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How to Get Out of an Unhealthy Relationship
How to Get Out of an Unhealthy Relationship
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How to Get Out of an Unhealthy Relationship

This video explores signs of an unhealthy relationship and the steps for leaving an unhealthy relationship. It shares the ‘how-to’’ of making a break-up plan, communicating with a partner, and seeking help from a trusted adult, if needed. [AMZ-144]

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, talk to a trusted adult, like a parent, caretaker, school counselor, teacher, or other adult you can trust. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help at 1-800- 799-7233 or visit TheHotline.org to chat with a counselor.

Youth

Being in a relationship with someone, whether it is your friend or romantic partner, can feel really great; relationships can make you feel loved, supported, and happy. Healthy friendships and romantic relationships are a great way to get to know yourself as a person, and a great way to experience closeness with another person.

However, sometimes relationships are unhealthy. Unhealthy relationships can make you feel sad, unwanted, distrustful, fearful, and anxious. Sometimes people call unhealthy friendships or romantic relationships ‘toxic’, meaning dangerous for your physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Sometimes it can be hard to know if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy. Just like there are ‘green flags’, or signs, that relationships are healthy, there are ‘red flags’, or warnings, that a relationship might be unhealthy. Some red flags of an unhealthy relationship might be if your friend or partner teases you, refuses to compromise, never apologizes, blames you when things go wrong, is jealous and/or controlling of everything you do together, the clothes you wear or people you see, or if they physically or sexually hurt you or push you to do things you don’t want to do.

Sometimes it can be confusing to be sure if a relationship is unhealthy, even if you notice red flags. It can help to find a trusted adult to talk to about the situation. They can help you decide what to do if you’re scared of ending the relationship, and if you decide to leave the relationship, they can help you make your break-up plan. Trusted adults can be anyone in your life that is supportive, cares about you, and is willing to help. Some examples of trusted adults are parents, older siblings and cousins, teachers, school counselors, coaches, and spiritual leaders. No matter who your trusted adult is, it is important to talk to them as soon as you see red flags or feel like something is not quite right. Adults have often been in different kinds of relationships and have experiences that can help guide you in the right direction, they can also give you a safe place to talk about your feelings and give you guidance on what to do next.

Most importantly, remember that being in an unhealthy relationship isn’t your fault, doesn’t make you stupid, or unable to have healthy relationships in the future. Many people have found themselves in friendships or romantic relationships that are unhealthy at one point in their life. The next time you date someone or have a new friend, think about what you learned from the unhealthy relationship and what is important to you in all your relationships. You get to decide what type of relationships you are in, stay true to your boundaries and needs so your next relationship can be a healthy one.

FAQs

What are some green flags for a healthy relationship?

There are some ‘green flags’ or signs that a relationship is healthy. Some green flags that a relationship is healthy might be, being honest and trusting each other, valuing your unique identities, sharing in decisions, and of course having FUN! Sometimes even people in healthy relationships disagree, and when they do, they talk openly and with respect to come up with a compromise.

What does “good/healthy communication” mean in a relationship?

Communication is an important part of a healthy relationship. It means being able to tell your partner how you feel, what you need, what you believe and what you want in an open and honest way, without fearing that they may have an unreasonable negative reaction. It also means listening to and understanding your partner’s feelings, needs, beliefs and desires with the same respect you would want from them.

It takes time and practice for two people to learn to communicate. It’s often the most difficult part of a relationship, but it can be the glue that keeps people together because it allows the relationship to keep growing through mutual respect.

I’m not involved in a relationship right now and like it that way. Is that okay?

It is totally okay to not be in a relationship. There is a lot of pressure on teens to pair up romantically. Every person is different in terms of their comfort level. What’s right for one person isn’t necessarily a good fit for someone else.

Lots of people aren’t interested in relationships until their late teens or even their twenties. They have other interests that rank higher on their list of priorities. Maybe they’re working hard at getting into a good college or really involved in a sport, or have a job. Maybe they like being independent. Believe it or not, some people never experience romantic or sexual feelings at all, and that’s okay, too.

While it may seem like everyone else is in a relationship, the truth of the matter is they’re not. Do what’s right for you and don’t worry so much about what other people are doing or thinking.

Am I too young to fall in love?

There’s no doubt that young teens and even preteens can feel that they’re in love. It’s definitely possible to feel attracted to and affectionate toward another person, even at a young age. No one but you can define the feelings that you have, be it love or something else. The capacity to love is something that all human beings, regardless of age, can experience.

There are a lot of different kinds of love—romantic, platonic or love for your family. Mostly, love is feeling emotionally attached to another person. You want to be close to and share things with that person. You want to understand them and have that person understand you. You want to care for them and have that person care for you. Romantic love usually comes with a strong physical or sexual attraction. You want to hold, touch and sometimes become sexual with that person.

My partner is always texting me to find out where I am and what I’m doing. Is that okay?

Sometimes my partner gets a little upset if I take too long to respond. I think they do it because they really like me, but my mom thinks it’s not good. Is there something wrong with them wanting to know where I am?

People who care about each other may check in on each other to make sure the other person is okay. But if your partner gets angry at you for not always sharing where you are, that is very controlling behavior. Partners have to trust and respect each other enough to allow each other to have separate interests, hobbies and experiences. That’s what people do when they want what is best for each other. If your partner is trying to control where you go, what you do or who you hang out with, talk to a trusted adult about your relationship. You should be physically and emotionally safe and respected in your relationship.

Test your knowledge

Try this Kahoot quiz after watching the video

Parents

People have many kinds of relationships throughout their lives. When young people enter puberty, it is normal for them to begin experiencing romantic and sexual feelings for other people their age. They may feel like they want to be in a relationship or date someone during this time. There are also some people who do not ever feel romantic or sexual attraction, so we shouldn’t assume that eventually everyone will. Either is normal.

As adults, we can prepare young people to have healthy relationships by ensuring they can distinguish healthy from unhealthy behaviors and know how to identify intimate partner violence (also known as domestic violence or teen dating violence). If and when young people feel ready to get into relationships, they should know that healthy relationships include open and honest communication, trust, physical and emotional safety and respect. It is also important that we talk with young people about intimate partner violence, so they do not mistake the controlling behaviors and jealousy of intimate partner violence for love.

Communication is an important part of a healthy relationship. It means being able to tell your partner how you feel, what you need, what you believe and what you want in an open and honest way, without fearing that they may have an unreasonable negative reaction. It also means listening to and understanding your partner’s feelings, needs, beliefs and desires with the same respect you would want from them.

Being able to trust your partner means that you believe what they say and feel that you can rely on them and they will support you. When one partner does not trust the other, it can lead to things like jealousy, lying, and lack of emotional safety in a relationship.

By showing respect for your partner, you can build trust and increase communication, which can provide a healthy foundation for a relationship. Everyone deserves respect, and a relationship without respect can become very unhealthy. A healthy relationship includes respecting boundaries.

Intimate partner violence can take many forms, including abuse, stalking and harassment. Physical abuse between intimate partners may include hitting, punching or kicking. Emotional abuse involves belittling and humiliating a partner with name-calling and yelling as well as trying to control a partner by telling the other person what they can or cannot do and where they can or cannot go. While this type of intimate partner violence does not leave any physical evidence, it is just as harmful as physical abuse. Financial abuse in an intimate relationship includes controlling a partner’s access to money, which could include keeping money from a partner or keeping them from working to make their own money. Intimate partner violence may also include stalking a partner—following them wherever they go and refusing to leave—or harassing them in person or by sending harassing texts, emails or posts. Intimate partner violence can also include sexual abuse—forcing a partner to engage in sexual behaviors without consent. It is important that young people understand that even if two people are in a relationship, they should ask for and receive consent before engaging in any sexual behaviors with their partner.

Regardless of what form intimate partner violence takes, young people should know that it is never okay, and intimate partner violence is never the fault of the person being abused. Make sure your children and the young people in your care know that they can come to you or another trusted adult, like a school counselor or therapist, if they need help.

Conversation Starters

While your child may not be dating or looking to get into a relationship right now, there may come a time when they feel that they are ready and want to take this step in their lives. As a parent, being familiar with the qualities of healthy relationships and talking to your child about them can help your child feel more comfortable approaching you with questions about these topics.

The easiest way to start these conversations is to talk about issues as they come up in everyday life, like while watching a show or movie together.

Here are some ways to start these conversations:

While watching a show or movie featuring either healthy or unhealthy relationship behaviors
If you are watching a show or movie and there is a scene with either healthy or unhealthy relationship behaviors, you can use this opportunity to start a discussion. Point out what you see, and ask what your child thinks about that.
When your child mentions friends or classmates that have romantic partners
Have dinner together and talk about what is going on in your tween’s life. When they mention friends or classmates that have romantic partners, you can then use this time to talk about healthy relationship qualities and behaviors.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, talk to a trusted adult, like a parent, caretaker, school counselor or therapist. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help at 1-800- 799-7233 or visit TheHotline.org to chat with a counselor.

Educators

People have many kinds of relationships throughout their lives. When young people enter puberty, it is normal for them to begin experiencing romantic and sexual feelings for other people their age. They may feel like they want to be in a relationship or date someone during this time. There are also some people who do not ever feel romantic or sexual attraction, so we shouldn’t assume that eventually everyone will. Either is normal.

Educators can prepare young people to have healthy relationships by ensuring they can distinguish healthy from unhealthy relationships and know how to identify intimate partner violence (also known as domestic violence or teen dating violence). If and when young people feel ready to get into relationships, they should know that healthy relationships include open and honest communication, trust, physical and emotional safety and respect. It is also important that young people are educated about intimate partner violence, so they do not mistake the controlling behaviors of intimate partner violence for love.

Communication is an important part of a healthy relationship. It means being able to tell your partner how you feel, what you need, what you believe and what you want in an open and honest way, without fearing that they may have an unreasonable negative reaction. It also means listening to and understanding your partner’s feelings, needs, beliefs and desires with the same respect you would want from them.

Being able to trust your partner means that you believe what they say and feel that you can rely on them and they will support you. When one partner does not trust the other, it can lead to things like jealousy, lying and lack of emotional safety in a relationship.

By showing respect for your partner, you can build trust and increase communication, which can provide a healthy foundation for a relationship. Everyone deserves respect, and a relationship without respect can become very unhealthy. A healthy foundation includes respecting boundaries.

Intimate partner violence can take many forms, including different types of abuse, stalking and harassment. Physical abuse between intimate partners may include hitting, punching or kicking. Emotional abuse involves belittling and humiliating a partner with name-calling and yelling as well as trying to control a partner by telling the other person what they can or cannot do and where they can or cannot go. While this type of intimate partner violence does not leave any physical evidence, it is just as harmful as physical abuse. Financial abuse in an intimate relationship includes controlling a partner’s access to money, which could include keeping money from a partner or keeping them from working to make their own money. Intimate partner violence may also include stalking a partner—following them wherever they go and refusing to leave—or harassing them in person or by sending harassing texts, emails or posts. Intimate partner violence can also include sexual abuse—forcing a partner to engage in sexual behaviors without consent. It is important that students understand that even if two people are in a relationship, they should ask for and receive consent before engaging in any sexual behaviors with their partner.

Regardless of what form intimate partner violence takes, young people should know that it is never okay, and intimate partner violence is never the fault of the person being abused. Make sure your students know that they can come speak with a school counselor or therapist, if they need help.

They should also know about the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TheHotline.org where they can chat with a counselor.

Make sure you are familiar with the mandatory reporting laws in your state and that you know your responsibility for reporting suspected abuse.

National Sex Ed Standards

CHR.2.CC.1 - Characteristics of a Friend

Describe characteristics of a friend

View all CHR.2.CC.1 Videos

CHR.5.CC.1 - The characteristics of Healthy Versus unhealthy Relationships

Describe the characteristics of healthy versus unhealthy relationships among friends and with family members

View all CHR.5.CC.1 Videos

CHR.8.CC.1 - Characteristics of Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships

Compare and contrast the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships

View all CHR.8.CC.1 Videos

IV.2.AI.1 - Situations that May Be Uncomfortable or Dangerous

Identify situations that may be uncomfortable or dangerous (e.g., bullying, teasing, child sexual abuse)

View all IV.2.AI.1 Videos

IV.10.CC.3 - Why a Victim Is Never To Blame

Explain why a victim/survivor of interpersonal violence, including sexual violence, is never to blame for the actions of the perpetrator

View all IV.10.CC.3 Videos

IV.8.AI.1 - Community Resources and/or Other Sources of Support

Identify community resources and/or other sources of support, such as trusted adults, including parents and caregivers, that students can go to if they are or someone they know is being sexually harassed, abused, assaulted, exploited, or trafficked

View all IV.8.AI.1 Videos

IV.10.CC.2 - Types of Abuse

Describe the types of abuse (e.g., physical, emotions, psychological, financial, and sexual) and the cycle of violence as it relates to sexual abuse, domestic violence, dating violence, and gender-based violence

View all IV.10.CC.2 Videos

International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education

5.5, ages 9-12

Finding Help and Support

View videos for 5.5 (ages 9-12)

Discussion Questions

After watching the video with your class, process it using the following discussion questions:
  • What are some green flags of a healthy relationship?
  • What are some examples of yellow flags of a relationship?
  • What are some examples of behaviors (red flags) that might signal a relationship is unhealthy?
  • What are some things you can do if you feel like a relationship is not healthy?
  • What is one example of a break-up plan?
  • What can a person do if they think they might be dealing with intimate partner or teen dating violence?
  • Who could you contact if you, or a friend, were dealing with an unhealthy relationship, intimate partner or teen dating violence?

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