I did not know exactly how difficult it was to be in an unhealthy relationship until recently when my good friend Jane* went through it. Jane was in a relationship with her boyfriend of four years. In the beginning, their relationship was great; they had good communication, trust, and respect. They were the kind of couple that rarely got into arguments and when something was wrong they would be able to talk about it without raising their voices. After being together for about a year and a half or so, things began to change and their relationship went from good to bad in the blink of an eye.
Jane’s boyfriend went from being one of the sweetest guys she knew to a controlling, unfaithful, and dishonest guy. He would constantly verbally abuse her to the point where Jane felt as if she was worthless, ugly, and literally never good enough. It had even escalated to Jane crying every time they talked or saw each other because of how harsh he was with her and because of all the horrible things he would tell her. Jane had become a totally different person that none of her friends recognized anymore. She hardly smiled anymore, always looked sad, and had pushed a lot of friends away because of her boyfriend.
Being in an unhealthy relationship not only affected Jane’s personal relationship, but it also affected her relationship with friends. Throughout the four years Jane was in that relationship, she lost all but three good friends who luckily were there to help her out. It personally affected our relationship in that I hated to see her that sad because I know the kind of person she is and she deserved a lot better. I would give her advice when she would call me crying because of the things he would do or say. I would tell her that it wasn’t all her fault and that she should not let him bring her down because that was not the kind of person she was. I had told her things were going to get worse and she never believed me. But I was right—things did end it up getting worse. He ended up laying his hands on her more and more. And at one point she called the police because of how frightened she was of him. She told me that if she tried to break up with him, she was scared that he would go to her house and hurt her. I felt like calling the cops myself; she had so much fear of breaking up with him.
I could say one of Jane's biggest fears was being alone. She would rather be with a guy who treated her badly, than be by herself. But now that she's not with the guy she doesn’t feel alone because she knows she has great friends like me to be by her side. Other than me, Jane never spoke to anybody about her boyfriend. She told me that she didn't feel comfortable telling her parents about it and that she was scared of being judged or screamed at. I always told her that the best advice she would ever get is from her parents because there’s no one else that knows a child like their own parents. And she told me I was right but she felt like she had to keep the abuse a secret.
After countless conversations and advice, Jane finally realized that even though it was going to hurt her to leave her boyfriend and the relationship, she was better off. She realized that it was better to hurt for a couple of months or maybe even a year than to be hurting and keep hurting for the rest of her life in a relationship where she was not valued for the person she was. More than anything, I believe that her situation only made our friendship stronger because she knew I was a person she could count on to be there for her no matter what. Thankfully, Jane was able to break loose from her unhealthy relationship and even though she is hurting now, she knows that things will only get better from here on out. Jane has slowly began changing back to the person she used to be and smiles a lot more now and continues to work on her low self-esteem.
Unhealthy relationships involving youth continue to grow more and more very year. There are ways to avoid being in an unhealthy relationship. For example, if you know that you’re not in a good position to handle what a relationship requires, then you should tell your mate how you feel. People who keep their feelings to themselves are not only hurting themselves but their mate too. Also, if you can't be faithful, it's not that you’re a bad person, it simply means that you’re not ready to be committed and should avoid being in a relationship. Nevertheless, there is no need for anyone to be in an unhealthy relationship. It is better to be single and not deal with any type of abuse than to be in a relationship where you will only end up hurting.
If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, seek help. You are not alone and there are places you can turn to for help. Talk to your parents, a teacher, or another adult you can trust. You can also contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 (1-866-331-8453 for the hearing impaired) or online at www.loveisrespect.org.
* names have been changed
Steven is 17 years old and lives in Los Angeles. On the weekends, he spends his time partying with friends, playing sports, watching movies, going to church, and studying. His role model is his mom because she raised him to be who he is today. Have a question for Steven? Send us an email!
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