Recognizing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence Toolkit
4.0 Dear Students
Dating and relationships are fun when they are based on respect, trust, and compatibility. The rush of happiness we feel when we like someone is a good thing, but it can also be what makes it hard for us to see things clearly. Being in love with someone or being inexperienced in dating increases our vulnerability.
When we are in these vulnerable positions, it is easy to miss warning signs that a partner may be insecure, jealous, and abusive. People are usually on their best behavior in the early stages of a relationship. This period of time is known as the “honeymoon period” because everything seems amazing and wonderful at first. A person who is abusive understands that if people knew they were abusive, no one would date them. We need to be aware of warning signs so that we do not ignore, miss, dismiss, or minimize signs.
“When someone shows you who they are,
believe them the first time.”
- Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Our feelings toward our partner can prevent us from seeing that they are showing us who they are through their behaviors. Taking dating and relationships slowly helps us pay attention to warning signs. Listen to any concerns of family and friends. They are not trying to prevent us from having fun, being happy, or finding love. They may see things that we do not because they are not emotionally involved like we are.
Why is someone abusive?
Dating violence is abuse, and comes from the desire to possess, or have power or control over someone. The warning behaviors often start slowly and subtly. For example, a boyfriend tells his partner that they should not wear certain things because they should not want that kind of attention if they are with him. Or a girlfriend tells her partner that they should give her all the passwords to their social media accounts if they have nothing to hide. These are warning signs. Yet we may not see it as that, and instead think it is sweet because it shows how much they care about us. We may believe that it is a small thing for us to do to help our partner feel secure in the relationship. It may even make us feel good because we believe that they are looking out for us. However, to maintain control or power, the behavior and demands increase. In other words, it gets worse.
“We are not responsible for making our partner feel secure or expecting our partner to make us feel secure in the relationship. ”
Abusive behavior is learned. A person who is abusive may see it from growing up in an abusive family, in friends’ relationships, or through social media. Someone who has difficulty in managing uncomfortable emotions like insecurity, jealousy, anxiety, or fear may be controlling and abusive to try and ease their own discomfort. For example, a boyfriend tells his partner that they are not allowed to have male friends because he believes that they will leave him if they have friends who are male. He may say that he was cheated on in past relationships to justify his actions. He is insecure and jealous, and instead of learning how to manage those feelings, he expects his partner to make him feel secure. We are responsible for our own feelings and actions. We are not responsible for making our partner feel secure or expecting our partner to make us feel secure in the relationship. Some people are abusive toward others just because they enjoy having power and control over others.