Our third and last book club of the Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide took place Thursday, June 1. We read Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels) illustrated by Matt Weigle. We invited Susan Sakamoto from the Group Health Teen Center at Interagency Academy to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Susan started our book club by having us brainstorm the words and phrases that come to mind first when we picture a healthy relationship. Take a look at what we came up with below.
Next, Susan discussed potential warning signs of unhealthy and abusive relationships. These included:
- Your partner tells you what you can and can’t wear.
- Your partner controls who you hang out with.
- Your partner monitors your social media behavior. They might read your messages or demand to see your phone.
- Your partner threatens to spread your information or photos of yourself you don’t want anyone to know or see.
- Your partner does not respect your boundaries.
Susan emphasized that unhealthy and abusive relationships are about power and control. Unhealthy relationships often happen when your partner controls your behavior and isolates you from your support system.
Some of these signs of unhealthy relationships might be hard to spot, especially at first. Susan shared some great handouts and a Healthy Relationship Quiz that serves as a great starting point for assessing how unhealthy or healthy your relationship might be.
Susan also discussed the difficulties of next steps after recognizing that you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship. Below is a list of things to keep in mind if you or someone you know needs support.
- Talk to a parent, teacher, counselor, or other trusted adult about the situation.
- Be there to support your friend. Partners exhibiting manipulative or abusive behavior want to distance their partner from their support system.
- Go to http://www.loveisrespect.org/ to find resources and support.
- You can chat with a trained advocate at any time online here.
- Text loveis to 22522* to chat via messaging.
- There is also a 24-hour phone line you can call 1-866-331-9474.
*All services of loveisrespect.org are free and confidential, but Message & Data Rates apply on text for help services.
After Susan’s presentation wrapped up, we launched into a discussion about relationships within Romeo and Juliet. Our discussion started with sharing our thoughts and experiences about love at first sight and whether Romeo and Juliet could really be in love after meeting for the first time. We also talked about what might have caused the “ancient grudge” between the Montagues and the Capulets that fuels much of the story’s plot.
We imagined how things might have been different if Romeo or Juliet had felt they could go to their parents about their relationship and at what points throughout the plot a conversation with their parents could have made a life-or-death difference for some of the characters.
We also addressed the dynamics of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship and discussed whether we thought it was healthy or unhealthy. Susan brought up the great point that social norms differ greatly today than when the original play was written. What might be considered unhealthy today might have been considered normal then because of societal differences regarding gender, power, and violence.