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Tamsin's Corner

TamsinTamsin's Corner

Written by: Abby

Tamsin Gonsalves was a history major at Kutztown University. She was petite with golden-blond hair. Tamsin had a baby-doll face and her big brown eyes complemented her soft, welcoming smile. She loved the beach, surfing, Europe, running, ballet, rock-climbing and most of all, her friends. In May 2007, her mother and sister accepted her diploma at commencement. Tamsin was not in attendance because she died in July 2006, committing suicide. When something like this happens, it always generate questions, some of which can never be answered. The tragedy of Tamsin's suicide continues to concern her friends, relatives, and Kutztown classmates.

The day of Tamsin's death was unusual. According to Kristen Smith's "Suicide Sparks Questions" article in Kutztown University's Keystone newspaper, Tamsin called her boyfriend and asked him to come see her. He refused because he had to go to work and the two argued. He assumed that Tamsin would text message him like she usually did after an argument, but the text message never came. Later that night, he went to Tamsin's house and yelled, but there was no response.

The members of the Women's Center were saddened by this tragedy. What could cause such a "happy" and outgoing student to take her life? It seems like this final argument with her boyfriend may have been what sent Tamsin over the edge. At the request of Tamsin's mother, we have dedicated this section of our website to information about maintaining healthy relationships.

Half of Us offers information about suicide, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and a variety of other mental health topics. If you are having trouble coping, this site can help.

Tamsin's Corner

The Dreamer
There once was a young girl,
Not much over fourteen,
Didn't know anything,
but knew everything.
She had a lot to learn in the world.
Nothing was what she dreamed;
The flowers, they didn't smell as sweet;
The stream, it wasn't as clean;
The sky, it wasn't as blue,
From the way she dreamed it would be.
But one day, after losing herself
In the deep dark woods of reality,
She woke up from that dream,
Started to see things the way they really were,
And once she saw reality,
She found herself, her true self in that dream
She'd dreamed so many times before

~Tamsin Gonsalves

Tamsin's Corner

Surviving a Breakup
Ending a relationship is never easy. Because relationships, especially romantic relationships, are such a large part of your life, healing takes time. Dealing with a breakup is much like dealing with the death of a loved one. According to a class discussion in Dr. Duane Crider's Personal Health Management class, at Kutztown University, you must go through the five stages of grief before you can move on.

The Five Stages of Grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There is no rule saying that you must go through the stages in this exact order. You may experience these stages in any order or even repeat some stages. Every person is different and will grieve in his or her own way. What is most important is that you give yourself time to heal.

When you are in denial you refuse to accept the break up. You may tell yourself that your partner will get over it: "It was just a fight, not a breakup. We'll get back together."

The anger stage is when you are furious over the breakup. You may blame your partner or someone else: "I can't believe this happened to me."

In this stage you try to get your partner back. You might beg for forgiveness or promise to change.

At this stage you give up. You may be overcome with sadness at the fact that your partner is gone: "Nothing matters anymore."

This is the final stage of the grieving process. At this stage you realize that your life must go on. You are different now, without your partner, but you can and will survive.

There are some relationship breakup survival tips from "Help Your Student Survive Relationship Breakups," published March 19, 2004 by Mary Anne Knapp, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. This entire article can be found at the Penn State Website, or in the Women's Center Relationships Resource file.

College as a Place to Learn Relationship Skills

As children, we learn from our surroundings. We see how our parents and other role-models behave in relationships and we mimic their actions. But it is not until we get older that we have a chance to use those lessons. In high school or college we have our first romantic relationships. College is especially important, because for many of us it is our first time away from home. We meet a whole new set of role-models and can experience and experiment with love away from our parents.

College is a great opportunity to learn good relationship skills that we may not have seen as children. It is also the perfect time to unlearn bad relationship skills. It may come naturally for us to fall into unhealthy patterns, but we can work through it and create a new, healthier way to coexist.

In an article by Ann D. Carden, of University Hospitals of Cleveland, titled "Wife Abuse and the Wife Abuser: Review and Recommendations," Carden points out the pattern of violence that often exists in families that have experienced abuse. She writes, "Violence is a culturally transmitted 'disease' of epidemic proportions in the contemporary United States, and domestic violence (i.e., emotional and/or physical abuse between members of a nuclear family/intimate system) is one of the most insidious expressions." Carden is saying that abusers learn to abuse and victims learn to be subservient from their family situations. These people grow up to find someone to abuse or to abuse them. It becomes a cycle of parents sharing their unhealthy behaviors with children who in turn share them with their own children.

The good news is that college is a time for change. It is a time for abusers to realize the error in their actions and get help. It is a time for victims to escape and find assistance. It is a time for everyone to get to know and love themselves. If you feel that you are at risk of becoming half of an unhealthy relationship, talk to a counselor at the health and wellness center or come to the Women's Center for information and emergency contact numbers. There may never be a time in your life when you have more access to help and information. Please, take advantage of it.

Healthy Relationships

Being in a relationship is hard work, but having a healthy relationship is worth it. When you work with your partner, have rewarding communication and feel good about yourself and your partner, you are reaping the benefits of a healthy relationship.

What is a Healthy Relationship?

Dian Katz, MS describes the characteristics of any healthy romantic relationship in her article, "Roadmap for Healthy Relationships", published in the 2003 edition of Lesbian News:
VALIDATION: It is not possible to meet every single one of your partner's wants and needs, but you must listen to what your partner is saying. Each partner must feel understood and validated.

RESPECT: In a healthy relationship both people respect themselves and their partner. When you respect who and what you are, it's easier to feel and show respect for others.

TRUST: Trust is an attribute with a solid foundation that is built over time and based upon one's actions. If one party does not trust the other, the relationship can not grow or sustain itself.

HONESTY: It's critical to share your feelings with each other so intimacy can grow strong and prosper in a truthful atmosphere.

COMMUNICATION: Communication that is firm, but loving is the most effective way of getting your point across. Discuss your feelings. It's not only "what" you say that's important, but also "how" you say it. Remember to be kind.

TOLERANCE: No one is perfect. We all must be willing to understand and show tolerance for our partner's problem areas. Figure out what is important and then try to overlook some of the little things that don't really matter. This leaves more time to concentrate on the real issues.

EFFORT: A relationship is a mutual partnership, and both individuals must contribute to make it work. The relationship cannot thrive if only one person is making an effort.

INDEPENDENCE: Both individuals need a life. Two whole people make a "whole" relationship. This means that each person should come into the relationship as a complete person. A relationship only enhances what is already there. It does not fix the emptiness that one person may be experiencing.

OUTSIDE FRIENDSHIPS: No relationship can be a closed entity. Nobody can fulfill all the needs of one person. Lovers need friends outside of their partnerships. Outside friendships will actually enhance the relationship because each partner can come back to the relationship with new energy and vitality.

FUN: Couples are supposed to have fun. It's not all about work! Look for ways to add fun, joy and excitement. Looking at the same things in a different way can add new dimensions to your togetherness.

HUMOR: Learn to laugh at yourself, each other, and your relationship. Seek out things that make you both laugh. Life is meant to be enjoyed and there is no better enjoyment than a good, deep belly laugh. Be sure not to make fun at another's expense-especially your partner's.

ENCOURAGEMENT: Individuals must be willing to encourage and help partners to meet personal goals.

OPENNESS: Be willing to take on new challenges and see them not as problems, but as opportunities for growth.

BALANCE: Balance means that the partners can spend time alone as a couple or do things with friends and family members outside of the relationship. Healthy couples argue and debate but also love and laugh. Everything that is necessary for the relationship to thrive is done in proportion.

Having a Healthy Relationship

To have a healthy relationship you must first be comfortable with yourself. Know your own goals and be able to be independent. Being your own person means that if you break up with your partner, you can still be a fully functioning person.

When you do start dating, communication is the key. Tell your partner about your goals and feelings, and listen when your partner shares ideas with you. Use eye contact and make specific statements. Show concern for your partner and do not belittle or mock. Keep an open dialogue. You cannot change another person, but you can learn the reasons why they do certain things, and that better understanding will keep the relationship strong. Every relationship has conflict, but with good communication skills you and your partner can get through it.

Signs of an abusive relationship

Excessive criticism from one partner to another.
One partner seems to be ignored or undervalued.
One partner pressures the other to spend less time with friends and family, and more time alone with the partner.
One person yells, lies to, or belittles the other.
A partner becomes violent: hitting, kicking, or forcing unwanted sexual contact on his/her partner.
Alcohol and/or drug abuse is a large part of the relationship.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of an unhealthy relationship, you can get help. If you have a friend who you suspect is in an abusive relationship, you should tell that friend that it is not okay, and help is available. If you are doing some of these things to your partner, you can stop and get help that will benefit both of you. There is a list of valuable contacts in the Resources section of this website. Below is a list of websites that will offer more education and help for these problems.

The Family Violence Protection Fund offers information about preventing domestic violence.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers information to help you protect yourself and others. It also has law and policy information as well as news and events listings.

Hotlines and corresponding websites

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Berks Women in Crisis

Turning Point of Lehigh Valley

National Sexual Assault Hotline

Pennsylvanian Coalition Against Rape