(Written By a Teenager)
Once again, in honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, we have a Guest Blogger this week. Julia Leconte is a Junior at Waltham High School and a member of our PAVE (Peers Against ViolencE) peer leaders group. Here’s what she wants you to know about why teenagers might not be aware that a relationship is unhealthy.
- It Is Hard To Take Advice from Others
As teenagers, we are at a pivotal point in our lives where we are beginning to accept more responsibility and control. We are being given room to grow and test the waters of real life. There is a disconnect when an adult tries to advise a teenager on an unhealthy relationship. It can be hard to comprehend how an adult could ever relate to our relationships (despite the fact that the core principles of healthy relationships are eternal). When a peer tries to address concerns with the dynamics of a relationship a guard goes up. The person may be accused of jealousy or of not knowing enough about the relationship to conclude it is unhealthy. Teenagers cherish romantic relationships because they are a part of their growth into adults.
- New Relationships are Exciting and Often Consuming
When we, as teenagers, become romantically involved with another person, it is as if we are more mature. Relationships and the romance, commitment, and effort that go into them are key aspects of adult life. It is universal to all cultures. So when we become romantically involved, there is a level of excitement and passion that emerges in us. We feel mature. Anyone that may try and compromise that achievement can seem like an enemy trying to ruin what we have. It is also difficult with the amount of pressure we receive to be in relationships.
- There is A Lot of Pressure to Live Up to the Ideal Relationship Standards at Such a Young Age
High school romances have been depicted in the media for many years. From Grease to High School Musical, Relationships have always been an essential piece of high school. There has to be an ‘it’ couple. There is pressure not just from society and the media, but from the school environments. Prom puts a lot of pressure on people to attend with a date. Valentine’s Day puts pressure on people to have a valentine. Homecoming is often given to a couple if they are on the ballot together. High school constantly highlights those in relationships and leads others to feel like they have to also be in the small pool of people in relationships. The amount of pressure put on teens creates a protectiveness over the relationship that in many ways is a token of status in high school. If you have a partner, you must be cool, or attractive, or in some way desirable to another person. It is one of the first times in which someone else finds you appealing and that can be very hard to part with. It can also be very hard to identify where the problems are, amongst all the pressure.
- Many Warning Signs Can Be Hard to Spot or Do Not Even Seem Like Warning Signs
It is often difficult to express signs of unhealthy relationships when they do not fit the stereotypical patterns. Texting a partner constantly and checking in on them is very often seen as cute and protective. Teens think that it is their partner’s way of protecting them. Having access to a partner’s social media accounts and cell phone can be seen as a way to show you respect your partner. They may think that if they have nothing to hide then they should show their partner because they deserve to know that they are not being deceived any way. Telling a partner what to wear, may be another form of respect. Unfortunately, all of these actions are unhealthy and hard for teens and adults to identify. These warning signs very easily mask as protective behaviors when they are more possessive behaviors.
- It is Difficult to Admit You Are in an Unhealthy Relationship
Very often, it is simply hard to admit that a person you care about and that says they care about you (and they may) is not behaving or contributing the best to a relationship. It can be difficult to accept that things are not as wonderful as you would like them to be. As a result, it may be easier for teens to accept the unhealthy relationship if they cannot understand the unhealthy nature of it. It can be scary to admit that something you believe in and want so much is just not the best for you or the other person. Better education may help teens acknowledge the warning signs easier. While many health classes teach about teen dating violence is may be very beneficial to talk about the less blatant actions in relationships. Teens need to be taught what a partner deserves in relationship and what they deserve out of a partner. Most of all, they need to learn that they need to respect and care for themselves before they can respect and care for someone else. To learn more about REACH’s programs to prevent teen dating violence and other forms of relationship abuse, visit https://reachma.org/what-we-do/prevention-and-education-programs/.