10 Ways to Avoid Abusive Relationships

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What does “abusive relationship” even mean?  Let’s start by naming a few different types of love and what we mean by them.

Romantic Love

Ever had that someone that you can’t get enough of?

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I’m talking about the people that you are head over heels in love with.  You are just genuinely amazed by how perfect they are and want to spend as much time with them as you possibly can.  To you, they seem flawless… kind of like Beyonce.

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This is called romantic love and it is generally the way that people feel about each other when they first begin a relationship.  They do not recognize the other person’s faults, partially because they just don’t know them well enough to figure them out and partially because both members are usually on their best behavior to impress the other person.

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It’s almost like they are playing a game or in a play.

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As you can imagine, this phase does not usually last very long.  It’s tough work being an actor or actress!

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Nurturing Love

After a while, that romantic relationship might start to develop into a more nurturing one.  This kind of love is where the two people love each other so much that they know the weaknesses of the other person and they love them anyway.

 

They are also supportive of each other’s goals and both want the best for the other.  This type of love might have the appearance of looking dull and boring to outsiders but nurturing love is actually healthy.

BORING! (giphy.com)

BORING! (giphy.com)

There is not a ton of drama surrounding this type of a relationship.  This does not mean that the people never argue though.  Arguing a little bit is part of being in a relationship but it is generally a small amount of arguments that are resolved pretty quickly.  Nurturing love produces minimal argument because they individuals realize the importance of the relationship but it is not what defines the individuals.  They also genuinely want what is best for each other.


Addictive Love

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Another possibility is for romantic love to begin to develop into addictive love.  This is where the people in the relationship attempt to control each other, they are not trusting, or they can’t spend time apart.

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Unfortunately, a lot of the popular relationships that we see on TV and in the movies are really abusive ones.  Even the phrases that we think of when we think of loving someone are actually signs that something might be off about the relationship.  Phrases like, “I could never live without you,” “I’m not myself when I’m not with you,” and “I could not live without you” might be signs of an unhealthy relationship.

So, how are abusive relationships avoided?  Check out these 10 ways to help make sure that your relationships are healthy and awesome!

1.)    Spend time apart

Have a girls' night or guys' night every once in a while! (giphy.com)

Have a girls’ night, guys’ night, or friends’ night every once in a while! (giphy.com)

Spending time apart is really important because it allows the individuals in the relationships to figure out who they are, have a break from the other person, and most importantly, develop close friendships with other people.

2.)    Set goals for yourself

Relationships can be really difficult to maintain if the people involved don’t have their own individual goals and ideas.  Thinking about what goals you have for your life outside of the relationship is important.  This way, you can both help each other make sure that those goals are getting met through encouragement.

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3.)    Exercise together or go for a walk

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Exercising releases chemicals in the brain that make people feel happier and more relaxed.  Sometimes if there is an argument taking place, a walk can help both people to relax and feel a little bit better.  This can help to clear the mind and help to sort out some emotions that might be difficult to sort out at first.  Staying healthy and in shape can make you feel better about your body too!

4.)    Set apart time to think about how the relationship is going

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It is easy to get wrapped up in life events or activities and not take the time needed to reflect individually about what is going on in your life.  Relationships need a lot of time and energy so taking the time to think about if it is worth it, might be a good idea.

5.)    Manage your own money

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Using finances is one way that abusive individuals can try and maintain control of the people in their lives.  If money is managed separately, financial abuse is easier to avoid.

6.)    Set up appointments with a relationship counselor as needed.  Preferably, as soon as you begin to suspect that something might be wrong.

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You don’t necessarily need something to be wrong to go and see a doctor.  Actually, it is probably a good idea to go see a doctor when you are completely healthy in order to prepare for the future.  For example, we go to the doctor to get shots to avoid getting sick.  This preventative approach is helpful for physical health as well as relational and mental health.  If you start feeling kind of weird about a relationship or something feels off, come talk with us!

7.)    Encourage close friendships with other people

Not only is it important to spend time apart, it is also important to support the other person to have close relationships with other people, without getting jealous.

Encourage friendships with people who are guys and girls... not all people who your significant other hangs out with are interested in dating them (giphy.com)

Encourage friendships with people who are guys and girls… not all people who your significant other hangs out with are interested in dating them (giphy.com)

This one can be pretty difficult but trusting your partner to be loyal and tell you how they are feeling is extremely important to a relationship.

8.)    Start with a positive before saying a negative

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It is easy to tell people what they are doing wrong or what we wished that they would stop doing but sometimes we might forget to tell them what they are doing right.  Making an effort to begin criticism with a compliment might decrease the chance that the other person feels useless or unloved in the relationship.

9.)    Use “I” statements

Communicating is essential to a relationship and using sentences that start with “I feel…” or “I need” or “I…” can really help to make sure that feelings are being communicated more efficiently.

10.)  Try not to exaggerate the way that you are feeling/ be honest

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Another way to make sure that the lines of communication are open is to make sure that the words that are said are really the words that are meant.  Sometimes when we are angry we can tend to say things that we don’t really feel.

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Being careful to avoid this is important to making sure that the people that we love do not get even more hurt than they probably already are.  It also helps others to know that we are actually feeling what we say we feel and increases the trust level between partners.


Romantic relationships can sometimes be a lot of work but they are also a part of becoming an adult.  Don’t have a romantic relationship?  These tips can be used for romantic relationships as well as relationships with other people such as your parents, classmates, and friends.  Learning how to develop healthy relationships can be difficult sometimes but The Corner is here to help you!  If you have any questions about the relationships in your life, feel free to call us and schedule an appointment.

 

***Adapted from The Teen Relationship Workbook: for professionals helping teens to develop healthy relationships and prevent domestic violence by Kerry Moles, CSW

About Catie Martin

Catie Martin, LMSW is the Corner Health Center's in-house improv master and therapist extraordinaire. Little known fact: therapists with a sense of humor are better than therapists without a sense of humor.

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