Script #3: Counteracting Media’s Messages about Relationships

In this script, you will discuss with your teen the qualities of a healthy romantic relationship. You will address the impact of media in defining what a romantic relationship should look like and whether these messages are healthy. Listening to music or watching TV with your teen is a great way to initiate this conversation. By the end of this conversation, you and your teen should have generated a list of the qualities that each of you think are important in a healthy relationship.

Module 5: A Toxic Brew: Socialization, Masculinity, and Porn Culture

[One great way to start this conversation is to comment on a relationship from a movie, television show, or song that your teen is watching or listening to.] 

This song is so catchy and fun. This is the first time I really listened to the lyrics, and it sounds like the singer is really obsessed with their boyfriend/girlfriend.

Do you have to ruin everything?

 I promise I’m not trying to ruin the song; I actually really enjoy the music. I just think it’s important to be aware of the messages we receive from the media about what a relationship is “supposed” to be like.

Do you really think I just believe everything I hear?

No, I think you are brilliant and smart. But it still pays for us to talk about the qualities of a truly healthy relationship.

That sounds totally unnecessary.

 Something interesting happens when you experience your first real attraction to someone. It can feel amazing and exciting and kind of all-consuming, all at once.


Have you ever known anyone who got totally consumed by their first relationship? So much so that they were only spending time with that person and were ignoring their friends?

Not that extreme, but sort of. [If your teen doesn’t have an example, be ready to share one yourself.]

It is pretty common, but it’s worth thinking about how those feelings of excitement and attraction can shape how you understand the relationship. Sometimes the attraction is so intense that you can end up thinking you’re in love with the person.

So, maybe you are.

Right. Maybe you have this intense physical feeling for someone, and you really love each other. That can be an incredible experience. But sometimes the physical attraction can kind of take over common sense and so it pays to think now about the qualities you would look for. How would you know if someone actually loved or really cared for you?

I don’t know. You just know.

Maybe. But it’s possible that this feeling that you “just know” is based on some combination of physical attraction and what we’ve learned from movies and music. I think it’s important to talk about how you would know someone truly cared for you, and you cared for them.

It’s kind of obvious. They would do things for you and stuff.

Right, that may be one way of showing that you loved someone. What other qualities would you look for?

I don’t know. Like you could trust the person.

Trust would be vital. You want to trust the person you love. But that word “trust” can also be misused. What if someone said, “If you trusted me, you would give me the passwords to your social media accounts.”

You’re kidding, right. That would just be stupid.

I agree. So respect and boundaries are also essential qualities in a relationship.


What are some of the other things you think are important in a romantic relationship?

I don’t know. I guess respect, listening, and having a good time.

[It’s important to discuss the qualities your teen has brought up.] 

I agree. You are looking for trust, respect for each other’s opinions, respect for time with family and friends, listening to each other, and being able to have fun together. You don’t want the whole relationship to be about drama. When you watch TV shows or movies, sometimes it can seem like romantic relationships are supposed to be all drama. That can make for good TV but really stressful relationships. 

I’m not into drama. You really don’t have to worry about me.

I have another question for you.


How do you think that social media is changing relationships?

Do you know how old you sound?

Yeah. But it seems like, on social media, you are always having to prove your relationship online. That seems like a lot of work.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just what you do if you’re together with someone.

It sounds like it could be kind of fun, but it also sounds like a lot of pressure. Like, now that you’re together online, you have to keep it up and then be compared to other people.

It can be like that, but I don’t think you need to worry.

 I appreciated this conversation. It’s important to think and talk about these things. Something we don’t hear a lot about is the really high number of teens that end up in abusive relationships. I’m sure none of them thought that their relationship would be controlling or abusive. I’m also sure that in many cases they thought they were in love.  

That’s not going to happen to me.

 It is still imperative to be aware because it may happen to someone you know. It is essential to understand what is a healthy relationship, and also what is not.

I got it.

I know! You’re smart.