Does something about your romantic relationship just feel wrong?
Deep down, you don’t feel safe. This person you “fell in love with” has now become something less than a friend.
Maybe they’re obsessive, possessive, or cruel. Maybe they make you feel guilty for hanging out with your friends or family. Maybe they make threats. Or maybe other red flag behaviors are happening.
Do you find yourself trying to excuse their mean behavior? You tell yourself, "It must be my fault." Or, "It’s because of their bad family situation," or . . .
But when you’re honest with yourself, you know this person is not treating you right.
What can you do?
For teens, here are four good moves to make.
#1 - Trust Your Instincts.
Your instincts are key, according to Tammy Pitzl of WoMen’s Rural Advocacy Program (WRAP) “If you don't feel safe," Pitzl says, "there is reason to question [your relationship]. If you feel threatened, there's reason to question. Don't second-guess a question.”
Though you may be tempted to blame yourself for the abusive way your partner treats you, you know abuse is wrong. Any type of abuse.
So admit you have those questions. Which leads to #2.
#2 – Confide in a Trustworthy Adult.
Pitzl says the adult you pick should “be confidential, make you feel safe, and not judge—whether that be a parent, school counselor, or teacher.” Pitzl says she and her teammates are willing to be the ones you call, too. The same goes for the folks at New Horizons.
For 24/7 access to adult help anywhere in Minnesota, you can also call Day One Crisis Line.
A trustworthy adult can listen to your concerns and help you evaluate your situation. They can help you get immediate assistance if necessary, or help you solve smaller problems before they become big ones.
If it’s hard to know whether your problems are big or small, that’s where #3 comes in.
#3 – Know Your Boundaries.
You have some important rights in a dating relationship. One of them is to have your boundaries respected. Think through the answer to this question: How do you want to be treated?
Compare your ideas to this Dating Bill of Rights:
If your dating partner is taking away your rights, and not treating you as you deserve, that’s a problem. It’s time to put some distance between you.
And that leads to #4.
#4 - Don’t Wait to Get Help.
As soon as your instincts tell you that your dating partner doesn’t respect you, get help. Talk to that adult you trust. Develop a plan to stay safe. Take action to protect yourself.
Don’t try to “fix” your partner. That’s not your job. And it’s not likely to happen.
Remember, abuse starts small and grows into something ugly. Something you don’t deserve to have happen to you.
For Those On the Outside Looking In
If you are seeing the signs of an abusive relationship developing in the life of your friend—or your child—you can help.
Teens: Enlist an adult, such as a school counselor, teacher, or staff member to act on behalf of your friend. Be available even if your friend seems to be isolated from you. If you see abuse taking place, learn what to do to help.
Parents: Watch for changes in your child’s behavior, dress, social interactions, or mood. Listen carefully and non-judgmentally to anything your child tells you. Calling an agency like WRAP or New Horizons can help you decide what steps to take next.
Anyone: Witnessing violence is always a reason to call 911. Don’t stay quiet. Your taking action may keep someone alive and safe.
For Safer Communities
No one deserves abuse. And no one should stand by and let it happen. Let’s work together to stop dating violence.
At Choices Pregnancy Center, we want to see teen dating violence disappear. To that end, our staff spends one-on-one time with our clients, mentoring them in developing healthy relationships.
If you’re a teen facing pregnancy or parenting young children, call or text us today to start turning your relationships around.