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Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

What teen guys must know about abusive dating relationships.

What’s Dating Abuse, and Who’s Doing It? continued...

And after the story involving singers Chris Brown and Rihanna hit the news a few years ago, Emilio Ulloa, PhD -- another dating violence expert -- noticed that plenty of high-schoolers assumed that Rihannahad done something wrong. Teens he talked to said some of their friends “immediately asked questions about what Rihanna did to upset him, like ‘What kind of women is she? Why did she disrespect him?’”

Teens may do abusive things for many reasons. Some grow up in cultures that urge the men to be strong, which some guys confuse with being aggressive or controlling, says Ulloa, who researches dating violence at San Diego State University.

Sometimes teens pick up habits that they think are signs of love, but are actually controlling, like asking their girlfriends for their Facebook password. But jealous behaviors can start you on the path to physical types of abuse, Ulloa says. And, according to the CDC, people who think it’s alright for their friends to engage in dating violence are much more likely to get involved in it themselves.

Steering Clear of Dating Violence

Here’s how you can make the right choices while dating to protect yourself from being either the source or the victim of dating violence.

  • Get good practice. Even if you think you know what you’re doing when it comes to these matters, the teen years are the time to learn the rules about dating. In some ways, you’re getting practice for later relationships. “I think in some sense that this is the time when really good behaviors or bad behaviors can set in,” Ulloa says. Now’s a good time to make a habit of doing things that your dates will appreciate.
  • Know that abuse can mean big trouble. In some areas, crimes that are dating-related come with an extra penalty, Gómez points out. For example, if you key a girlfriend’s car, you could be looking at vandalism and additional teen relationship violence charges. And of course, hitting someone, slapping someone, or having sex with someone who has said “no” can bring serious legal action no matter where you live.
  • Listen to yourself. Know your own boundaries, Miller says. If you feel like an action is wrong, don’t do it - no matter what. If someone you like hits you or snoops in your email, you shouldn’t do it in return. Your friends might tell you “put your woman in line, she shouldn’t do that, and you should take control,” Ulloa says. Ignore them and be your own man. And if the person you’re dating is abusive, don't tolerate it, either.
  • Look at a healthy relationship. Sometimes knowing what’s normal and what’s unhealthy can be hard, Miller says. If you aren’t sure how you should act, ask an adult you trust. A coach, teacher, your parents, or a friend’s parent may be able to help you make the right choice. (Bonus points if you seek advice from an adult who shows respect toward other people and seems to know how to keep a healthy relationship).
  • Do something. If a friend or classmate is verbally or physically abusing someone, look for a safe way to put a stop to the situation, Miller says. For example, start speaking to the abuser to create a distraction. Or let an adult know what’s happening if it’s not safe for you to get involved. By taking action, you’ll be doing your bit to remind everyone that abuse shouldn’t be tolerated.
  • Remember you can’t control everything. If someone you like or love wants to stop seeing you, all the pleading, watching, and controlling in the world won’t make this person yours, Gómez says. “No matter how much you try to control someone, in the end you just can’t.” If you can’t trust someone - either because she isn’t trustworthy or you’re insecure when she’s away - you may need to let the relationship go.

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