Being young and in love is an incredible feeling; excitement, strong feelings and the future are all things that contribute to such an experience. However, many young people are too distracted by a lot of the feelings associated with being in a relationship and overlook possible signs of abuse, either verbal, physical, or both. In order to identify warning signs of a significant other's questionable behavior,-and if recognized to seek help-I interviewed psychotherapist and school counselor of Desert Academy Karen Sands, LPCC, LMSW.
See the Signs. As mentioned above, when in a relationship with someone it is easy to overlook their negative characteristics or forgive them for behavior that you would normally not accept from anyone else. Ms. Sands suggests warning signs include someone who wants the relationship to exist in a world of complete exclusion or isolation, or someone who does not want friends or family around to share in what should be the joy and togetherness of a new relationship. Ms. Sands continues verbal behavior that is in any way demeaning and accusatory, or physical behavior that overly aggressive and forceful are all generally noticeable signs of behavior that will most likely escalate over time.
Save Yourself. Forgiving a partner for abusive behavior only lets them believe such behavior is appropriate and acceptable. Clearly it is not. One of the biggest mistakes Ms. Sands says young people make is staying in the relationship in the hopes that the situation will get better. Ms. Sands says this is detrimental for several reasons. First, your mental and physical health is at risk. Second, the person has to initiate the change they want to make. Third, it is neither your responsibility nor your job to assist them in such change; only a professional can and should take that role.
Take Imminent Action. Taking action against someone who has violated your sense of self, either verbally or physically, can be a scary situation. If you believe you can confront your partner in a safe environment where you will not be harmed, then do so; otherwise Ms. Sands suggests not doing it alone. Talking to an adult you trust or a close friend to both confide in and then develop a plan of action with is best. If you need to seek legal help, do so immediately, but hopefully the situation will not already be at this point. As long as you never isolate yourself with an abusive partner you should be able to leave the situation safely.
Take Care of Yourself. Break-ups are difficult enough, but leaving one that has left you emotionally and/or physically scarred can sometimes feel insurmountable. This is why Ms. Sands says it is absolutely essential to take care of yourself. Close relations with friends and family will help ease the pain and help remind you that it is not your fault. Ultimately, as time progresses you will see things more clearly and start to feel better about your decision to leave the relationship and make sure to not involve yourself in a similar situation ever again.
Special thanks to Karen Sands, LPCC, LMSW. Phone: 505.982.5015.