A Blue Sky care leaver opens up about past relationships and the need to learn to trust and respect one another.
Relationships are never an easy thing. It doesn’t matter who they’re with, it could be with your mother, your siblings, foster parents or even with a partner. Each relationship takes time and a lot of work to be successful.
You have to think about your needs as well as those of the other person and ensure that all parties are happy for the relationship to continue the in the way it's heading. In my experience, if these wires become crossed, it can lead to abusive and manipulative situations. I’ve been in a few romantic relationships with boys and men, but they’ve not ended well. I’ve been in relationships with controlling or abusive behaviour, where at the time, I wasn’t aware that I was becoming a victim of abuse. In some cases, I’ve broken up a relationship purely because I was scared of a partner breaking up with me. And other relationships have even seen me make digs at a partner about what I thought they needed to change about themselves. I know now that it was wrong of me for doing so, but at the time, I didn’t know that what I was doing was abusive.
My last relationship however, was the other way around to this. I was dating an older man, 4 years older than me, and he knew I was a vulnerable teen, as I’d confided in him about my past. From the start, he showed me that I could trust him. For me, that was a big thing, as from my past I had very big issues with being able to trust people. Once he knew he had gained my trust and he had all the info on me that he needed, he began to use it against me. He used to think it was funny to call me stupid when he knew that’s what I had been called by my peers in school and he would make digs about the way I looked or dressed because he knew of my low self-esteem. He would also use me for sexual activity which he knew I’d agree with, because I’d fallen in love with him. And he knew it. If I questioned him or called him out on his behaviour, he would start telling me that I no right to talk to him like that or that I was insinuating something different. In this relationship, you can see some key signs of abuse; emotional, verbal and manipulation.
These types of relationships are never are pretty and they never end well. They leave scars on you and will sometimes leave you feeling used and dirty. You think that you did something wrong, and that’s exactly what they want you to think. In these cases, I now know, I did nothing wrong. Relationships with anyone involve a lot of trust. With Social Workers or Support Workers and Foster Carers, you need to trust them enough so that you can talk to them when you feel something is wrong or even if you just need someone to listen to you. Without trust, you can feel that you can’t talk to these people which means you question who you can talk to when something isn’t right or if something has got you down.
I often asked myself, how can I be left in the same room as them if I feel they’re total strangers and know nothing about them? Trust works on both ends. Others need to gain your trust and the best way for them to do that, is to tell you about them so you get to know them better. Let them tell you what their full name is, what they do in their free time, find something you two can relate to like a hobby, because then you feel that you know them a little more and the anxiety of them being a stranger begins to die off. Most relationships come down to trust because it’s such a big thing. Without it, how can you tell a person something and be sure that they won’t laugh in your face, or go running and tell all their friends?
If you have trouble with trust, like I do, it can put a big downer on meeting new people and making new friends, because there is always that little voice in your head telling you that they can’t be trusted and sometimes, it gets the better of you. That’s how you end up learning to enjoy being alone and it’s not healthy for you to be alone all the time. Loneliness sets in and it hurts not having anyone to call and chat with. With all relationships, both parties have to be interested in what the other person says, take an interest in the other person’s life and how they’re feeling. Asking simple questions can go a long way like ‘how was your day?’, ‘been up to anything fun since we last talked?' When you know more about the other person, you can remember to ask questions about those subjects in the future. It does however, work both ways, so if they answer in one word replies it can be unhelpful, so try to ask them things like: ‘if you have to been stuck on a deserted island for 6 months what 4 objects will you bring and why?’ Then they have to answer back with more than just a yes or no.
With family/parents/sibling relationships, you don’t have to take any abuse from them just because they’re blood related. They should still treat you with respect, the same as you respect them, “treat people the way you want to be treated.” This saying helps to remind us that even when our anger or sadness can get the better of us, we need to consider our behaviour towards other people. With my sisters and I, we don’t have the best relationships. We fall out a lot and get into arguments over stupid things, but it doesn’t mean that we stop loving each other, it just means that sometimes we need a break from each other. The love is still there. Sometimes it’s best for everyone to take a step back, take breath and re-think before you say something you don’t mean in the spur of the moment because of your emotions. It happens a lot more then you would think. I’ve learnt to take a deep breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth, to help with this. When meeting new people, it’s beginning of a new type of relationship and it can be nerve racking and you can get sweaty and very anxious. The deep breathing will help a lot with that. If the anxiety is overwhelming, then try the counting trick. Pick for example, a colour and then pick 5 things in the room of that colour. Each time you complete a colour, you go down a number and when you reach 1, you take a few deep breaths. It’s an amazing distraction method which helps with anxiety immensely.
Not all relationships that you’re going to come across in your lifetime are going to bad or difficult, some are going to make an impact on your life for the better, and some will bring other new people into your life that will make you happy. Just remember, all relationships are hard in the beginning but the more work you put in to it and the more you get know someone and they get to know you, the easier it gets.