By Eleanor Beeslaar, HRI Graduate Assistant

Just like it’s important to talk to your teen about what healthy dating relationships look like, it’s also important to have a conversation about the different types of abuse and warning signs that indicate an unhealthy and/or abusive relationship. This can be a challenging conversation to have, so know that you are valid in any fears, apprehensions, or worries you may have. Though this can be a difficult conversation, it is also an important one. Being aware of the signs of unhealthy relationship behavior, can help teens prevent potentially abusive relationships!

In yesterday’s blog, we talked about the importance of letting your teen lead the conversation with what they already know when discussing healthy relationships. The same is true when talking about unhealthy relationship behavior and warning signs of abuse. Ask your teen what they already know and fill in the gaps as the conversation unfolds. 

We’ve provided some questions and answers with important information to help you navigate this conversation with your teen!

What is an unhealthy relationship?

Unhealthy relationships are based on power and control and can leave you feeling sad, afraid, lonely, worried and unsafe. Though all unhealthy relationships are based on power and control, the behaviors and characteristics within these relationships may look very different. Abuse does not have a one size fits all definition and can take many forms, some of which are very subtle. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about dating violence or abuse is physical violence. Though this is a form of dating violence, there are many other ways that abuse can be present in relationships, including: emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, and even digital abuse. 

What are the different types of relationship abuse and what do they look like?

  • Physical abuse: hitting, punching, kicking, biting, hair pulling, etc.
  • Emotional abuse: constant criticism, shaming, embarrassing someone in front of their friends and family, threatening to hurt themselves or you if they break up with you, etc.
  • Verbal abuse: threatening, name calling, put downs, withholding information, discounting or invalidating the other person’s feelings, etc.
  • Sexual abuse: unwanted sexual contact; sexual contact with someone who is intoxicated, unconscious, or otherwise unable to give consent; refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control; etc.
  • Stalking: sending unwanted messages, emails, or letters; unwanted phone calls; constantly calling and hanging up; unwanted gifts; showing up at someone’s school, home, or workplace uninvited; tracking someone through social media or other technology; etc.
  • Digital abuse: sending negative/threatening messages through text or social media; sending unwanted/explicit messages and/or demanding them in return; monitoring who someone can be friends with on social media sites; etc.




What are the warning signs of abuse?

  • Checking your text messages or social media without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Isolating someone from friends or family
  • Telling someone what to do or what to wear
  • An explosive temper
  • Making false accusations (accusing you of cheating)
  • Possessiveness
  • Physically harming you
  • Forcing or pressuring you into sex

What are some resources to help teens with Teen Dating Violence?

Remember, relationship abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault. If your teen expresses that they or someone they know has experienced teen dating violence, believe them, support them, and be an ally as they begin their healing process. 

The information in today’s blog series was adapted from our “What is an Unhealthy Relationship?” blog. Be sure to check it out for more information!