Title: Doing It
Author: Hannah Witton
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
SEXTING. VIRGINITY. CONSENT. THE BIG O… Sex-positive vlogger Hannah Witton covers it all.
Nobody really has sex all figured out. So Hannah Witton wrote a book full of honest, hilarious (and sometimes awkward) anecdotes, confessions, and revelations. Hannah talks about doing it safely. Doing it joyfully. Doing it when you’re ready. Not doing it. Basically, doing it the way you want, when you want (if you want).
Doing It works as an introduction to sex as well as a guidebook for those who are already sexually active, with insight on topics such as healthy relationships, porn, contraception, sex shaming, and more. Approachable and empowering, this is a go-to resource for all things s-e-x.
Praise for Doing It:
“This highly accessible title offers much for young adults. Empowering, modern, and judgment-free.” —Booklist
“Witton’s writing style is not unlike her YouTube persona—simple, candid, accessible, and inclusive…readers will appreciate Witton’s frank, nothing-is-off-limits approach.” —Kirkus
WHAT DOES A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP LOOK LIKE?
I’m starting with this because if there’s anything I want you to take away from this book it’s that you deserve and are entitled to healthy relationships. Whether that’s with your romantic or sexual partners, your friends, your family, your colleagues, your peers, or, most importantly, yourself. A healthy relationship is the foundation for any kind of strong, successful bond between people. Whether you’ve known someone five years or five minutes, it’s important—crucial even—that everyone is happy and everyone knows what’s up.
Some crucial components of a healthy relationship…
A relationship without trust is toxic. You need to trust your partner and your partner needs to trust you. Relationships can feel scary because you are essentially giving someone else your (metaphorical) heart and trusting they won’t mistreat it. If you don’t trust your partner, you need to ask yourself why and then talk to them about it. Jealousy and paranoia are the enemies of any healthy relationship. If the trust is there, you won’t feel anxious, jealous, and on edge all the time. OK, sometimes at the beginning of a relationship, you feel those emotions along with excitement, which is fine because you’re at the “will we/won’t we?” stage. But once you’re further down the line and you’re in a secure relationship, it should be just that—secure. Being in a trusting relationship means telling each other the truth and believing each other, keeping promises, having confidence in the other person, and feeling safe with them physically and emotionally. It also means not worrying what your partner is up to when you’re not around and staying away from their phone and personal messages. Spying on someone is just not cool. Don’t expect to trust someone fully right away either. Trust is something that you build together in a relationship, and it’s something you have to earn.
Respect (just a little bit, just a little bit)
Aretha Franklin knows exactly what’s up. I’m not going to lie, respect is one of those words that I use a lot, but I’ve never really thought much about what it actually means. So here’s the dictionary definition: “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” I like to think of it as recognizing how badass your partner is. I’ve never bought into the idea of “finding your other half.” Everyone is whole on their own, and being in a relationship makes a team, not a single unit. Respecting your partner means recognizing and valuing their independence. Respect their beliefs, their values, their life goals, their job, their hobbies, their friends and family. In a relationship, it’s not enough to just have respect for the other person; you need to show it too. Whether that’s giving them space to do their own thing, or actively supporting them in their career, or not trying to change them, you’ve got to show them a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T!
This is my favorite one. Can you have favorites when all of them are vital? I’m not sure, but I do know that I love talking and I love sharing. I’m working on the listening part, I promise. Communication might also be the hardest one because it’s about opening up, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and giving someone the power to destroy you. OK, maybe destroy isn’t the best word, but opening up can be scary, especially if it’s the first time you’re bringing up a subject. However, if you already have the trust and respect, then communicating will be much easier and maybe even cathartic. Talk about what you need out of the relationship, what you want, what you expect, what you can give. Talk about boundaries and rules. Talk about jealousy. (I think a small amount of jealousy is fine as long as you acknowledge it and tell the other person, “Hey, that made me feel a bit jealous.”) You know when you have that nagging thought in your head, something that is bothering you about a relationship, and just thinking about it frustrates you, doesn’t fix anything, and maybe even makes it worse? That’s when you need to take some deep breaths and talk about how you’re feeling. Easier said than done, I know, but I’ve never regretted telling someone what’s on my mind.
And for those brief encounters, trust, respect, and communication are equally important. Communicate your intentions and what you want to get out of it, and respect the other person’s boundaries. Casual experiences should also be healthy, and you shouldn’t demand any less or accept bad treatment just because you’re not in a relationship. Every person is unique, so every relationship will be different in the type of communication you have, the level of trust, the amount of respect, your boundaries, your promises, and your rules. Having healthy relationships means making sure everyone is on the same page and happy.
Everyone wants to be in a power couple, right? Nope, just me? I want to be in a power couple, and I want to be the best couple, the one that everyone thinks is “relationship goals.” So I probably have unhealthy expectations for my relationships. But my superiority complex aside, to be a power couple, or just an amazing normal couple, you need a healthy relationship. You are not going to be able to achieve world domination…I mean happiness and stability in your relationship if you don’t have trust, respect, and good communication between you.
At the other, most extreme end of the healthy-relationship spectrum comes abusive relationships.
And in the interest of balance, let’s talk about those too. First of all, if you are on the receiving end in an abusive relationship, it is not your fault. There is never an excuse for abuse. Whatever form it takes, it is not OK. Abuse is never OK. This is serious, but it’s important. A survey available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that violent crimes are 33 percent more likely to occur between two people who know each other well or are in a relationship than a person being attacked by a complete stranger. If we’re lucky, we get taught what healthy relationships look like, but we’re rarely taught what an unhealthy relationship looks like and how to spot early signs of abuse. A lot of little issues might not seem like a big deal at the time, but abuse escalates, and the small things can end up leading to more harmful or dangerous situations in the future. It’s important to understand what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in relationships, how to spot the signs, and what to do if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship. When we talk about relationship abuse, most people’s thoughts jump to the extreme end of the spectrum—domestic violence. Yes, that is part of it, but abuse isn’t always physical. It can include emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, verbal abuse, and controlling and manipulative behavior. Here are some examples of signs of abuse:
Extreme jealousy or insecurity
Pressuring you to do things you don’t want to do
Isolating you from your friends and family
Making you feel scared
Making you feel down about yourself and have low self-esteem
Hurting you physically or emotionally
Pressuring or forcing you to do sexual acts
Why checking your partner’s phone is a type of relationship abuse
I made a video last year about relationship abuse, and I got a lot of comments from people who were confused about why checking their partner’s phone was abusive. So, let’s talk about that.
It comes down to trust, which as I said is absolutely crucial in any healthy relationship. Your text messages and your emails are your personal business. Just because you’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you no longer have the right to your own private space. Remember, you’re still you, and it’s OK to have some privacy in a relationship. In fact, it’s healthy. Going through someone’s phone without their permission is a sign that there is a lack of trust, and it is very controlling behavior. These days, a lot of our lives happen on our phones, so it’s more than just a gadget—it’s a window into a person’s life. Going through someone’s phone can make them feel nervous or powerless, like they are being watched and monitored all the time, which is not how you should feel in a relationship. If you get an itchy feeling like you want to snoop on your partner’s phone, think about why. Is it just out of curiosity, or are you worried about their behavior? Either way, don’t do it.
Instead, talk openly with your partner about what is bothering you. If you don’t find anything, you’ll feel horribly guilty for looking through their phone and not trusting them. If you do find something, then you’re going to have to admit to looking in their phone without their permission. It’s always best just to talk. If you think or know that your partner is checking your phone, then firmly ask them to stop and talk to them about why they are doing it. If they stop, that’s great, but if they carry on, then that should be a massive red flag. If someone doesn’t respect your privacy, feels jealous and insecure, and always wants to know what you’re doing and who you’re talking to, this could be an early sign of abuse.
What to do if you’re in an abusive relationship
Remember it is not your fault. This is a horrible situation to be in, especially because the person abusing you is someone you are close to and who is supposed to care about you. You might also be afraid of losing them. There is no way to sugarcoat this situation—it’s awful—but knowing that you need to get out is the first step. Talk to someone you trust about what’s going on—a friend, a family member, a professional, or the police. No matter how isolated you have been made to feel, there are always people out there who care and who will listen to and support you in any way they can. There are also loads of resources online and more information about what to do and who to speak to at the end of this book.
What if your friend is in an abusive relationship?
This is such a difficult situation because if the abuser has made your friend feel isolated from everyone they know, they may take their abuser’s side and not want to talk to you, which can be tough to witness. But you should let that person know that you will always be there for them and you’re ready to listen whenever they want to talk. Encourage them to seek advice from someone with experience in helping people in abusive relationships, who will know what to do and how to support them.
Holly Bourne on Healthy Relationships
It’s important to start this by saying: I’ve always loved romance films. Adored them. I cried so hard at the end of The Notebook that my face actually had an allergic reaction to my own tears. I can recite every single sentence of Pretty Woman to you. (“Big mistake. Huge.”) And the Twilight books saved me at a very dark time in my life called jury duty. But then I started working as a relationship adviser for a youth charity. I got trained to identify abusive relationships, and I couldn’t help but notice how many relationship red flags are used in romantic movies as idealized plot devices. The more I watched romantic “gestures” in films, the more I realized, if that gesture came up at work, I would be filling out an incident report. I think one of the main problems is that actors in romantic movies tend to be very, very, very good looking. Or Ryan Gosling—who is very, very, very, very good looking. And that detracts somewhat from all the problematic messaging. So a useful mental exercise to have handy is: Would this still be sexy if Wormtail from Harry Potter was doing it?
Here are just a few very worrying things that regularly happen in romance films:
It usually goes something like this: Girl goes to storm off. Guy grabs her back. Aggressively kisses her. She fights back for a moment…and then dissolves into the kiss.
What’s wrong with it?
Rape culture—in two short words for you. It buys into the myth that women are secretly always “up for it” and it’s just a matter of getting past their teasing pretenses. A kiss like this is actually, legally sexual assault. There is no clear consent here. You cannot read someone’s sexual signals when they’re storming away from you in a huff.
The Wormtail test:
You’re having a massive go at Wormtail for being a traitor to Lily and James, and then he just grabs you and kisses you until you stop fighting.
Either in the wooing stages, or the I-messed-up-and-want-you-back stages, there is a lot of hanging around outside the girl’s house. Or watching her sleep. Or following her wherever she goes.
What’s wrong with it?
Umm…it’s stalking. It really is stalking. And stalking is one of the most damaging and terrifying crimes you can commit against someone. It’s also very misunderstood. Many people think it’s something that only happens to celebrities and stalkers are weirdos in trench coats standing in the garden. But stalking is almost always done by an ex-partner and can escalate very quickly into full-on violence.
The Wormtail test:
You wake up to find Wormtail salivating at the end of your bed, saying, “I like watching you sleep.”
Oh, isn’t it romantic when someone hangs off a Ferris wheel until you agree to go out with them? Or the thought of life without you is so terrible that they try and get a coven of vampires to murder them? Threatening to hurt yourself or kill yourself is the best way to prove your love, right? Riiiiight?
What’s wrong with it?
This is actually a huge, glaring warning sign of abuse in a relationship. It’s manipulative, it’s coercion, and you should never have to guilt someone into going out with/staying with you. The words “I cannot live without you” are not romantic and Romeo-esque. They’re actually a huge alarm bell telling you to get out.
The Wormtail test:
Wormtail literally cuts off his hand to show his love for the Dark Lord. #JustSaying
In almost all romance films there is a blowup around 80–90 percent of the way through. The lovers are ripped apart by a misunderstanding, preparing for the grand reunion at the end. However, usually during this separation, the female character really gets her sh*t together. She bags a dream job or plans to move to a different city—one of her non-romantic dreams totally comes true. Only for her to get chased through an airport by her supposed love, telling her to “WAIT!” so she can give up her dream to make the relationship work.
What’s wrong with it?
In a healthy relationship, you want your partner to succeed. You should not feel jealous or insecure about the other person’s ambitions. So it’s rather damn worrying that so many male leads are perfectly happy with the idea of their soul mate giving everything up just for them.
The Wormtail test:
He’s just chased you through an airport to stop you from getting on an airplane and flying to your new dream job. Would you give up said dream job for Mr. Sexy-metal-magic-hand?
There is something special about this girl. The guy notices just how not like other girls she is. He tells her that she’s better than her friends, better than everyone else. Isn’t that nice of him? Isn’t that a lovely compliment? I mean, love’s about seeing the special in someone, isn’t it?
What’s wrong with it?
Let’s just brush to one side the glaringly obvious fact that this much-used line is offensive to all girls everywhere. I mean, wow. But anyway, again, this can be a warning sign of abusive behavior. Abusers condition their victims into feeling special, different, and often talk down their friends and family: “They’re just not good for you” or “You are better than them.” This very compliment can be used to isolate vulnerable people from their support networks. Always be wary of someone who tries to cut you off from the people you love.
The Wormtail test:
Wormtail and his cronies just love wizards they deem more special than other wizards. So much so they call them Mudbloods. If Wormtail starts saying, “You’re not like other witches,” you’re probably five minutes away from getting the Dark Mark tattooed on your arm.
Holly Bourne is the bestselling author of The Spinster Club series. Her novel, It Only Happens in the Movies, explores the problematic nature of romance films and their impact on teenagers and their relationships.
I have mentioned several times online that I have been single for more than five years—six years by the time this book comes out if I haven’t found a boyfriend by then, but who’s counting? My last serious relationship ended in 2011, when I was nineteen years old. We had been going out for a year and a half and had just gone long-distance because I’d moved to France, and long story short is I fell out of love and we broke up. The end. He’s actually married now, which I found out via Facebook. Social media is a strange thing in the modern world of dating. You can find out so much about a person before you’ve ever really gotten to know them, and you are constantly reminded of people that you might much prefer forgetting forever. An old fling from about four years ago recently got married, and I couldn’t help thinking, How many exes am I going to see on Facebook getting married? I’m twenty-five now, so the number is only going to exponentially increase until I’m thirty-five and all the divorces start coming in. (Sorry if you believe in true love. I’m a hopeless romantic too, but I’m also a realist and wear my cynicism like armor.)
I am a very fussy person and I seem to have a thing for American men. Even though I casually fancy a lot of people all the time, I’ve only truly fallen for three people during this single time. Two of them were American, and—I know it’s possible because people have done it—I did not succeed in nabbing myself a long-distance boyfriend either time. And I was heartbroken. Both of these men broke me. Which was a weird experience for my friends. They’d never seen me truly upset over a boy before, and they didn’t know what to do with me. But, hey, it happens to the best of us. And the other person I fell for? Well, you’ll soon see how that turned out.
There’s no right or wrong way to be single. You can kiss as many people as you like; you can join every online dating site and app possible; you can pine over one crush for months; you can ignore all this and focus all your energies on your family, friends, or career. Whatever suits you. When I’m single, my friends say they like to live vicariously through me (that’ll give you an idea of my love life). Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times in my life when there are no boys in the picture at all, but they don’t last very long. My friends often joke about having to take notes to keep up with who I fancy or who I’m dating. I like the drama and the excitement of constantly changing situations. Even though it can be stressful sometimes, it does mean I have a lot of great anecdotes…
- I once hid in a guy’s kitchen when his parents came over one morning to pick up some stuff from his house. I felt like a spy.It was pretty cool.
- I once went on a date with a guy that was the most uncomfortable thing ever, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. It wasn’t until afterward, when I was talking about what happened to a friend, that I realized he’d basically been using “pick-up artist” moves on me. Gross.
- I did the absolutely clichéd thing of sleeping with a college friend at a friend’s wedding a year after we graduated.
- I have made two best friends out of different situations where we were both involved with the same guy.
- I literally ran away from a guy who was trying to hit on me even though I’d already told him I wasn’t interested. He chased after me, and I ran into a kebab shop (this was at 3:00 a.m. in Brighton) and bumped into a girl (Oshen, you legend!) who had watched my videos and a bunch of her friends. They stood by and made sure I was safe while I shouted at him for being a massive creep.
- I slept with someone whose birthday is February 14, and he had a birthmark in the shape of a heart on his penis.
And those are just some of the more PG stories (except maybe that last one).
In my five years of singledom, I feel like I have become an expert in the area, and so I want to share with you my wisdom. We’ve all seen the films depicting being single as just a transition period between relationships, which are the real deal. According to them, this (hopefully brief) time in our lives will consist of lots of crying, lots of partying, lots of sleeping with random strangers, and lots of tragic dates in the desperate hunt to find a partner. And I don’t relate to any of this at all (well, OK, maybe some of it). Some people are scared of being single, others expect it to be the best time of their lives, but this is what it’s really like being single (for me anyway):
You don’t have a “somebody”
When you’re invited to friends’ parties or dinners and they say “boyfriends/girlfriends/partners welcome,” you just show up on your own. When there’s a play, comedy show, music gig, art gallery, museum—any fun activity—that you really want to go to, instead of having your go-to person and always having a buddy to go with, you have to ask all your friends to see who wants to go with you. This is tiresome and can get annoying if you’re like me and you want to go to all the things. But the plus side is that you get to carefully select the best friends to go with, the ones who will appreciate it the most and be just as into it as you are.
If you disappeared, how long would it be until people noticed?
OK, maybe this is a bit dark, but I think about it a lot. I see or speak to most of my friends weekly, but not daily. And when I first moved to London, I lived in a warehouse with eleven other people, and no one ever noticed when I was gone for a few days. Now I live with two other people, and I’m a lot more confident that someone would notice if I went missing. But if you’re in a relationship and you have a person you speak to every day, you wouldn’t even have to worry about this.
Not having to check in with anybody
I guess you could call this the plus side of it maybe taking a week for people to realize you’ve disappeared, and, hey, this is one of my favorite things about being single. It’s also the thing that I’ve gotten most used to and I think will be the hardest for me to change about my habits. When you’re single and you’re not living with your parents, you don’t have to tell anyone what you’re doing day to day. Maybe this is especially true for me because I’m a freelancer, so I don’t have a boss to check in with either. I can go to the movies on a Wednesday morning and no one will know or be mad at me for going to see a film without them.
Couples happen in waves
One minute it’ll feel like all your friends with partners are breaking up, and then a few months later, all your single friends will be coupling off. Is this a thing? Is there any science behind this? I have no idea, but it is a legit thing I’ve noticed.
You just need a snuggle
Forget sexual frustration—that can be dealt with. I majorly suffer with snuggle frustration. I have four pillows in my bed, but I actually only sleep with one under my head. The others I use to put my arms and legs around. I tell people that it’s because it’s supposed to be good for your back (which it is), but really, I just desperately want a cuddle. Luckily, I’ve got lots of friends who will spoon me and stroke my hair, but let’s be real, it feels so good coming from a romantic/sexual partner.
Sometimes you will just feel so damn lonely
Yes, I am a strong, independent woman, and I enjoy being single, and I am single by choice. I date people, I fancy people, I sleep with people, and for the most part, it hasn’t worked out, hence the single status. Most of the time I love this lifestyle and I don’t feel like anything is missing at all. But then there’s the odd day where everything stinks and you crave a relationship because you feel so alone. There’s no point glossing over this and pretending that being single is amazing all the time, because it isn’t. Sometimes (rarely though) I just really want a boyfriend. Sue me!
Your friends and family are your everything
This isn’t meant to sound scary—it’s actually wonderful! Relationships take up a lot of time and energy, and when you’re single, you have so much more of it to spend on your friends and family. For me personally, these are the people that have filled whatever void it is that I’m supposed to be feeling without a partner. I get all the love, acceptance, bonding, familiarity, sense of belonging, support, and cuddles that I would get from any partner.
As you can see, there are good things and bad things about being single, but that’s also the case for relationships. Listen to yourself, what you want and what’s good for you. Whether that’s breaking up with someone because you need some time alone or jumping into a relationship because you’re sick of being alone, think about why you want these things and if it’s coming from a good place. Everyone needs different things at different times in their lives, so don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t had a partner in a while—there’s nothing wrong with you! Being single doesn’t make you unworthy of anyone’s love. The way I like to think of it is that people have to prove to you if they’re worthy of your love. You do you. Live your life the way that you want to, and along the way, you’ll meet people trying to do the same thing. I genuinely believe it is good to have some single time in your life. It’s so valuable, especially when you’re young, because this is really the time you can put yourself first. No mortgage or kids, am I right? You can explore the things that you want and be a bit selfish for a while. There’s nothing wrong with that (as long as you’re not hurting other people!). I remember when I turned twenty, I said to myself that this would be my hedonistic decade. That’s not to say you can’t be hedonistic when you’re older, but I planned on making a conscious effort to seek out the pleasures in life in my twenties. And that doesn’t just mean sex; it means food, self-indulgence, pampering, travel, and looking after your body and well-being. When you’re single, you can put yourself first and you shouldn’t take that for granted.
For me, as clichéd as it sounds, being single has allowed me to really figure out who I am—what makes me tick, why I behave a certain way in situations, what kind of partner is best for me, what core beliefs and values matter to me the most, and what motivates me. I am very comfortable being left alone for long periods of time, and I am happy in my own company. I’ve discovered that I like myself, even love myself, and I want to treat myself well, do nice things for me, and take myself out on dates. Heck, I’d even pull a Sue Sylvester and marry myself if I could. Best life partner I could ask for.
Crushes are the worst. But they’re also the best. Sometimes your crush likes you back and it’s the best feeling in the world, and other times they don’t and it sucks and it hurts. But it’s also a great way to learn that rejection isn’t the end of the world. We all get rejected, and the sooner we learn that it’s OK afterward, the easier it is in the future to approach people you like, ask people out on dates, and make the first move. Believe me, the time that it does work makes up for all those rejections!
When I was in school, mostly inspired by Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, my friends and I came up with our own kissing scale. This was mainly because we were too immature to actually use words to describe what we were getting up to so instead had to use a numbered code. My friend Lucy also came up with a crush scale with easy, “100 percent accurate” measurements to follow to explain how much you liked someone. Kissing scales and crush scales aren’t meant to be taken seriously. There’s no prescribed order you’re supposed to do things in, and you can skip steps if you want, but they are a lot of fun, and Lucy’s crush scale gave me endless amounts of joy (although the context is definitely for when you’re a bit older and out of school). Also, I’m not sure why clothing and haircuts are so important to Lucy, but I guess they can say certain things about a person.
Disclaimer: Obviously this is completely stupid and by no means do your crushes have to follow this scale. I just find it very funny and I love hearing about other people’s kissing scales and crush scales.
I could kiss you in a club.
Pleasant to look at.
If I were drunk…
Sometimes you cross my mind.
More than two things in common.
Not a dumb f**k.
We should hang out.
Potential to date.
The idea of seeing you naked does not repulse me.
Knows how to dress.
We can maintain a conversation.
I’m conscious of my behavior around you.
My friends have Facebook-stalked you.
I want to have consensual sex with you.
Your flaws are now defendable.
“Fanny flutter” when I see you.
Nice and good humored.
Maybe I need you.
I want to have intimate, frequent sex with you.
Don’t mind if you meet my parents.
This could be unhealthy.
Fire in my loins.
I would have sex with you multiple times.
You’re my +1.
I think about you. A lot.
I wish you were here.
For some reason, when writing the plan for this book, I forgot to include a section on breakups. But I have to write about them because, guess what. I just got dumped. Like just now. Well, twelve hours ago technically. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. to a text from a guy who I’d been dating for just over two months and who I really liked. We were exclusive, and it felt like we were on the cusp of a good relationship. It was an essay text that was so vague and just said he didn’t want to hurt me so he was ending things now. Devastated, I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I messaged a bunch of my friends—some in America who I knew would be awake—and then tossed and turned all night. This morning I’ve cried so much and tried to get in touch with him, but he’s ignoring me. My housemates are away this weekend and I don’t want to be alone, so I’ve rallied together my friends and am making sure that I keep busy. And I’m channeling all my energy into this book. To be honest, I’ve been single for so long that I wasn’t expecting to be in a relationship while writing. I felt like a bit of a fraud writing the section on singledom in the present tense because I had someone and I didn’t feel single anymore. But, hey, I guess the single life isn’t done with me yet. I think I am currently going through the second stage of grief: anger. So I apologize if this chapter is especially bitter, but it’s real, and you know what? Actually, I don’t apologize for it. Let’s do this.
How to deal with a breakup (this is for me more than anyone; I need to take my own advice)
Going through a breakup sucks, whether you are the dumper or the dumpee. It just sucks. Everything sucks. But it’s not the end of the world, especially if you’re young and you don’t have any legal contracts (marriage, mortgage) or children between you. It’s a lot less complicated—think of that as a blessing. If you didn’t want to break up and you’re still completely besotted with the other person, it hurts like hell. Believe me, I know. I’m hurting so much right now.
Do whatever you can to make yourself feel better, distract yourself or just allow yourself to feel everything. For hours, I wasn’t crying and I was really confused as to why I hadn’t shed a tear yet, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn’t stop. And it felt so good. So cry if you want to cry; scream if you want to scream; write a book if you want to write a book. Talk to your friends and family, whoever you feel like you can open up to and share how you’re feeling. These people love you dearly (unlike the person who just broke your heart) and will be there for you and support you in whatever way you need. Invite your friends over; do fun things with them; have sleepovers. If you’re anything like me, then you’ll know that you cannot be left alone after a breakup—too vulnerable, too fragile, must always be within reaching distance of a friend’s body to hug and someone to talk to and laugh with.
Once you’ve got your support network in place, the next thing you’re going to want to do is figure out how to deal with your ex. I would recommend talking to them, face-to-face preferably, because meanings can get lost through text or on the phone. Pick a neutral place and just hash it out. Get everything that you want to say to that person off your chest and give them time and space to say everything they need to say. The best breakups are the ones with good communication and closure, and they hurt less in the long run. But don’t go in with the expectation that you will change their mind—you’re only setting yourself up for more hurt. Do it if you feel like you need to talk to them. It’s good to have a proper conversation with no screaming or shouting (crying is acceptable) about why you’re breaking up, so you can understand and get some closure. If you are the one breaking up with someone, it is so important that you talk to the other person. If you’re having doubts, if you’re confused and unsure, then talk. Don’t sit on these feelings without talking them through with your partner first. It’s not fair to spring a breakup on them out of nowhere with no warning signs. (I may be projecting here.)
How to get over someone
This applies to breakups and also to those times when you have a crush that you need to move on from for whatever reason (they live in a different country; they don’t fancy you back; they already have a partner). Here is my one-step, foolproof guide to getting over someone:
BREAK ALL CONTACT WITH THEM
Do not see them. Do not speak to them. Don’t text or call them. Mute them on social media and don’t stalk their profiles. You need a clean break to fully get over someone. Being reminded of them in any way will only make it harder for you. This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends in the future, if you want to be, but initially it’s a good and healthy idea to give yourself some distance. Time is the best healer, as clichéd as it sounds. Maybe, by the time I finish this book, I’ll be fine. I’ll let you know.
If you are the person who did the dumping, you need to respect the wishes of the person who is hurting right now. If they want space, give it to them. If they need to talk things through, be there for them. Make it as easy for them as you can while also drawing your own boundaries and looking after yourself.
During a breakup, there’s a clichéd thing that everyone will tell you, and being recently dumped has made me realize more than ever how true it is. Unless you are one of those people who meet their “soul mate” at sixteen and stay with them forever, most of us have relationships that end. You may have one superlong relationship that lasts until death do you part, but before that, you’ll have loads of other relationships that end. Most romantic/sexual relationships are temporary, but do you know what’s long lasting? Friendship. It’s now been three days since I was dumped by text and I wouldn’t have been able to get through this weekend if it wasn’t for my friends. The people who will always be there, whether I want to excitedly giggle about a new person I’ve met or cry about someone who has just broken my heart. Friends are so important because they will love you through it all, especially in times of need. Breakups are hard, and sometimes people turn to an ex-partner to console them through it. This is not healthy. Don’t do this. That’s what your friends are for, so invest in your friendships.
Speaking of “soul mates,” I want to talk about the whole notion of “The One,” because I don’t believe in it. I recently visited one of my friends from college at her family home and met her parents. They were in their twenties when they met, after three dates they were engaged, six months later they were married, and they’re still together now. I’m sorry, what!? I quizzed them about it for ages, asking why they got married instead of just continuing to date and they said, “We just knew.” As a twenty-five-year-old who’s dated a lot, I would love to know what it feels like “to know.”
But I guess it’s a case of “you know when you know.” This is what my friends kept telling me when I wasn’t sure if I’d had an orgasm yet—“you’ll know when you have one.”
As a hopeless romantic who’s addicted to the Hollywood happy ending, I can’t wait to be swept off my feet, have a whirlwind romance, and live happily ever after. But as someone who has experienced dating, love, and breakups, I also appreciate that this is just unrealistic (unless you are my friend’s parents). Love is great, but there is not a “One” out there for everybody. You are not a half-person waiting for your “other half” to come along and “complete you.” You are whole and you are complete, just you, and you did that all by yourself. Congratulations! Maybe you’ve had lots of relationships that haven’t worked out, but that’s fine. Just because those exes weren’t the “One,” it doesn’t mean they were any less important, significant, or worth experiencing. For me personally, I think I’m going to stop obsessing over the idea of finding the “One” and just enjoy the ride. (Can you tell I’ve just been through a breakup?)
Why people cheat
Every person will have a different definition of what cheating is, and that’s why it’s important to talk to your partner about these things and the boundaries you set in your relationship. Is kissing OK? Is flirting OK? What about sexting? Massages? Can you watch porn? What if you’re still active on dating websites?
A lot of people say there is no excuse for cheating, but that doesn’t really help us get to the bottom of why people do it. There are many reasons why someone might cheat: out of boredom, the thrill of doing something forbidden, fear of commitment and intimacy, craving intimacy, feeling alive, needing a sense of autonomy over your life. In these situations, cheating can be prevented by open communication in the relationship. Cheating is a sign that something needs to change, whether that means the relationship ends or something changes within it.
Why it’s not OK
Cheating is one of the most awful things you can do in a relationship, yet so many people do it and so many people suffer because of it. Which sucks. Cheating sucks. At its core, cheating is lying, cheating is a betrayal, and cheating shows a complete lack of respect for your partner. No matter how much you are tempted, how lonely you feel in your relationship, how turned on you get by other people, or how bad your relationship is, cheating is never the answer. Cheating doesn’t solve problems; it creates them. Often it’s a sign that there’s something already wrong in the relationship, and if this is the case, then you should talk to your partner about it. No matter the reason or excuse, cheating is never OK.
What to do if your partner cheats on you
If you’ve been cheated on (as well as that being extremely emotionally painful), you have to decide what to do. For some people, it’s easy: you dump their ass. But for others, it’s not as simple as that: you try to work it out and to build back trust in the relationship. There is no right or wrong way to respond to cheating, and every couple is different. No one can tell you what to do in this situation, but try asking yourself some questions: Do you want to stay in the relationship? Can you build trust again? Can you move on from it? If you were my friend, I’d obviously tell you to get the hell out of that relationship—better to know sooner rather than later. Listen to your friends, but ultimately what you decide is up to you.
What to do if you’ve cheated on your partner
Most people say that if their partner has cheated on them, they wouldn’t want them to lie about it. But most people also say that if they cheated, they probably would lie about it. My advice: don’t lie. Your partner deserves to know the truth; if you care about them at all, you will open up and be honest about what’s happened. Basically, it’s the right thing to do. Healthy relationships aren’t built on lies, betrayal, and secrets—as dramatic as that sounds, it’s true. Own up to your mistakes. It’s the first step in trying to rectify them and make things better.
To be honest, I’ve never cheated on anyone (although I have been tempted) and I’ve never been cheated on (to my knowledge) so I can’t speak from experience about the complexities of the hows and the whys and the what-to-dos. But trust your gut, talk to your partner, talk to your friends and family, and if you can help it, don’t cheat.
ALTERNATIVES TO MONOGAMY
It’s important to remember that just because a relationship isn’t monogamous (exclusive), that doesn’t mean it’s not healthy. A lot of people are in open (nonexclusive) relationships or are polyamorous (have more than one partner), but this is not the same as cheating. Despite the common misconception, it is still possible to cheat in open relationships. Every couple is different, and if you want to be in an open relationship, make sure you talk about your desires, expectations, and boundaries. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but for some people it works wonderfully.
However, also remember that you don’t have to be in an open relationship if you don’t want to. You should never be made to feel like you have to do something you’re uncomfortable with. If you go along with an open relationship that you don’t want or aren’t comfortable with, it will probably lead to problems further down the line.
In society, monogamy is the norm, but other types of relationships are just as valid if that’s what works for the people involved. I’ve always wondered if I’d be able to have an open relationship, and, although the idea sounds cool, I don’t know if I’d be able to hack it in reality. You do you, I say, and don’t judge others for their choices.
- F.on Polyamory
I decided to start living polyamorously just over three years ago. I’d had a number of monogamous relationships before that point, but throughout all of them, I had a nagging doubt as to whether they were the right thing for me. I loved each of my partners very much, but I was constantly struggling with the fact that I wanted to be with other people as well. I knew polyamory, to varying extents, existed—being in more casual relationships, being in an open relationship, being able to see multiple people at the same time—and after way too long worrying over what it would mean for me and what others would think of me if I were to label myself that way, I decided to try it.
Since then, I have dated maybe twenty-five people. Some of the relationships eventually didn’t work, others chose to enter more closed relationships, but there are also some people I saw right from the beginning who I still see now. I’m in happy, long-term relationships with them; they’re just polyamorous relationships. I feel the key thing to being polyamorous is to be very clear about what you’re looking for from the start. Among the partners I’ve had, some have been very casual relationships; others I would say are exactly like my monogamous relationships were in terms of closeness and the amount we would see each other; some have just been friends with benefits. Importantly though, mutual honesty has been the basis of every single one.
I happen to be pansexual as well as polyamorous, meaning I am attracted to people of all genders, but this doesn’t have to be the case. I know people of a whole variety of sexualities who are polyamorous. I also sometimes see more than one person as a unit. I’ve dated a few couples and even a trio of people, but some polyamorous people prefer to only see partners one-on-one. This is all still under the umbrella of polyamory, which just means to knowingly and consensually engage in relationships with multiple people and have your partners do the same.
When I tell people I’m polyamorous, I get a lot of reactions, but one of my least favorite is “I could never do that. I just love my partner too much.” I understand that their sexuality is different from mine. However, I would really stress that I don’t feel I love my polyamorous partners any less for the fact that I see more than one, just as I don’t love my friends any less for having more than one, or, I imagine, a mother would love her many children any less.
People also ask if I get jealous a lot. I don’t. Maybe it’s just the way I’m made up. It’s part of my sexuality. The fact that someone I love is with someone else they love and having a great time? Good for them. Is there a lot of stigma? Most people I have told have been pretty good about it, if sometimes a little ignorant. But then again, there are a lot of people I don’t feel I can tell. My family definitely wouldn’t understand, as they are very traditional, and I don’t tell people at work either. I feel like they would understand if I were gay and had a single partner of the same gender, but dating multiple people? I think that would be too odd for them.
Polyamory works for me right now. My partners are great, and it gives me a freedom to explore my sexuality, which I never felt like I had when I was in monogamous relationships. But my one wish would be that it was more widely known, more widely understood, and that I could talk about it openly.
About the Author:
Hannah Witton is a sex-positive vlogger, and winner of Best Sex and Relationships Influencer at the 2016 Cosmo Influencer Awards. This is her first book.