Teen partner abuse takes place at an alarming rate. Facts indicate that as many as 12% of youth in grades 7 through 12 have been victims of physical dating violence. In addition, 20% of youth have suffered from psychological dating violence. This abuse puts victims in danger of on-going risky sexual behavior, unhealthy eating, drug use, suicidal behaviors, as well as physical injury and death. These victims are also more likely to become sufferers of intimate partner violence as adults.
How Healthy Is My Relationship?
Below are two lists, one of healthy relationship characteristics and one of unhealthy traits. Many relationships have a combination of both. The point of this exercise is to figure out what in your relationship is healthy or unhealthy so you can gain appreciation and decide what you want to change.
IS IT HEALTHY?
If you and this person…
- Have fun together more often than not
- Each enjoy spending time separately, with your own friends, as well as with each other’s friends
- Always feel safe with each other
- Trust each other
- Are faithful to each other if you have made this commitment
- Support each other’s opinions, even when they are different
- Solve conflicts without putting each other down, cursing at each other or making threats
- Both accept responsibility for your actions
- Both apologize when you’re wrong
- Have equal decision-making power about what you do in your relationship
- Each control your own money
- Are proud to be with each other
- Encourage each other’s interests- like sports & extracurricular activities
- Have some privacy- your letters, diary, personal phone calls are respected as your own
- Have close friends & family who like the other person and are happy about your relationship
- Never feel like you’re being pressured for sex
- Communicate about sex, if your relationship is sexual
- Allow each other ‘space’ when you need it
- Always treat each other with respect
IS IT UNHEALTHY?
If one of you…
- Gets extremely jealous or accuses the other of cheating
- Puts the other down by calling names, cursing or making the other feel bad about him or herself
- Yells at and treats the other like a child
- Doesn’t take the other person, or things that are important to him/her, seriously
- Doesn’t listen when the other talks
- Frequently criticizes the other’s friends or family
- Pressures the other for sex, or makes sex hurt or feel humiliating
- Has ever threatened to hurt the other or commit suicide if they leave
- Cheats or threatens to cheat
- Tells the other how to dress
- Has ever grabbed, pushed, hit, or physically hurt the other
- Blames the other for your own behavior (“If you hadn’t made me mad, I wouldn’t have…”)
- Embarrasses or humiliates the other
- Smashes, throws or destroys things
- Tries to keep the other from having a job or furthering his/her education
- Makes all the decisions about what the two of you do
- Tries to make the other feel crazy or plays mind games
- Goes back on promises
- Acts controlling or possessive- like you own your partner
- Uses alcohol or drugs as an excuse for hurtful behavior
- Ignores or withholds affection as a way of punishing the other
- Depends completely on the other to meet social or emotional needs
- Endangers the other while driving
- Doesn’t take ‘NO’ for an answer
This list is a way of identifying some of the healthy and unhealthy characteristics of your relationship. It does not cover every possible situation. You may want to share this list with someone in your support system, and talk about where and how you can begin to make changes in your relationship.
- Be realistic: If you’re looking for the perfect date or mate or state, you’re in trouble for two reasons: First, perfection is unlikely, if not impossible. Second, if a perfect person were to exist, he or she would most likely be looking for a perfect person too.So ask yourself about your expectations: Are you being reasonable? Are you asking too much of yourself, too much of your date, or too much of the situation? Best friends are really helpful in the reality check department. So when in doubt, it’s okay to say, “Am I being realistic here, or have I overdosed on romance pills?”
- Be specific: Often, when people talk about the opposite sex, they either go all gooey and soft focus or become harsh and judgmental. Neither stance is particularly helpful. Look carefully at the details. Being specific is one of the best ways not only to problem-solve but to be realistic as well.
- Take responsibility: All of us make mistakes — sometimes because we’re thoughtless, sometimes because we’re clueless, often out of ignorance. But when it’s clear you blew it, even though every instinct is saying play dumb, accept responsibility.
- Be active: Don’t wait for someone to call you. Either make the call, take a walk, scrub the floor, scrape gum off your shoes, or jog. Don’t wait for someone else to make your day or make you happy or get the ball rolling. This is your life, not a dress rehearsal.
- Don’t settle: A life is a series of compromises — going left when you wanted to go right because the taxi cut you off, taking the chicken on the buffet table because the prime rib was all gone, and going to the prom with your best friend because you thought your dream date would turn you down. There’s nothing bad or wrong about being flexible. The trick is knowing when to compromise and when not to compromise.To do that, you have to know what’s really important to you, and once you know that, don’t settle. If you don’t have what you want, make sure you do know what you want — being both realistic and specific — and then go for it. You can always reevaluate. What most people regret is not the mistakes they made but the chances they didn’t take.
- Reevaluate often: Something that made you happy or behavior that pleased you or someone who rang your chimes once may or may not be in for the long haul. The only way of knowing the short term from the long term is to be willing to take your own emotional pulse from time to time.
- Write stuff down: A log can be really useful and helpful to pinpoint important times, beginnings of issues, and changes in the relationship. It’s a great way to keep us honest and focused, and as long as you don’t leave it around for someone to find and read, there is no downside here. A log also is a way of taking responsibility privately so we can practice before we take it publicly.
- Be creative: You’re not like anybody else on the planet, and neither is your date. So why do the two of you have to follow anybody else’s rules or precedents about what you want, how you act, where you go, or how you communicate? If it’s okay with the two of you — and it’s not illegal — then why not?
- Be aware: Pay attention to your date and to your own responses. You don’t have to constantly monitor as though your date were in dating ICU and liable to expire at any moment, but be willing every once in a while to step out a bit and see what’s going on. How are you? How does the date seem to be doing? Are you happy? Is it fun? Are you being attentive? Do you need more sleep? Are your senses being dulled?Being dense is a tough way to lead your life and dangerous when you’re dealing with someone else who wants you tuned in.
- Analyze fear: It is impossible to be completely without fear, and that’s okay. Fear warns us. After all, it would be stupid to cross the street without looking or do a header off the Empire State Building.We can look at our fear, our assumptions, our anger, our patterns and decide to try to do something different. The moment we do that, our fear no longer controls us. We’re in charge of our own life, and paradoxically, these moments are most likely to happen when we let another person into our intimate life.
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