I was sitting in my seat the first day of chemistry class, it was my senior year of high school. In walked a boy I had never seen or met before, he came up my row, joking and laughing with a few kids he knew as he sat down three seat in front of me. I believed in love at first sight.
Red flag #1. You can’t love someone at first sight.
Over the next few days he and I started to get to know each other. He bought concert tickets to surprise me and then asked if I would go with him that weekend. I said I couldn’t, my dad had a no concert rule, there would be no way I could go. He tried to get me to change my mind and ask or just make some other excuse to my dad about where I would be. I couldn’t go and he was upset that he had to sell or give away the tickets, he made me feel guilty and brought it up regularly. I apologized way too much, and accepted the guilt.
Red flag #2. Emotional manipulation ruled our relationship.
Over the next few weeks he and I started going out. He walked me to my classes and picked me up when they were over. I no longer walked with my friends or had time to gossip at my locker with people. Several times he convinced me to skip school with him to spend time together. After school hours were spent together. My grades suffered and so did my friendships.
Red flag #3. Exclusive meant only him. Period.
Within the next few months, things at home were so difficult that I moved to a friend’s home. He convinced me to resent the rules and authority at home and to rely on him as the true voice of reason in my life.
Red flag #4. From the beginning he encouraged me to question my parent’s authority.
His family situation was really a mess and in transition. His dad was moving away, he was living with a friend’s family and “negotiating” his way to living with his mom and step-father. Our conversations about how he felt towards his parents was riddled with disrespect and expectations of entitlement, especially as it concerned his mom. Additionally, I witnessed several confrontations with female teachers. And the way he talked about his last girlfriend, convinced me she was a monster, turns out she wasn’t.
Red flag #5. He had respect issues towards women.
I could make my red flag list quite lengthy. There were quite a few.
February is Teen Dating Violence Month (Teen DV Month) and as I was working through how to convey the importance of healthy relationships as teens, I could not help but remember how many red flags I blew off to get myself firmly planted in an abusive relationship before I even left high school.
Here are the things I didn’t do well:
- I wasn’t looking for red flags.
- I believed he really loved me and wanted what was best for me.
- I didn’t believe my family and friends who were telling me otherwise.
- I had no boundaries in place for myself.
To the best of my memory, there was no physical violence in our relationship until much later, but verbal and emotional abuse, was present from the onset. Abuse always escalates because it is about control, and it doesn’t have to be physical abuse to be unacceptable. We were together for four years when we married and it would be another twelve years before I was finally able to get free of the abusive relationship I entered into as a teenager in high school.
It’s hard to give advice, I never want to sound preachy. But if there is some way, somehow, the things I have gone through could help even one person, I would be so pleased. Statistically, teen abuse is prevalent beyond what should be normal. If you are a teen, or if you know a teen who is in a relationship that doesn’t seem O.K. spend a few minutes looking at the information and activities for Teen DV Month from the loveIsrespect.org, take action because abuse always escalates if not confronted. Help yourself and others find healthy relationships.
If I can help you find additional resources or pray with you, I would love to help.