Healthy and Abusive Relationships

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In a healthy relationship, the partners:

  • listen to each other
  • consider each other's thoughts and feelings
  • respect, trust and support each other
  • recognize each other's strengths and achievements
  • respect each other's culture
  • decide together if and when to have sex
  • feel safe with each other, both alone and with others
  • enjoy spending time with each other, both alone and with others
  • encourage each other to spend time with friends and family when they want to feel good about and take care of themselves.

In an abusive relationship, one person might :

  • ignore the other person's feelings and wishes
  • ignore or pretend not to hear the other person
  • call the other person names
  • put the other person down about the way he or she dresses, talks, walks, dance and so on
  • get jealous when the other person is around guys or girls
  • be suspicious about the other person's activities all the time
  • control the other person with threats
  • control how much time the other person spends with friends and family
  • embarrass or tease the other person in a mean way
  • play mean tricks on the other person
  • not keep the other person's secrets
  • act more friendly when alone with the other person than when his or her friends are around
  • sulk when the other person doesn't do what he or she wants threaten suicide
  • encourage or pressure the other person to do things that make him or her feel uncomfortable
  • show anger and use threats and/or violence to get his or her own way
  • refuse to accept the other person's limits about sexual activity.
  • push the other person around, or hit him or her
  • take or destroy the other person's possessions
  • hurt or threaten to hurt the other person's pet.

Do you recognize yourself as doing any of these things to another person, or having any of them done to you? If so, you may be in an abusive relationship. Whether you are the person abusing another or the person being abused, get help. Talk to a school counselor, family doctor or another adult you trust. Ask him or her to help you find a counselor or community program that can help. Contact the rape or sexual assault crisis center in your community.

Q & A

Can I do anything to get my parents back together?

Most parents split up only after trying very hard to save their relationship. Their decision to separate or divorce is usually final.

Some teens hope and believe that if they try to be on their very best behavior, their parents will get back together. However, this plan isn't likely to work, since their parents' decision to split up had nothing to do with them.

Apart from suggesting that your parents see a marriage counselor, if they haven't already done so, the best thing that you can do is to begin to accept the situation so that you can get on with your life.

What will my friends say when they find out about my parents splitting up?

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. Some feel embarrassed about what is happening.

Separation and divorce are very common these days. That means that many people have been through it themselves, and most probably know someone who has.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. They'll know that you're still you, even though your family is changing.

My parents never married. Do they have to go through the same process that married parents do when they split up?

Parents who never married or chose to live together without getting married—don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end. But they do need to decide what will happen to their children and how they will divide their property.

I'm feeling really upset and confused about my parents splitting up. Is this normal?

It's natural — and entirely normal — to experience some intense emotions. You will feel better over time. There are lots of ways to help yourself feel better, and people who can help you if you need it.

I have so many questions about why this has happened and what is going to happen in the future. How much can I ask my parents?

If there are things you need to know, ask.

You have a right to ask questions about what is going to happen and why. Although you need to respect your parents' right to privacy, they have a responsibility to answer your questions as best they can about things that directly affect you.