It’s insanity, in every sense of the word, because every day goes the same yet you believe wholeheartedly in a different outcome. You believe this outcome won’t end in a fit of confusion and tears. I’m here to tell you one thing — that outcome is never going to happen with them. There’s a difference between a rough patch and a rough relationship. A rough patch can last between a week to a couple months. The point is that there’s an end to the madness. Just like insanity, you don’t know you’re already in too deep.
According to the statistics on loveisrespect.org, 81 percent of parents don’t believe intimate dating violence in adolescents is an actual issue in today’s society. While they may believe this, it doesn’t change the fact that one out of three adolescents in the US alone experience some sort of abuse. Intimate dating violence exceeds all other types of teen violence today. Not only is it the highest rate for teen violence, but women ages 16-24 experience triple the nation’s average. Experiencing this type of trauma can lead to higher risks of depression, suicidal thoughts, abusive dating/ interrelationship patterns, drug addiction, risky sexual behavior and even antisocial manners throughout one’s life. So why is no one talking about this? The correct answer: lack of awareness.
Only 33 percent of teens ever told anyone about what was happening to them, but 67 percent of voices go unheard. Growing up, people only seem to talk about the taboo of physical abuse, yet no one talks about the other abuses in intimate relationships. Most people write of rude behavior as if it’s archetypal parallel to modern day romance. Even though it’s screaming "red flag" behavior all over, people continue to ignore this pressing issue. Within the lack of awareness lies two things: how to identify the signs and how to help a friend get out of this situation.
According to recent studies, 57 percent of students find it difficult to identify the red flags scattered throughout a toxic relationship. There’s a vast quantity of signs you can pick up from a potential abuser, but here are the top signs, described by liveboldandbloom.com, to watch out for:
1. It all starts with a single word.
Verbal abuse is the hidden killer within an unhealthy relationship. A single word can stick in your head and you can repeat it over and over until every word your partner uses turns into a tsunami. Now you’re drowning in their pointless words that only exist to push you below them. Some examples range from putting you down/humiliating you in front of other people, disregarding your opinions (most likely in a passive aggressive or sarcastic manner), regularly pointing out your flaws, giving you unwanted labels and belittling the things that matter to you. Now when this happens and you show any sort of negative response they will most likely do one of two things: Call you too "sensitive" or make excuses for their behavior/blame others for the way they’re acting towards you.
2. Your partner won’t be tamed.
They will try to control you. It’s not a maybe, it’s a definite yes. This behavior has a true variety — correcting your personality to fit their standards, making you feel like you need their permission to perform simple tasks (texting people, going out, etc.), pushing your boundaries, sharing your personal info and even controlling how you spend your money. Another large sign is if they twist situations and your words to make it seem like the typical "they’re always right, you’re always wrong" dichotomy. I’ve been through this dance enough times to finally know that you don’t need anyone’s permission to be yourself.
3. It's the blame game.
Oh, this horrible game that always seemed to start with you being upset but then ended with you apologizing to your partner for your emotions. Sound familiar? It's the blame game: They will blame you for things that aren’t true, like that you’re cheating on your partner when you’re clearly not. They’ll blame you for your problems/general unhappiness when clearly the problem is them. Then once you confront them on this ongoing issue, they will turn to the puppy dog method: Pouting/denying/guilt tripping to get what they want. Playing the victim is their best weapon. Coming from an eminent victim of this, I’m here to tell you: It’s OK to be straightforward and tell them what’s on your mind. If they can’t handle it or can’t help switching it back to them, LEAVE THEM. It doesn’t make you a bad person — it makes you a strong human being.
4. Or a lack thereof.
These can be some of the earliest red flags because you can find hints throughout a friendship. These range from an inability to laugh at themselves to intolerance to an emotional distance/lack of compassion.
5. Eliciting fear.
The low blow of the red flag list is tampering with your emotions to benefit their ego. The top indicators of the fear card are disregarding you to frighten you, suppressing sex to get something out of you and overall subtle threats to scare you.
If any of these sound familiar, then you need to reevaluate the relationship you’re currently in. Think about it: You rationalize every action they do, even if it’s incredibly disrespectful to you and your well-being. They tear you down below them, they instill fear in you and they make empty promises. You don’t have to stay in this. You were a person before you met them, you survived before you met them and you can move forward without them.
A large part of rationalization of teen dating violence is social media. Go on any social media platform and you’re bound to run into certain pictures that have one thing in common. A lot of photos depict certain behaviors as romantic or "goals," when in fact they’re quite the opposite. Now certain jealous behaviors should be seen as a precursor of a big flashing red flag, but instead is revered as a universal template that everyone should perceive as romantic behavior. These ideologies range from deeming overly possessive actions, like telling them not to talk to someone and searching through their phone, as an act of love. How is someone not trusting you to the point of invading your personal life considered romantic? Now, I experienced these behaviors first-hand and I felt guilty that it didn’t feel romantic. It felt like I was being pushed into this cage only he had the key to. These photos only romanticize abusive/overpowering behaviors in relationships, and it’s time to stop listening to those. Listen to what feels good to you, not what the IG pages say.
The sad truth is, there are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. I had a list of reasons I’d spew off to my friends about why I was putting myself through this. From the outside looking in, it seems ludicrous to even think about staying in any relationship like this. But from the inside, it’s a much more complicated matter. There could be hundreds of reasons as to why they’re staying. Loveisrespect.org helps describe that the most common is a variety of emotions:
1. Fear of what life is like without them, fear of the aftermath of leaving them, fear of no one believing them, fear of partner’s actions.
2. Normalizing the actions in their head.
3. They believe that since their relationship was amazing before, it can go back to those times.
4. Self-esteem issues.
5. Social pressure.
As a friend, just listen to them, use logic to help reason with them and tell them that you believe them on everything. This can be a tough barrier to push from, but give it time. Every abusive relationship has a timer on it — just be there for them when it goes off.
As their friend, it’s the simple things you can do that’ll change everything. Just tell them you’re there for them. As stated in an article by Psychology Today, there must be a fine balance of firmness and an understanding demeanor towards your friend’s predicament. You need to listen to them intently, yet find the perfect balance of listening/giving your input. Don’t put any blame, guilt or any judgmental behavior towards them. The thing they need most is someone to listen. Never push them to do something they’re not ready yet because that’ll most likely lead to problems between you and them. While the main thing to focus on is comforting/reasoning with your friend, caution is advised due to the possible ramifications by the partner. Tell your friend that he or she is not alone and try to remind them of how worthy they are of so many beautiful things — not this repetition of depression.
Forty-three percent of college women alone report experiencing violent dating patterns within their college experience and 58 percent don’t know how to help their friends. It’s time we end the stigma and end the abuse.
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