Love can lead to wellness

When Liam Crouse was a soccer referee, he never thought one of the players on the field would end up playing a major role in his life.

The fourth-year University of King’s College student and his girlfriend, Leah Wiseman, have been dating for a year and a half. Crouse says their relationship contributes to his overall health.

“She affects my mental and emotional health in a positive way,” he says.

“Also, she improves my physical health. She makes me workout,” he jokes.

They say their ability to communicate and support each other is what helps make even the bad days good.

Wiseman has suffered from panic attacks, and is currently coping with her dad’s ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) diagnosis. When having a sense of humour doesn’t work, Crouse is there as a shoulder to cry on.

“A healthy relationship is kind of like a safe haven,” says Wiseman. “And being able to surprise the other person and do little things that make them happy is important, because it’s not just about what makes you happy.”

Even though they live together, both Crouse and Wiseman make an effort to dress up and go out on dates. Getting ready in different rooms to surprise each other like they did when they first started dating helps keep things fresh and fun.

Crouse says being able to distinguish the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship is essential.

“Being in fear of someone, not being able to communicate and having one person in control over the other is dangerous,” says Crouse. “The reason they’re your partner is because they’re your partner – not your boss.”

Jude Ashburn, outreach coordinator at Halifax’s South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre, says figuring out how to have a healthy relationship in today’s world can be a challenge.

“We live in such an oppressive society,” says Ashburn. “With transphobic, sexist and racist mindsets, it’s easy to wonder how to have a healthy relationship.”

South House provides free condoms, pregnancy tests and a variety of sexual health resources to faculty, staff and students at Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College, but helps anyone in need.

Volunteer driven and student-funded through Dalhousie, South House creates guides to promote sex education and health.

“Being educated about what makes a relationship good is crucial,” says Ashburn. “We have a lot of support from societies like DalOUT and the Mental Health Collective to create workshops that talk about healthy relationships and consent.”

Christine Ollier works at Venus Envy, a sex shop and bookstore on Barrington Street. She says communication is crucial in all aspects of a good relationship – especially when it comes to that three-letter word.

“You have to talk about sex to have great sex,” says Ollier.

“You’re never going to know the best way to touch or please your partner until you ask them what they like. And when they do tell you, be open minded.”

The shop helps make sex education and sex products more accessible and hosts events to encourage Haligonians to have better sex lives.

Venus Envy’s next event, Mouthing Off: All About Oral is being held on Feb. 9. The event will educate people about anatomy, safe sex, positions, and different techniques for oral sex regardless of gender or sexuality.

Ollier stresses the need for education about sexual health – knowing how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies, for example, can contribute to your physical and mental health.

“The more educated you are, the more healthy you are,” says Ollier. “And the healthier you are, the happier you are.”