Getting into a relationship

Where to start

All about relationships and sex

If your relationship is about to become sexual, make sure:

  1. Any sex must be mutually consensual, that is, both partners must want sex to happen.
  2. BEFORE things become sexual, take whatever precautions necessary to protect yourself from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and from pregnancy if it is a heterosexual relationship.

The only way to protect yourself 100% against STIs is to not engage in any sexual contact. If you are sexually active, condoms are your best protection. Try experimenting with different types to find one you both enjoy. This will bring you closer as a couple and, when you find a condom you both like, you’ll be more likely to use them.

Same goes with birth control. There are many forms available. Do your research and find one that suits your lifestyle and comfort level. Keep in mind that condoms offer protection against STIs. If you use another form of birth control, you should also use condoms if STIs are a risk.

Finally, you are ultimately responsible for your own sexual health. Even if your partner tells you he or she is “clean,” protect yourself.

What are you looking for?

Attraction is one of life’s great mysteries. Understanding it completely would kill the excitement. That doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about it.

Think about the values and goals you have when it comes to relationships. Make a list of the traits that you’d like a potential partner to have.

Review your list and with each item, ask yourself if it would be a deal breaker if you met someone who didn’t have this quality. This will help you to be more flexible when it comes to meeting people because you’ll be more able to get over less important differences.

This list will also be a helpful reminder of the values and traits that are super important to you when you’re in a relationship and emotions are clouding your thinking. If something’s not matching up, the relationship may not be right for you.

How to meet people

Sometimes, the idea of meeting someone can feel so scary, it stops you from even trying. Don’t let this fear get the best of you.

There is no magical way to meet someone. But the person of your dreams is not going to fall from the sky while you’re plopped on the couch watching TV or playing video games. You have to put yourself out there. You can meet people through a mutual friend, online, at a party, through a school sports club or through any number of activities or organizations.

It can be scary, but the more you do it, the less scary it gets and the more confident you become. The more confident you become, the easier it gets. Remind yourself that you are just as worthy as anyone of meeting someone.

Make a good impression

You talk to your friends all the time, so why does talking to someone you like seem so hard? If you keep a few things in mind, it’s easy.

Just as there is no magical way to meet people, there is no “trick” to making someone like you. The more you act yourself, the more genuine you will come across, even if you feel shy and awkward.

On a first date, it’s perfectly normal to be nervous and unsure what to talk about. Here are some basic rules to help you out:

  • Make your date comfortable. Ask questions but don’t make them feel like they’re being interviewed: What do you do? What are your hobbies? What do want in a relationship? Make sure the conversation goes both ways.
  • Avoid touchy subjects like past relationships, politics, religion or crazy family members. Don’t get too personal.
  • Find mutual interests and use these to get the conversation going.
  • Use your surroundings. Commenting on things and people around you gives you conversation material.
  • Listen. Sometimes knowing when to shut up and listen is as important as knowing what to say.

Your relationship status

Being Single

Being single can be great if you have the right attitude and know how to enjoy it.

You don’t need to be in a relationship to feel complete. Single life can be great. It gives you a chance to get to know yourself and live your life the way you want to, without a partner to answer to.

So don’t treat singledom like it’s something you have to suffer until your next relationship – see it as an opportunity to explore new things, create and pursue goals, and just generally enjoy yourself.

Ironically, it’s when you’re really enjoying life, feeling good about yourself and not looking for a relationship that you’re most likely to meet someone. At least then, if you even decide you want to get involved (you might be having too much fun) you’ll be entering the relationship from a strong place emotionally.

Sure, when you’re single, you’re bound to feel lonely from time to time but remind yourself that the feeling is temporary and will pass. Grab a book, a friend, a movie – anything to take your mind off it. And comfort yourself in the fact that, at times, even people in relationships feel lonely.

Just Friends

Sometimes, a friend is just a friend; sometimes you wonder if you could be more than “just friends.” Proceed with caution as once you go there, you usually can’t go back.

Having friends of whatever gender you’re into can be wonderful. If you can have this type of friendship without things getting complicated, then high five. But often, when you get along so well with someone you might start to wonder whether or not there’s potential for something more.

If you both feel the same way, awesome. Relationships that start with friendship can go a long way. If you feel like you can’t be “just friends” with someone you want to be with, don’t torture yourself by hanging around hoping they’ll change their mind.

But before you try to move out of “the friend zone,” remind yourself that the feelings may be one-sided and it could make things awkward, even end the friendship.

If you think you can handle that, then go for it and see if they feel the same way. Don’t sweat it if they don’t. Stay “just friends” if you can or move on. You have other friends and you’ll meet other people who will like you back.

Hooking Up

Hooking up can mean a lot of things – but it’s up to you to be clear on what it means in your situation, each and every time.

“Hooking up” is a term that gets tossed around a lot these days. It can mean anything from just hanging out to sexual intercourse and everything in between.

In a condom study among Canadians aged 18-34, 43% said that they think you should know a person well before having sex with them. But 28% of young women and 26% of young men feel one should be able to have sex whenever and with whomever they want (in Quebec, the number jumped to 41% for women and 37% for men).1

Make sure you know what the person means when they say they want to “hook up.” You don’t want to find out later that you thought someone was inviting you for coffee when they have sex in mind.

Make an unbreakable rule for yourself: use a condom every single time you have sex.

1 Leger Marketing Condom Study, 2007

Dating vs Hanging Out

There’s a grey area between just dating and becoming a couple that can get a little tricky to navigate. Take it slow.

It can get confusing when you start seeing someone more regularly. When does dating become a “relationship?” Can you ask him to be exclusive and see only you? What if you want something serious and she doesn’t?

Relax. The most important thing is that you’re honest about what you want. If the other person doesn’t want the same thing, you can decide if you can live with that or want to move on.

At the same time, keep your expectations in check. Don’t get too caught up on the fantasy of what you imagine or want this other person to be. You’re just getting to know someone, not planning your retirement together. Don’t take things too seriously, enjoy the ride and let things unfold in their own time.

The one thing you do need to be serious about is protecting yourself if things become sexual. Even if this person is your first and you’re certain you’ll be together forever. Things can change quickly at this stage in your life and “forever” may end up being two months.

Long term

Long-lasting relationships can be amazing – just don’t get so comfortable in them that you take your own sexual health and safety for granted.

Serious, long-term relationships afford a level of intimacy that more casual relationships simply don’t. The trust that develops allows you to open up both emotionally and physically to one another.

As you get closer, you also become more vulnerable and face a whole new set of challenges. For example, you have to learn to communicate your own needs while still respecting your partner’s needs and differences. You have to learn to bond with your partner without losing yourself in the process.

As you get comfy together, it’s easy to get lazy or get lulled into a false sense of security. Trust alone is not a reason to stop using condoms. Even if you’re exclusive, you both need to get tested – and, if you’re in a hetero relationship, decide on birth control — before you even consider ditching the condoms.

Breaking up

Know when it’s time

If you’re staying in a relationship because you have no one waiting in the wings and are terrified of being alone, it’s time to go.

Waiting until you have someone new on deck before doing the deed is hurtful and unhealthy. Jumping from one relationship to another doesn’t give you any time alone to learn from your relationship, reflect on your mistakes, and think about how you want to do things differently next time.

Make sure you’re being honest with yourself and not just having a case of “the grass is always greener” before you end a relationship. Remember, nobody’s perfect, every relationship has its challenges and it takes two to make or break a relationship.

That said, it’s time to end things if:

  • You and your partner are having the same arguments over and over again and, no matter how much you try to talk about it, things don’t change.
  • You’re feeling disrespected, undervalued and unappreciated.
  • You’re being physically, emotionally or sexually abused.

How to do it

Breaking up with someone isn’t easy. But there is a way to do it with grace and dignity. Same goes for getting dumped and moving on.

Once you realize you want to break things off, don’t prolong the agony. Yes, it’s hard to hurt someone you care about but they deserve to know how you feel. Just be nice about it. Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Let them down gently but firmly. You don’t want them to think there’s still a chance if there isn’t.
  • Don’t be mean. This isn’t the time for brutal honesty. Don’t hand them a list of all their flaws. You’re not perfect either and most breakups are never just one person’s fault.
  • Don’t insult their intelligence. No cheesy breakup lines like: “It’s not you, it’s me.” Simply tell them the relationship isn’t working for you. End of story. Don’t trip over yourself with explanations in an attempt to ease the pain.

Handling rejection

Rejection hurts. But there are things you can do to ease your pain, move on and feel like your old self again.

Unless a breakup is mutual, the person being dumped is going to feel rejected and it isn’t going to feel good. And no matter what you say or do, you can’t make someone stay in a relationship they don’t want to be in.

You may never be able to figure out why things ended and yes, the feelings of betrayal and hurt may feel unbearable. But you have to force yourself to move on and trust that it will get better.

Moving on

Getting over a breakup takes time but there are things you can do to help you through the worst of it. The key is to be proactive about it.

You’re hurt, lonely and devastated. The only thing your brain is telling you that will make the pain go away is to try and get the person back. That’s perfectly natural. But this is one time when you have to ignore your instincts and force yourself instead to do things that will help you move on.

You might not feel like doing them at first, but eventually, you’ll start to feel better and your restored ego and self-esteem will thank you.

  • Keep yourself occupied. Watch movies, take up a new hobby, heck, learn to cook, whatever it takes to keep your mind busy.
  • Make plans with friends and family. It can be tempting to stay home and mope by yourself but that’s why it’s even more essential that you surround yourself with people who love you and can provide distraction.
  • Get physically active. Getting involved in a team sport will not only get you out meeting new people and socializing but exercise will make you feel better about yourself and release feel-good endorphins to put you in a better mood.
  • Literally let go of the past. Hanging on to things that remind you of your ex may seem romantic but they also keep you from moving on. Get rid of them or at least shove them in box and bury them in a closet so you’ll be less tempted to dwell on them.
  • Get out and flirt a little. It’s always best to fully get over a previous relationship before diving into something new. But that doesn’t mean you can’t flirt and have some fun. It can help you feel attractive and remind you that you are a good person who deserves to be loved.