Everyone deserves a life free of abuse, but often when you are in the middle of an abusive relationship, it can be easy to miss the undercurrent of abusive behavior. Emotional abuse can be very subtle. Recognizing signs up emotional and verbal is key in gaining awareness, making empowered decisions, and building safe boundaries. Once you know what the “red flags” are, you are better able to see them waving miles away!
Young people often find themselves in situations with partners where they struggle to communicate their needs, values, or boundaries. Even when their guts are telling them that someone is crossing a line, they may struggle to find the language to express what they’re feeling and what they want. Setting boundaries allow people to communicate what is OK and what is not, and learning to do this is a lifelong skill that everyone could use help with.
We often tell young people to “use your words” - but it’s not always that easy! Especially when people are emotionally dysregulated, it can be extremely challenging to articulate what is bothering them and communicate in an effective, non-reactive way. Learning how to respond to conflict and situations that make us uncomfortable can help us de-escalate scary situations, but it takes some practice.
58% of college students say they don’t know what to do to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse. It can be difficult to know how to support a friend who is suffering from relationship abuse. If you haven’t dealt with it before, you might wonder why your friend doesn’t “just leave him”, not realizing that ending abusive relationships is far more complicated than other kinds of breakups.
Self-care is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself! It means taking care of yourself emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Too often we give our friends and partners more love, encouragement, and grace than we do ourselves. If we want others to treat us with respect, we have to be willing and able to give ourselves respect first, although it doesn’t always come naturally for many of us - especially if we’ve been in abusive relationships.