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Understanding the Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship for Teens

If you're in an unhealthy relationship, it can be hard to figure out what to do. You may feel pressure from your parents or friends to end the relationship. You may also feel confused because you have strong feelings for the person. The following information may help you understand the warning signs of an abusive relationship and help you learn how to keep yourself safe.

Warning signs

Many people who are in abusive relationships believe their abusers will get better. Unfortunately, an abusive pattern of behavior may become more violent over time. In an abusive relationship, your boyfriend or girlfriend may

  • be overly possessive;
  • be extremely jealous and use jealousy as an excuse for the abuse;
  • want to isolate you from family and friends;
  • invade your privacy by constantly checking your cell phone or email account;
  • put your down, especially in front of others;
  • make all the decisions in the relationship;
  • want to control what you do and who you see;
  • use threats;
  • post insults on social networking sites;
  • deny the abuse happened;
  • make you feel badly about yourself; or
  • threaten to spread rumors or tell lies about you.

Keeping yourself safe

If you're in an abusive relationship, you may feel pressure from others to end it. But it may not be that simple. While you decide what to do, your first priority is keeping yourself safe. You may want to talk with a trusted adult who can help you create a safety plan. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If you are afraid, avoid being alone with the person. If you go to a party or other place where you will see them, be sure to have a safe way home.
  • Use a secret code to let friends or family know if you need help without alerting the abuser.
  • If you are going to be alone with the person, be sure someone else knows where you are.
  • If you are home alone, don't answer your door if the person comes to your house.

Information for assessing your relationship and on creating a safety plan can be found through the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

Ending the relationship

It can be difficult to end an abusive relationship. You may be afraid of how the person will react when you break up. Even if you know ending it is the right thing to do, you may feel emotionally attached to the person. These tips can help:

  • Consider ending the relationship by phone or email if you don't feel safe doing it in person.
  • If you decide to break up in person, meet at a public place where other people are nearby.
  • Stick with your plan. Keep in mind the person may try to manipulate or threaten you. Try to avoid a long, drawn-out conversation.
  • Keep yourself safe after the break up. Avoid being alone at home or walking in isolated places. Stick with friends when you're at school or at other activities.
  • Consider your emotions. Even though the person may have been abusive, they have been a big part of your life. You may feel sad and lonely.

Where to find help

If you need help or just want to talk to someone about your relationship, you can ask for support from friends, your parents, a teacher, a school counselor or another trusted adult in your life. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE) has trained advocates available by phone anytime you need or want to talk. You may also want to contact Military OneSource (800-342-9647) and talk to a consultant who can refer you to someone who can help in your local community.


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