not waiting to see how you feel once your anger fades.  Deal with your feelings before making any decisions that may have a huge impact on the fate of your relationship.  It can be thrilling to live in the heat of the moment, but sometimes it can burn you so badly that you don’t recover.

The Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomenon

The Fifty Shades Trilogy has become a huge phenomenon.  I know many college women and maybe some curious guys are reading it.  What makes this trilogy so popular?  It seems to tap into those fantasies that a lot of people have about finding someone you are completely consumed with and can’t get enough of.  I have heard that this book started from another phenomenon called “Fan Fiction”.  I haven’t read or wrote any fan fiction, but a couple students  told me that it started with the “Twilight” series.  The writer’s of fan fiction use Bella and Edward as inspiration for characters and make up their own story about them.  Usually it is very sexual in nature.  “Fifty Shades of Grey” started out as a fan fiction novel on the internet.  It was so hugely popular that it became a book.  The author, E.L. James, changed the names of the characters from Bella and Edward to Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

First off, I’ll just come right out and say I’m one of the few women left on the planet that has not read the Fifty Shades Trilogy.  I think most people picked up the book because of curiosity and as they started to read it they became hooked.  I have read the Twilight series and I was hooked immediately by the first book.  I love the story of Edward and Bella.  Edward is so drawn to her that he denies his own instincts to be around her.  What woman wouldn’t be drawn to that?

That is the same kind of draw to the Fifty Shades series.  My guess is that it isn’t just the S&M and blatant pornographic scenes in the book that have hooked so many people into reading it.  I’ve heard that women are drawn to the main character, Christian.  He calls all the shots and doesn’t get emotionally involved.  Then Anastasia comes along.  He is intrigued by her and he realizes even though he is the dominant in the relationship, he isn’t completely in control anymore.  Him being so consumed by his need for her is what drives people to be hooked into the story.

When some people think of S&M, they only think of one person punishing or hurting the other one to becomes sexually aroused.  If this was true, then it wouldn’t be such a huge fantasy for so many people.  The reality is that S&M is all about choice.  It may look like one person is forcing his will, but ultimately the submissive is choosing that role.  He or she wants to be in that position.  It is an interesting dynamic.  One person really looks like they are in control, but if you look closer, you’ll see that it is an illusion.  A person can gain power in two ways.  They can take it by sheer force or they can be offered it by someone who freely gives it to them.  In the book Anastasia gets to Christian, but she freely gives him power over her.  Their feelings are mutual.

When it comes to sexual fantasies, many people can feel very ashamed.  There are a lot of mixed messages about sex in our culture and many people can become confused about their sexual feelings.  I don’t suggest that people open up to just anyone about those very private thoughts.  However, in a trusting relationship, it can draw two people closer together if they share their fantasies.  You can let your partner know if you aren’t comfortable with something they bring up without shaming them.  You also don’t have to try something just because your partner has had a sexual fantasy about it.  Not all fantasies are meant to be acted out in real life.  That doesn’t mean you can’t still use them to enhance your sex life with your partner.

The key is being open, honest and affirming.  Listening to your partner openly and being able to affirm that they have a right to feel or think the way they do, even if you don’t agree.  You both need to be okay with each other saying no and not feeling rejected as a person.  When acting out any sexual fantasy, both people involved have to be okay with the situation.  If one person feels coerced or forced, it will cause a lot of resentment to build.   It is okay to try something because you want to make your partner happy, even though it may make you feel a little uncomfortable.  Just know you can say no if you find out you don’t like it after you’ve tried it.  If your partner isn’t open to you saying no, then you have bigger problems than sexual compatibility in the relationship.

When reading the Fifty Shades trilogy, remember that you are reading fiction and that life doesn’t always work out the way it does in books.  Fantasies are great, but remember that reality doesn’t always live up to fantasies for a reason.   Not everyone is compatible.  It isn’t easy to find someone who wants you as much as you want them and then on top of that be completely sexually compatible.  The reality is that in real life people usually have to let something go or compromise to be in a successful relationship.   Just remember there isn’t something wrong with you if you like something and your partner doesn’t.  Be confident about yourself and how you feel.  If living out a particular fantasy is really important to you, you may need to be in a relationship with someone who feels the same way.  If your relationship is more important, than let go of living out that sexual fantasy and continue to use it in other ways to enhance your sex life.

Also, please remember that sex won’t be fulfilling if it isn’t mutual.  In the trilogy I’m pretty sure Christian isn’t forcing something that Anastasia is truly against.  Make sure you are confident enough to stand up for yourself and that your partner respects you enough to listen before you engage in any sexual activity.   To be safe, make sure you trust the person and know that you can say no at any time.  Not everyone out there should be trusted obviously.  It is no small thing to open up about your sexual fantasies, and you should be careful when choosing who to be vulnerable with.  Lastly, remember to use protection.  People do get STD’s in real life!