Updated on February 23, 2022
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Help Your Daughter Recognize Signs of a Toxic Boyfriend Before It's Too late
When your teen daughter starts dating, you have an entirely new set of worries as a parent. This person becomes a prominent person in your daughter’s life, and the repercussions of a toxic relationship at this age can be detrimental.
The month of February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, so there is no better time to get familiar with the signs of an abusive relationship among teen girls. Unfortunately, abuse, control, and even violence are not uncommon in teen relationships. Here’s a closer look at some things to know whether you’re the parent of a teen girl or a teen girl yourself.
How common is dating abuse?
Dating abuse is very common in the US. About 10 percent of 13 to 18-year-olds have experienced an abusive relationship. The problem’s not limited to girls, either. While 1 in 11 female high-school students have experienced dating violence in the last year, so have 1 in 14 high-school-aged males.
The scary thing? One in four women who have been victims of sexual violence or physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner in their life first experienced these forms of violence as teens. This indicates that it’s not uncommon for females who start out in these relationships to have similar experiences into adulthood.
Signs Your Daughter's in an Abusive Relationship
Teen girls can be really good at concealing a toxic relationship from their parents. The signs that something is off may not always be immediately obvious. For one, she probably won’t want you to think anything bad of her partner for fear that you will stop the relationship. Two, she may not even realize she’s in an abusive relationship.
Signs your daughter may be involved in a bad relationship could include:
- She seems insecure or lacks self esteem
- She doesn’t show signs of normal self-confidence, such as making her own decisions
- She withdraws from her friends and family
- She dedicates all of her time to her boyfriend
- The boyfriend/partner seems to constantly monitor her whereabouts
- She gets anxious when she can’t stay connected to her partner, such as when she doesn’t have her phone
Teach Your Daughter to Recognize the Signs on Her Own
As much as parents would like to think they can step in and save the day when their child is at risk of being in an abusive relationship, this is not usually the reality. Once a relationship has started, parents may not have a whole lot of influence or control over that relationship. Therefore, the teen usually has to come to the realization that the relationship is not healthy on their own. In fact, sometimes, the more parents show dismay regarding a particular partner or relationship, the more the teen gravitates toward that person.
Sometimes, there’s a fine line between healthy and unhealthy relationships. This fine line is not always easy to perceive when you are just starting to date. What looks like caring and love can easily be controlling behaviors wrapped up in wrong impressions of protectiveness. Unfortunately, intimate partner violence often starts as controlling behaviors.
Possessive Boyfriend vs Caring Boyfriend - What's the difference?
Being in a relationship with someone who makes you feel safe and protected can feel good. He checks in to make sure you’re okay, doesn’t let people do you wrong, and stands up for you. Sounds sweet, right? What’s not so sweet is when those protective tendencies overlap into the wrong territories: control and ultimately, abuse.
Here’s the difference. A protective boyfriend:
- Looks after you when you need him
- Is genuinely concerned that nothing bad comes your way
- Wants to make sure you’re safe
- Is kind and considerate of your feelings
In short, the protective guy wants you to be safe but offers his trust in your ability to be a good partner to him and make good decisions. Remember, protection from your partner should never be constrictive, restrictive, or force you to live life in a way other than you want.
Protection is not suffocating, and there should be no bad behavior involved.
A possessive boyfriend may show these protective signs at first too, but then he may start showing that he’s jealous. He may not want you to be around certain people, such as friends or your family members. The possessive boyfriend may also not want you to do things you enjoy when he’s not present, such as going out with friends. This may even lead to him not wanting you to wear certain clothes or makeup.
In the beginning, a possessive boyfriend may only show subtle signs of bad behavior. He will try to make you feel bad about your choices. For example:
- He makes you feel bad when you spend time with family and don’t invite him—you’ve hurt his feelings.
- He says his concern for your well-being makes him worry when you’re not around him—you shouldn’t put him through that.
- He worries about other guys pursuing you because you wear makeup—you shouldn’t want the attention.
A lot of people don’t even realize they’re in a controlling, toxic relationship. The manipulation tactics can be so effective, it becomes easy to blame his bad behavior on yourself. Nevertheless, he exerts domination over you by using your own feelings about him to make you do as he wants.
Over time, these efforts to control and dominate the relationship can also lead to outbursts of anger, verbal abuse, and even violence when you don’t comply.
Finding Help for Teens in an Abusive Relationship
When a teen is in an abusive relationship, the situation can be a dangerous combination of volatile and tedious. The issue often goes unaddressed, which can mean severe consequences for some teens.
If you suspect your daughter is dealing with intimate partner violence or some level of abuse, talk to a local counselor familiar with the laws in your state. If you are a teen that is in a violent or toxic relationship, open up to someone who can help, such as a parent, close friend, or teacher.