Avoiding an abusive relationship
Avoiding an abusive relationship is far easier than escaping one. The rules for doing so are relatively simple. But, in the excitement of a new relationship, applying them can require a good deal of self-discipline.
- Know who you are—You are not defined by who your boyfriend is. If you would be obliged to abandon your values and limits in order to maintain a relationship, you should abandon the relationship instead.
- Ease into relationships—Double date or go out with a group the first few times you are with a new boyfriend. When you begin solo dating, have a cell phone, calling card or change so that you can call someone to come get you if the situation becomes uncomfortable. Make sure you have enough money for cab, bus or subway fare.
- Watch for the classic warning signs—Intense romanticism, jealousy, a Jekyll/Hyde personality, constant criticism and controlling behavior
- Watch for signs of cruelty or violence—If he behaves badly toward other people or toward animals, or shows disregard for other people’s property, then drop him. In the long run, he will treat you no better. Be highly suspicious if he defends other people’s use of violence.
- Take reports of previous abuse very seriously—If you hear rumors or gossip that suggests he may have abused previous girlfriends, check them out. If you find out they are true, drop him.
- Be very concerned if he abuses drugs or alcohol—You have no way of knowing how he will act under their influence. Even if he doesn’t become abusive, he could cause you to be killed or injured in an accident. And resist the temptation to think you can reform him. You can’t.
- Maintain your friendships, family relationships, and favorite activities—This may be the most effective litmus test for the relationship. If your dating partner tries to interfere with these relationships, that’s a serious warning of paranoid distrust or impending abuse.
- Don’t make excuses for him—If you find yourself having to lie about your relationship, or make excuses for your dating partner’s behavior, you are probably headed into an abusive relationship. Get out.
Adapted in part from The National Youth Violence Resource Center, Teen Dating Violence, available at www.safeyouth.org/scripts/teens/dating.asp, accessed 12/1/04