Sex and Relationships
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Girlfriends, boyfriends, crushes and everything that comes with them… they are a huge part of our lives and have definitely earned themselves a place here in the health and wellbeing centre!
Love and Relationships
Is it Love?
Being in a relationship can be very exciting but it can equally be confusing. You like them but do they like you? How can you tell? what ‘stage’ are you at in your relationship? The do’s, the don’ts, how do we cope with all the different emotions we go through when we are in a relationship?
This section of health and wellbeing will aim to answer any questions or thoughts of yours and give advice about any problems you may have.
Single? Enjoy it!
Not everyone wants to be in a relationship, some prefer to be single. Being single gives you the freedom to think for yourself, decide for yourself and really get to know yourself without anyone else getting in the way.
Remember that everyone is single at some point, maybe for months or even years on end. Just be patient - there's nothing wrong with waiting for the right person.
Feel singled out?
There seems to be this image going around that people that are in a relationship are happy, and that being single makes you a loser.
But being single is not such a bad thing?! There's so much you can do while you're still searching for that right someone and being single can be the best time of your life - now is the time to be single, so make the most of it!
Think of it this way, chances are you'll probably spend most of your life in a relationship - so enjoy being single while you can!
Single and loving it
Go out and try new things:
Try some new hobbies, photography, art, sport, theatre, anything you can think of! Think of all the new friends you will make as well. It's the perfect time to be selfish and do something that YOU want to do. The world really is your oyster.
See your mates:
There's no better time than now to spend time with your friends. Plan group trips, girls/boys nights out, take pictures, join a class together.
Meet new people:
There is a whole world full of possible mates and you're free to see whomever you please. See someone good looking? Go flirt with them! There's no one to be jealous. Being single means endless possibilities.
Do what you want to do:
Everybody's different. What do you enjoy doing? Try making a list of all the things that make you happy, and try to do at least some of them regularly.
We know it sounds like a total cliché but do take your time to meet the right person. Desperation = total turn off.
Life as a couple
Being in a relationship can be really exciting. Sometimes it can feel like you'll never meet that person that's really right for you, so when it happens, it really is the most exciting thing ever! It's totally normal to spend these first few months in a haze of infatuation. But for some people, this feeling can make you forget about what else is important in your life. So what should a healthy relationship feel like?
A successful relationship should be made up of certain qualities:
Mutual respect for who you are. Does your boyfriend or girlfriend get how cool you are and why? Do they appreciate your great sense of humour, the things you enjoy doing etc. Do you feel happy with them and feel able to tell them what you are comfortable with? Being in a relationship means that each person values who the other is and doesn’t feel the need to change them. There is no way you can have a healthy relationship if you don’t trust each other. Imagine you are chatting to a guy/girl from your history class and your boyfriend/girlfriend walks by. Do they totally lose it or accuse you of cheating? Or do they just wave and walk on, knowing that they have nothing to worry about as you’d never cheat. What would you do if it was the other way around? It’s OK to get a little jealous sometimes – jealousy is a natural emotion. But how a person reacts when feeling jealous is what matters. If you don’t trust each other, your relationship will never last.
You should support each other in good and bad times. One of the best things about being in a relationship is having that someone that you can turn to when something fantastic has happened so they can share this and be happy for you and also comfort and support you when things are not going well. You should be equal partners and be able to compromise when you don’t agree. Are you happy to take turns when choosing films to watch or friends to hang out with? Quite simply for a relationship to work it has to be give and take on both sides without bad feeling. Being happy in a relationship also means being able to be who you are, not changing all the things that make you who you are, like families, friends, interests and hobbies. You should feel free to be able to continue with these things without feeling guilty.
‘Do I fancy boys, girls, both or nobody?’
Sexual orientation is all about who you have sexual feelings towards, in other words who you fancy. Heterosexuals or people who are ‘straight’ are people who only fancy members of the opposite sex. Homosexuals or being gay and lesbian means you only fancy members of the same sex. People who are bisexual are attracted to both sexes. Some people may not be attracted to anyone in a sexual way and if this continues through adulthood they would regard themselves as asexual.
Figuring out who you fancy can be really confusing, but you don’t need to label yourself as straight, gay or bi immediately. It takes time to figure out what your feelings are and who you are attracted to and the timescale is different for everyone. The important thing is to be honest with yourself about your sexual orientation and feel good in yourself about this. Our sexual identity is such an important part of ourselves that when we honour our true feelings we can feel a real boost to our self confidence and if we deny them our self confidence can take a bashing.
It is important to remember you don’t choose your sexual orientation it chooses you. No one knows what makes people gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight. Each has equal value and all of us have the right to be with people we love.
Could I be gay?
Almost everyone will have feelings for someone of the same sex as them at some stage in their life – it’s a natural part of sexual development. But if you find that you have these feelings quite often and over a significant period, it could mean that you are gay or bisexual.
Given that most people appear to be heterosexual, being gay is different from the majority. Being different does not mean being less important or less real but often young people can feel anxious about standing out from the crowd.
Should I come out?
If you think you might be gay, there’s no need to rush into ‘coming out’. Your sexual identity is a very personal thing and you need to make sure you are comfortable with it before telling the world. However telling people initially who love and care about you can be helpful as their acceptance will support you in the process of accepting yourself.
Sadly, it’s true that some people can’t accept people having different sexual orientations from their own but this is THEIR mistake – not yours. Remember you are not doing anything wrong or immoral so don’t be tempted to hide your sexuality. It is a part of yourself and like everyone else; you have the right to feel comfortable with who you are.
Find out more
It can help to talk to others if you are facing problems with coming out or just to meet people who are going through the same thing and your local youth service can support you with this. To find out the nearest youth service to you access http://www.kent.gov.uk/education_and_learning/kent_youth_service.aspx tel: 01622 694238 or email:youth.enquiries @kent.gov.uk
You can also talk things over with a personal adviser at Connexions (tel:01622 683155) to make an appointment at your local branch. Your local Sexual Health Outreach Service can advise you on sexual health matters, (tel: 0300 790 0245) to find out where your local service is.
Sex and sexual relationships
If you're thinking about having sex there are three key things we would advise you to consider first; contraception, STI’s and that you are freely making the choice to have sex.
If you are having sex with someone of the opposite sex i.e. you are bisexual or straight and want to avoid pregnancy you need to be thinking about contraception first. Contraception is what's used during sex to prevent pregnancy. We've put together a list on the various contraceptive options with details and advice on using each one:
- The Pill
- IUD (Inter-Uterine Device)
- Contraceptive injection
- Contraceptive implant
- Emergency Contraception
Contraception is free for most people in the UK so it's worth finding one that suits you. The Kent C Card scheme provides young people aged 19 and under, with access to FREE condoms in places other than clinics. You can now download your free C Card phone app for ALL phone formats, please follow the link below for further details.
For further information visit the Kent website for young people www.sexualhealth.kentcht.nhs.uk or telephone Kent Sexual health Helpline Tel: 01303 228808
Condoms act as a barrier, physically blocking a man's sperm from entering a woman's womb. They are also the only contraception that protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
The male condom is a thin sheath of latex rubber or polyurethane that fits over a boy's erect penis. The female condom is made of polyurethane and loosely lines the girl's vagina. If used correctly and consistently, male condoms are 98% effective. This means that two out of 100 women using male condoms as contraception will become pregnant in one year.
Always buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they've been tested to the high European safety standards. Condoms that don't have the CE mark won't meet these standards, so don't use them.
The Pill is the most popular form of contraception in the UK. It's taken either as a contraceptive method to prevent against pregnancy or to make periods easier to manage.
There are two types:
The combined pill
This contains two hormones: oestrogen and progestogen. It is the more effective of the two and makes a girl's periods lighter and more regular. It is usually taken for 21 days then have 7 days off (but not all pills are the same so follow your instructions)
This is a progestogen-only pill. This is slightly less effective than the combined pill and it doesn't make periods easier. In fact, it can make them unreliable or disappear altogether. It is taken at the same time every day, with no break.
IUD (An intrauterine device)
An IUD is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s inserted into a woman's womb. It works by preventing sperm from surviving in the cervix, womb or fallopian tubes. It may also prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb. Depending on the type, an IUD can last from three to 10 years and between that time it is 99% effective. Once it's in place, you don't have to think about contraception every day or each time you have sex. It used to be called a coil.
The injection contains progestogen which thickens the mucus in a woman's cervix, which stops sperm reaching an egg. It also thins the lining of the womb so that an egg can't implant itself there. In some women, the injection stops ovulation (the release of an egg). The contraceptive injection protects you against pregnancy for eight weeks or 12 weeks, depending on the type you use. If used correctly it's more than 99% effective. The injection is a good alternative to the pill if you'd prefer not to take tablets every day.
This is a small (40mm), flexible tube containing progestogen. The implant is inserted under the skin of your upper arm and it lasts for three years, although you can have the implant removed at any time.
It stops the release of an egg from the ovary and is more than 99.9% effective. Like the injection, the implant is a good alternative to the pill if you'd prefer not to take tablets every day.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases passed on through bodily fluids during sex. They are all pretty nasty and can even cause lasting damage if left untreated. Most are completely treatable and curable with the right antibiotics or creams. But even better, they are all preventable if you use a condom when you have sex.
If I think I have an STI what should I do?
Get yourself checked out straight away at your doctors or sexual health clinic. Don’t put it off. OK, you might find it embarrassing or scary when you turn up, but the staff are all professionals and they have seen it all before. They will think you are great for taking care of yourself. It is also completely confidential and you don’t even have to give your real name if you don’t want to. If you do have an STI, you’ll get the treatment you need all free of charge. The professionals are also there to give you more information about sex and how to protect yourself against STIs. It is also important to tell anyone you’ve slept with that you may have given them an STI – they deserve to know. Don’t assume they will notice something is wrong as some STIs don’t show any symptoms but can cause lasting damage if left untreated. So try to break the news to them as calmly as possible and tell them they need to go for tests.
If you are worried that you might have an STI find your nearest GUM clinic and get checked out.
Chlamydia screening programmes – free postal testing for under 25’s (insert LOGO)
For further information visit the Kent website for young people www.sexualhealth.kentcht.nhs.uk or telephone Kent Sexual Health Helpline Tel: 01303 228808
Making the choice
Sex between two people should be a pleasurable experience whether people are having fun, sharing intimacy, expressing love and care or trying for a baby.
For sex to be a positive experience it is important that both of you feel you have made a choice. It is important therefore to recognise circumstances that could put you at risk e.g. meeting someone on your own from an internet dating site, going off on your own with someone you don’t know and trust when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you do feel you are forced to have sex against your wishes this is rape and a criminal offence and you should tell someone you trust so that the police can be informed as soon as possible. Remember it is your right to say no and have that respected if you do not want to sex with someone else.