Everybody knows how exciting it is when a new relationship is budding. You see the person in the hallways and you feel those little pesky butterflies in your stomach. Ah. Young love. There’s nothing like it. It’s even exciting to just watch it with your friends! All those chats after school about their current beau and how amazing he is (which I’m sure he is!).
It’s easy to get swept away in the magic of it all; whether it’s a relationship of your own or just one involving your best friend. Just remember, relationships are not always sugar plums and gumdrops. They’re fragile and need constant nourishment and work. The first 3-6 months of a relationship are typically called the “honeymoon phase,” which means that we’re usually so wrapped up in the enchantment of this new relationship that we might not be thinking clearly… We’re willing to let a lot of things pass under our radar because… Well, aren’t they just so adorable and perfect?
Unfortunately, there are many people who may not catch the red flags that they need to and end up finding themselves helplessly in love in an abusive relationship. They might see the different problems which arise but tend to reason them out or be too willing to forgive someone for inexcusable actions. Have you ever heard “It’s alright- s/he said s/he’s sorry” or “But I know s/he really loves me!” time after time? This person is just in a state of denial, or just isn’t ready to accept that they are involved in an abusive relationship. Don’t forget, both boys AND girls can both be the abused and the abuser. Gender does not define either role.
Now – what exactly is an abusive relationship? Abuse is anything which can cause both physical and psychological harm to another person. Abuse is defined as the systematic pattern of behaviors in a relationship that are used to gain and/or maintain power and control over another.
Therefore, an abusive relationship is one in which a partner purposely tries to control someone, often by causing some sort of harm to another. There are many different ways in which a person can be abused; but they are typically grouped into these categories: physical, emotional, psychological and sexual.
Physical abuse is what many people typically think of when they hear ‘abusive relationship’. It is when a physical harm is caused by one partner to the other. This can include: slapping, choking, grabbing, shaking, smacking, kicking, punching, etc. It is NEVER alright to physically hurt a partner. I don’t care what the situation is – just don’t do it. You hear me? Don’t. Do. It. Never!!!!
Emotional abuse includes cursing swearing, attacks on self-esteem, blaming, criticizing your thoughts feelings or any other behaviors that aim to manipulate another person in a relationship.
Psychological abuse includes threatening, throwing, smashing, breaking things, punching walls, hiding things, sabotaging your car or any other action that causes mental trauma and stress.
Sexual abuse includes any non-consenting sexual act or behavior
The most often overlooked form of abuse though is emotional abuse. It’s not quite as obvious, and most people assume since it’s not ‘physical’ or ‘sexual’ so it must not be ‘abuse’. But anything which may belittle, manipulate or cause any psychological damage to a partner constitutes an emotionally or psychologically abusive relationship. This can include: a partner controlling aspects of the others life (how one dresses, who they hang out with, etc.), humiliates the other, makes their partner feel unworthy, threatens the other if they show any sign of leaving the relationship, twists the truth to put blame on the other partner, demands to know where their partner is all the time, or shows anger or jealousy when their partner spends times with their friends.
Another way a person can be emotionally abusive is in pressuring their partner with unwanted sexual advances. When one person says something along the lines of “If you loved me, you would…”, that person is trying to manipulate the other. If you do not feel comfortable engaging in sexual behavior with your boyfriend/girlfriend, then say no. And if they’re unhappy with that, then they don’t respect your opinions and obviously don’t deserve you. Cut them loose, because they don’t have your best interest at heart. If they loved you they would be willing to wait.
Signs that a person close to you may be in an abusive relationship are: unusual bruises which don’t match an explanation, a drastic change in personality (i.e. somebody who is usually upbeat becomes quiet and withdrawn), problems with schools, not hanging out with their friends and spending all of their time with their new partner, not making decisions for themselves, sudden changes in the way they dress or look, abusing drugs or alcohol, change in appetite or sleep, more depressed or anxious than usual, changes in the way they use technology such as cell phones and internet.
Abuse is common and not many people realize they may be in an abusive relationship. This is more than the problem of bullying in schools or peer pressure (Teen Advice About Peer Pressure, Bullying and School Violence).
If you think you, a friend, or a loved one might be in an abusive relationship then GET HELP. Being in an abusive relationship can cause damage in both the present and future. Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Check out some warning signs here (Dating Violence Date Rape Warning Signs). If you are a parent or a teen mentor, get some tips on talking about this topic here (Dating Violence – What Can a Parent Do – Teen Dating Violence).