Romantic relationships and their effects on Youth Mental Health

Romantic relationships and their effects on Youth Mental Health

Romantic relationships as presented in movies and storybooks paints a rosy picture of what these types of relations are. The stories often center on a damsel in distress who is rescued by a noble prince in shining armor and they ride away into the sunset to live happily ever after.  Anyone who has ever been in a romantic relationship will tell you that this is all a lie. This fiction has been embraced mostly by women and girls and some men too. Talk to adolescent girls and many of them will you that they can’t wait to find a rich, tall, dark, and handsome man who will marry them and they live happily ever after. Adolescent boys on the other hand will be looking for ways to grow that beard, to get that swag. The boys will process to want to make a lot of money drive the latest car models and date the hottest chic in town if not in the world.  These high expectations of what a romantic relationship should be would eventually lead to young men and young women getting entangled into situations that lead to heartbreaks and bitterness towards relationships in general and romantic relationships in particular.

Many youths due to this ‘fairy-tale’ notion of what romance is, get themselves into teenage parenthood which in many cases affects their education where they have to drop out to raise and provide for the child. In such a situation, there are a lot of socio-economic strains that they face and battle daily. In such a situation, the youth especially those in the economic lower class, are in perpetual stress about where to get their next meal and how to provide other basic needs for the family. It is easy to fall into depression and eventually start considering suicide as the only way out.

When youth buy the fantasy being sold by the entertainment industry on romance, they may find themselves in an abusive relationship which they are unable to get out of because it has all the markers for ‘their ideal mate’.  There are words and phrases which are slowly gaining popularity and are becoming more mainstream. The word combining the female sexual organ and starts with the letter ‘p and ‘whipped’ has been around for a long time. This generally refers to a man who takes his female partner’s position irrespective of what his personal views are.  A man who has been ‘wrapped around his wife’s or girlfriend’s little finger’. Nothing his partner does is wrong. His partner knows best and he has neither thoughts nor opinions of his own. This is mainly due to his fear of being denied access to sex. Women on the other side have something which combines the name of the male sexual organ starting with a ‘D’ and ‘matization’. That is when the sex is so good that even if the man is abusive or does not live up to the expectations of the woman; she stays because of the good sex. These situations are becoming more and more normal. The feeling of being trapped in an abusive relationship and the inability to get out of especially when you are aware that it is not what you want nor can desire lead to depression and in the end suicide.

Social media has created a monster in terms of what people show versus what reality is. When a person is constantly bombarded by pictures and videos of people living the fairytale romance cause those in ‘less than ideal relationships start stressing about why they are unable to land such a catch.  Celebrity couples post each other’s pictures with saucy messages about ‘forever love’ and ‘finding soul mates’ which may trigger other couples to get into unnecessary fights of unnecessary breakups just because one partner wants what they see on social media only to realize later that all those posts were fake or were a farce. The reality was that the celebrity couples were on their way to a breakup. The realization that you broke up with a person because of a lie is heart-wrenching and will surely cause emotional turmoil.

The reason humans gravitate towards fairy tales is that we all want the ideal.  We want to be happy and to have it all. Fairytales and romantic movies and songs will continue being produced and sold. How then can youth enjoy the fairytales as just that, fairytales?

The first step is being grounded in reality.

The reality is that a young person from a low-income settlement is typically not capable of providing a lavish lifestyle for himself and his love interest unless he has won the lottery or is involved in crime.  The fact that the young man cannot rely on the parent’s nonexistent wealth means that he has years of grinding ahead of him. Expecting him to take you on vacations and support your dream life is causing undue stress on the young man and the perfect recipe for heartbreak. The young men should also not expect their girlfriends to be like the Instagram models many of whom are as they are due to creative photography, expensive makeup, and photo filters.  Expecting every girl to be like that is foolish and unrealistic. Grounding oneself in reality and taking the world as it is and not as it should be, is important to maintaining one’s sanity and promoting one’s positive mental health. Young men should try to date Instagram models and they will be brought back to reality since they cannot afford to support that lifestyle 

Youth should also work on having a positive mindset that is based on their reality. A broke young man should not expect to be successful dating women of a certain caliber like models, movie stars, celebrities, etc. That lifestyle is not for those of us who struggle to put food on the table.  Young girls should not expect our broke young men to provide a celebrity’s lifestyle either. If she wants that life, she should date someone with the means. People with the means will have demands on her which she may not be comfortable delivering. A positive mindset grounded on reality recognizes what is within your reach and what is out of your reach. It also encourages people to appreciate who they are and what they have. Wanting to live your life like your Facebook friends will only lead to a mental breakdown and possibly depression. You may be cursing your life because you cannot afford a car while another person’s only wish is to not have to worry about going to bed hungry.

Psychotherapy is one underutilized coping strategy that youth should start taking up in large numbers. Romance challenges will always be present so youth will always need help in navigating the relationship difficulties.  Youths complain that therapy is expensive and thus they cannot afford it but they have no problem blowing thousands of shillings on alcohol every other weekend. Some organizations offer free psychosocial services like Nzumari Africa in Huruma and Reuben Centre in Mukuru. Some government health centers in Nairobi also provide free psychosocial  services like Kariobangi Health Centre in Kasarani Sub-county and Kahawa west Health Centre in Ruaraka Sub County amongst 

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