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

Who decides who I will live with? Do I get a say?

In some cases, your parents will make the decisions together about who you will live with and how that will work.

If they can't decide themselves, they might go to a mediator for help in reaching an agreement. Or they might have to go to court and have a judge make the decisions for them.

Whether your parents make the decisions about custody and parenting time (visitation) themselves, or with the help of a mediator or a judge, your opinion may be taken into account.

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.

Will I be able to spend time with both parents?

In the vast majority of cases, children get to spend time with both parents. How much time you spend with each parent, and exactly how that will work, will depend on your custody and parenting time (visitation) arrangements.

Remember: Parents divorce each other, not their children. Your parents are still your parents, and they still love you.

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.

I really feel like I need some help in dealing with this. Who should I ask?

There are lots of people around you who can help. Tell your parents, teacher, school counselor, family doctor or another adult you trust. If they can't help you themselves, they should be able to help you find someone who can.

If you aren't getting the help you think you need, keep asking until you get it.