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Warning Signs for Young People in Abusive Relationships

Updated on September 24, 2020
janshares profile image

Janis has extensive experience as a licensed professional counselor in assisting clients recover from the pain of unhealthy relationships.

Unhealthy Relationships Affect Young People

Unhealthy love can create indecisiveness for one or both persons in the relationship.
Unhealthy love can create indecisiveness for one or both persons in the relationship. | Source

Before it Gets Worse: Look for Signs of a Troubled Relationship

For better or for worse, some couples can't seem to break the unhealthy dynamics that defines their relationship.

Look for these indicators which characterize unhealthy relationships:

  • The dynamic often includes drama and intense emotion, leading to several break-ups and reconciliations, usually within a short period of time.
  • It only seems to get worse over time with each "roller coaster" ride the couple takes, especially if they are young and inexperienced.
  • The cycle, over time, creates the foundation out of which an unhealthy, abusive relationship can develop.
  • Teenagers involved in unhealthy relationships may indicate a growing tolerance for later violence in their relationships.
  • Once an abusive relationship takes on the dynamics of intermittent occurrences of verbal, emotional, physical, and threatening behaviors, it will progress, intensify, and only get worse.

Red Flag Warnings in an Abusive Relationship

There are other indicators that your relationship is unhealthy as evidenced by the impact it has on you over time.

The longer you stay, the more likely you will begin to see the situation progress negatively.

Pay attention to these red flag warnings which may come in the form of changes you see in yourself:

  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Less assertive about voicing your opinion or making choices
  • Loss of self-respect, value, and self-worth
  • Feeling isolated from family and friends
  • Tendency to keep secrets about what's really going on
  • Increased absences at work and school due to fatigue or depression
  • Increased feelings of fear and intimidation in the presence of your partner
  • Using make-up or excuses to hide bruises and injuries

When you start to minimize the impact of these consequences, you are in denial.

Denial is a red flag in and of itself, indicating that you are in trouble.

Work up the courage to share these red flag warnings with a supportive person you can trust and who can help to give you another perspective.

It is very easy to become so accustomed to a situation that it doesn't look as bad as it is from the inside.

It is helpful to see it from another vantage point, where denial can be removed and the reality of your situation can be seen.

Understanding the Abuse Dynamics

The poem, "Back To You," depicts the emotional tug-of-war that one partner struggles to resolve.The bond between the couple is evidenced by the line, "let's go to bed."

Whether it's real love, convenience, or emotional dependency, it's easier from the point of view of the partner to just stay because there is positive gain in doing so.

This is referred to in trauma work as "Traumatic Bonding," defined as:

  • When a victim continues to stay in an abusive situation, the bond or dependency on the abuser becomes stronger because the abuser is also supplying emotional, sexual, and financial needs.

  • The victim looks forward to the "honeymoon periods" when things are going well. The victim's self-esteem continues to plummet as the dependency strengthens. Therein lies the insidious cycle of violence.

  • The violence is not always physical. It can involve verbal and emotional abuse, threats, or intimidation all of which are methods of controlling another person with fear.

A Poem About the Ups and Downs of Abusive, Unhealthy Relationships

"Back To You"

Falling in and out of love,

Holding on for life,

The vice of love is killing me,

It cuts me like a knife.

To what do I still owe this ride,

The ups and downs of love,

The roller coaster sickens me,

I look to God above.

In spite of instability,

I end up back with you,

Connected at the heart and hip,

Indeed we're stuck like glue.

Never to let go of love,

Painful as it gets,

Returning to your bidding arms,

I can't let go as yet.

I know your love is bad for me,

At times it feels so good,

In denial we live and breathe,

Unlike we know we should.

In any case, I'm back again,

Hanging by a thread,

With you I'll always be in love,

Come on, let's go to bed.

(JLE 2007)

Patterns Can Develop Early in Teenage Relationships

Inexperience, fear, and misplaced loyalties can keep young couples stuck and confused about what to do when the relationship no longer feels right..
Inexperience, fear, and misplaced loyalties can keep young couples stuck and confused about what to do when the relationship no longer feels right.. | Source

Teens Talk About Unhealthy Relationships

Getting Professional Help and Support

If you can relate to the poem above or this description of what constitutes an unhealthy relationship, consider professional help. Talking to someone can help re-frame your perspective about your relationship and help you explore alternatives.

If you feel threatened or unsafe in your current relationship, your emotional and physical safety are most important. Talk to someone you trust, a family member or a friend. If necessary, do not hesitate to get support and immediate assistance by calling 911. For more information, contact:

National Coalition for Domestic Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE

Young People Can Have Healthy Relationships

Young people, when giving the right information, can work out their relationships, hopefully for the better.
Young people, when giving the right information, can work out their relationships, hopefully for the better. | Source

Am I in an unhealthy relationship?

After reading this article, I realize . . .

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Janis Leslie Evans


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    • janshares profile imageAUTHOR

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      6 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you for those comments, grand old lady. I hope it reaches many teenagers who need help. You are so right about them listening to each other so I hope if one sees it, he or she will share with another. I appreciate your visit.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      This is short and simple. Every teen should read this article. Some teens are so sheltered they don't recognize when they are in an abusive relationship. The video is very helpful because teens tend to listen more to other teens.

    • janshares profile imageAUTHOR

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      7 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you very much, summerberrie. I appreciate your comments and visit. I hope it helps someone who is searching for answers.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is so beautiful and well done. Lots of useful information and your lovely poem is showcased nicely!

    • janshares profile imageAUTHOR

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      8 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you for the comments LL and Just.

      It is very sad that legal issues prevent some from getting the help they need. The ultimate goal is to make a strong case against the abuser to protect the victim and hold the abuser accountable later. Prevention and early warning signs are the best course to prevent escalation.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Well done Hub! I am a fighter and have worked hard to make a relationship work, but you are right you have to know when it becomes an unhealthy thing to do and just let go and move on. As hard as it may be for some to believe love alone will not keep you together.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      8 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Someone very close to me has been trying to leave this vicious cycle and has sought out domestic violence shelters for women, only to learn that if there are no documented (police) reports of physical violence, there is no place in the shelter.

      I suspect this criteria is tied to stipulations from the funding sources, but it ignores the women who are victims of emotional/mental abuse. Another tragedy of our times, I believe.

      Wonderful, spot on insight in your message; voted up and shared.

    • janshares profile imageAUTHOR

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      8 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you very much for your comment, glad you enjoyed it.

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 

      8 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      Very power ful and straight, i like your style of conveying message, started following, voted awesome.

    • janshares profile imageAUTHOR

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      8 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks for the welcome and the critique. I look forward to sharing more.

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      8 years ago from US

      Love your poetry style. Great profession, welcome to HP!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      8 years ago from California

      Nicely done!!! Welcome to the Hub! Looking forward to reading more of your work and will share this one---

    • janshares profile imageAUTHOR

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      8 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you soooooo much!

    • dallaswriter profile image


      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Great poetry! Voted up and awesome and now a follower....

    • janshares profile imageAUTHOR

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      8 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you very much. You certainly have the personal family experience to relate.

    • rcrumple profile image


      8 years ago from Kentucky

      Very strong poem. I had an aunt and uncle that got married four times and divorced three. They couldn't live with each other but couldn't live without each other. This poem reminds me so much of them it's amazing. The only part that worries me is the "painful as it gets" line. If this is insinuating physical abuse, then the whole story changes. No one is worth that. If it's not physical abuse, it's a match made in heaven regardless of what man believes. Very beautiful poem, either way! Up & Beautiful


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