Updated: Sep 14, 2020
By Sonali Bhana
Image via Charlotte Lawerence Music
How old were you when you first learnt what the word ‘relationship’ meant? There’s a high chance you were younger than eight. You were probably taught to group that word with ‘love’ or ‘intimacy’ too. When kids start to learn about romantic relationships, they’re not fully matured enough to understand everything that comes with one. This can become harmful when toxic behavior goes unnoticed because these young teens do not know how to recognize what is and is not a healthy relationship.
When kids enter middle school or high school, many of their thoughts and conversations with friends will be about dating. Society, through social media, television and movies, pushes onto young individuals the idea that they should be in relationships, or at least be hanging out with those they’re romantically interested in.
Young people are taught to believe that being in a relationship creates happiness. A relationship is sold as the one-way ticket to feeling loved. We also learn that it’s something that is expected of us. This often leads to kids entering into relationships too young and not being able to grow as an individual themselves. They will constantly be basing their decisions off of their significant other, which can get toxic and unhealthy as they will never go after things that they truly want.
Not being able to recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships can lead to violence or abuse in the relationship. This is common to see in teen relationships. The abuse can be mental, physical, or both.
According to Teen Dating Violence, emotional abuse includes verbally demeaning their partner through yelling, screaming, or chastising. Many times this results in the victim feeling bad about themselves and creating unhealthy habits, such as constantly wondering if they’re good enough or questioning if their actions (such as what they’re wearing) will upset their abuser.
Another sign of abuse is isolation by making victims feel bad about wanting to spend time with their family and friends. The abuser in the relationship may also lie to their partner about others wanting to spend time with them or physically restrain them from going out. This makes it so that the victim becomes dependent on their abuser while also lowering their self-esteem so that they comply with whatever their abuser wants. Overall, the most prominent sign of an unhealthy or abusive relationship is that the individual is afraid of their partner or fears upsetting them through their decisions or actions.
Teenage minds are not matured, making it easier for them to adopt these unhealthy mindsets which they will carry with them into their adult life unless they recognize and understand that it’s not normal nor healthy. An unhealthy mindset and relationship can lead to anxiety, depression, and low-self esteem. Victims will never be happy as they will constantly be worrying about whether or not their partner will be upset with them. Often teenagers in young relationships are driven by the fear of a break up more than their own happiness. A relationship should make both parties happy. Dating isn’t black and white. Partners in a relationship can learn healthy behaviors from each other, but they can also learn unhealthy behaviors. Teens who date should be aware of how their partner treats them and make it clear to them how they feel so that they can resolve problems without either feeling unhappy.
Most adults date to find someone that they want to be with long-term and they understand that they do not need to be in a relationship to be happy. Young people going into relationships need to understand that first too.
Many people do not recognize that abuse can happen in teen relationships, just as much as they happen in adult relationships. They do not recognize the signs in teen relationships because many times young victims are in their first-ever romantic relationship and don’t have the experience or expectations for how they should be properly treated. Many times this leads teens to believe that they deserve the bad things that happen to them in their abusive or unhealthy relationship. That is why it’s so important that those going into relationships at a young age understand that although their partner can make them feel happy, they shouldn’t need to depend on them 24/7 to feel that way. They should also understand that if their relationship exhibits any of these unhealthy signs that they should break it off with their partner and accept that they deserve a relationship with a partner who is not toxic for them.
Before starting relationships at young ages, individuals should know how to make themselves happy and that they don’t need someone else to be happy. They should also be grown and matured to a point where they do not choose to rely on their significant other to make important decisions about their lives. Teenagers are not adults, and shouldn’t be held back because of a relationship. I repeat, relationships are not black and white, but teenagers are young and important decisions such as choosing colleges shouldn’t be based on where their partner is going. It should be based on what they want and decide is better for them. Decisions like these should be made because it’s where they think they will be able to succeed, not because of proximity to their partner.
Essentially, as teens become adults, issues in their relationships will become easier to resolve as they’ll be more matured at making decisions. Adults are also better at recognizing and understanding what an unhealthy relationship looks like. No one should have to experience the toxic feelings that come with one. Teens especially shouldn’t, as their future relationships and decisions may be based on what they learnt in a toxic relationship.
So, if you are a teenager dating, first understand what it means to be in a relationship and be able to recognize the difference between a healthy and unhealthy one. Ask yourself what you want from the relationship. If it’s something like wanting to fix the other person or wanting to be fixed, then know that you shouldn’t be in a relationship yet and that it will only complicate issues further. Society has told young teens that being in a relationship equals happiness, but understand that it often doesn’t. As previously said, unhealthy relationships and abusive partners create anything but happiness. A healthy relationship should never force you to give up your dreams, friends, or family (unless your friends or family are the toxic ones).
Written by writer Sonali Bhana