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Warning Signs for Young People in Abusive Relationships
Unhealthy Relationships Affect Young People
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.
- 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 Dynamics of Abusive Relationships
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.
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.
The Patterns Can Begin Early in Teen Relationships
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
Definition of Abusive Relationships
New Resource for Victims of Assault on College Campuses
- Not Alone
Sexual assault resources and information for students, schools, and advocates.
Am I in an unhealthy relationship?
After reading this article, I realize . . .
Young People Can Have Healthy Relationships
© 2012 Janis Leslie Evans