Relationships can often be complex and sometimes leave us confused or unsure. Sometimes we have questions about what we should work through, what crosses the line, and when we should decide to end a relationship. Our student correspondents, Kate and Sophia, answer some common questions about relationships, abuse, and breaking up.
How can I tell if something is abusive or if something is just unhealthy?
Kate: There are lots of behaviors that can be considered abusive or unhealthy, and not just physical harm. If you feel like your partner doesn’t respect you and your boundaries, whether it’s physically, sexually, emotionally, or otherwise, then you should take those feelings seriously. Those feelings matter, and shouldn’t feel any shame in having them, or needing to ask for help. There are plenty of resources available to you, and people who are willing to help and listen. If your school has a counselor, you can make an appointment and ask to speak to them. If you have a good relationship with a parent, family member, teacher, or other trusted adult, they can help you too. If you feel uncomfortable with any of those options, there are abuse hotlines and resources on the Tubman website. The most important thing is that you understand that your feeling matter, and you deserve to be happy and safe.
Sophia: The fact of the matter is, those two terms often go hand in hand. While it is easy to think of abuse as a physical action, that leaves visible scars, there are many types of abuse. Verbal abuse includes not only demeaning words and yelling, but also manipulation, gaslighting, and withholding (AKA the silent treatment). Emotional abuse involves controlling behavior, codependency, emotional neglect, and more. Abuse is not always so obvious as a broken bone or a bruised face, it can come in many forms. These are just a few of the signs exhibited in an abusive relationship, so if you or someone you know may be in this situation, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
My partner and I argue a lot. I know that relationships have challenges and can be hard, but how do you know when you should work through it or break up?
Sophia: All relationships go through rough patches, and the time and effort a healthy relationship takes can’t be understated, but sometimes it is better for both parties to make a clean break. My advice is to identify the real problem in the relationship, and then to have healthy communication about it. Sometimes couple will skirt around the issue they are really dealing with, and fight about other, less important things instead. You should sit down and have a healthy and honest conversation about the issues you are facing, and decide if you are willing to work it out, or find a compromise that fits for both of you. Of course, this isn’t always easy or possible in some cases, but if you find yourself in an uncommunicative, unhappy relationship, it may be time to let each other go, and find happiness somewhere else.
Kate: It’s okay if you and your partner have disagreements or arguments every once in a while – that’s completely normal, and even healthy. No two people will ever agree 100% of the time, and there’s no shame in that. However, if you find that you and your partner are arguing constantly, a good question to ask yourself is “does this relationship bring me more sadness, anger, or frustration than it does happiness?” If the answer to that question is yes, it’s probably time to break up. It can be hard to let go but you deserve to be in a happy, fulfilling relationship with someone who supports and loves you.