If I had known earlier what I know now about the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, I would have been spared a lot of pain, humiliation and heartache. I am going to talk about some of the warning signs that I hopefully would have noticed, if this was a topic that was more widely discussed. If you or someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, think about these warning signs and if they sound familiar. This is not a complete list, but these signs are good to pay attention to.
Warning #1 – Isolation.
Are you giving up things that used to be important to you? Have you lost some of your friendships or interests you used to enjoy? Are you more isolated than you were before this relationship existed?
- When I was in the abusive relationship I gave up more than I realized. I was a member of the local youth symphony, which had practice after school. He told me he wanted to spend more time with me, and with his football and my symphony practice there was added strain in our relationship. He never told me I had to quit, but I knew there would be a fight, and I would do anything to avoid the fights.
- I also became an unreliable member of my crew team during our relationship. Crew practice began at 4:45 a.m. and he always wanted to be the first person to talk to me every day. He would call me at 4 knowing I would be up, and would always try and convince me to come over to his house and skip practice. Most of the time I would just talk to him and then go to practice, but when there had been a recent rough patch between us and I felt a fight could break out if I said no, I would often go over to his house and skip practice.
Warning #2 – Jealousy.
If your partner is jealous of you talking to people, it could be a red flag. A little jealousy can be healthy, but if you are being told who you can and cannot hang out with, it is a bad sign.
- I have grown up as a tomboy and naturally have many guy friends; I am just more comfortable with guys. He did not like this very much, especially the fact that I was still close with my ex boyfriend in a platonic way. Early on in my relationship with him, he got very angry with me whenever I hung out with my ex.
- I am Jewish and have my “Jew crew.” I grew up with a group of kids at my temple that did just about everything together. In our high school years we would hang out, playing poker or going out to dinner. He did not like that I had a group of friends that he was not a part of, and would always need to include himself in whatever we were doing. He wouldn’t be a part of the group; he just needed to be there, acting like he didn’t trusted me.
Warning #3 – Making Excuses.
Are you apologizing for your partner’s behavior? Are you defending him/her and making excuses? Are you getting more gifts than normal, and hiding the real reason you are getting them?
- Right off the bat, my mother didn’t like him. She is very traditional and didn’t like the way he showed no respect for my parents. He would come over for dinner and after the meal all of us would get up to clear our dishes, and he would sit at the table and wait for someone to do them for him. He felt that he was a guest and didn’t need to help with the dishes. Little things like this bothered her, and I would always find a reason to calm her down and try to make her like him.
- I know now that the excessive flowers were a problem. After every fight, he would buy me a bouquet of roses and apologize. The fights were about many different things, but always ended with flowers. I loved flowers, and receiving them made me feel so special. I felt that it was more than just saying “I’m sorry,” but that he really meant it this time that he would change. My parents would constantly ask why I got another bouquet, and I was too embarrassed to tell them the truth and said he just surprised me with them or they were from someone else. They assumed something happened, but didn’t want to push it.
Warning #4 – Dramatic changes.
Has your weight, appearance or academic performance changed a lot? You might not notice it at first, but think about any significant changes. These changes could be a sign of depression.
- When you are in a physically abusive relationship, sometimes marks remain behind and extra clothing is used to cover it up. This is one of the ways your appearance can change. If you have a bruise on your arm or leg and are changing the way you dress to hide something, you are in an unhealthy relationship. You deserve better, and should not allow yourself to be hurt and feel the need to cover anything up.
- Sometimes he wanted me to cut class with him. There was no important reason; he just wanted to go hang out or do something besides school, especially on a day where we wouldn’t have time to see each other after school. Looking back, I see that my grades suffered, and I never should have skipped school.
Warning #5 Unexplained Injuries.
Do you have injuries you can’t explain to people? Are you giving excuses for the injuries that don’t make sense?
- There were only two physical incidents in our relationship and both were public. I never had any physical injuries I couldn’t explain. I knew others that did, and I knew the stories made no sense. I knew they were embarrassed to tell the truth but didn’t know what to say. It is important to be there for the victim and not push the subject. Let the victim know you are there when he or she is ready to talk.
Warning #6 – Constant Communication.
Are you always on the phone with your partner? Are you always answering calls, emails or text messages? Does it seem like your partner always has to know where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with?
- When we were together he always had to know what I was doing. He would always know where I was, and who I was with. When I was at Temple for the Wednesday night teen program, he always had to talk to me during break, to assure himself I wasn’t talking to anyone else. If I left home, I needed to tell him so he would know where I was going. At first it didn’t seem as ridiculous as it does now. It seemed cute that he always wanted to know where I was, but it was a control mechanism and not okay, and I know that now.
Warning #7 – Partner’s Background.
Is your partner possibly being abused by his or her parents? Are your partner’s parents in an abusive relationship? If your partner comes from an abusive home, it could be a very bad warning sign.
- I never saw or heard anything to lead me to know any details about my boyfriend’s parents’ relationship, but I know of cases where this was evident.
These are some of the warning signs I wish I would have known about before getting into my relationship. If any of these warning signs are true to your relationship get help.
The Teen Dating Violence Helpline 1 (866) 331-9474
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