Even Teens Can Experience Dating Violence: How to measure respect and trust

Love is Respect offers good advice for teens in relationships and gives great definitions for what a healthy relationship is. Romantic relationships are an area where teens, even adult teens, will change and grow. When a person is in a relationship, they can sometimes find themselves in a “bubble” and unable to see what is happening. It’s never a bad idea to measure your partner’s actions to what a healthy relationship looks like. It might confirm that you are in a great situation or it may open your eyes. Measuring respect and trust will give a good indication of what kind of relationship you have.

Respecting boundaries is essential to any and every relationship. It’s very important that partners feel comfortable enough in a relationship to express their wants, goals, fears, and limits without trepidation, and that each person’s boundaries are honored. That means everyone feels comfortable communicating their needs without fear of what another person will do in response.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Trusting someone means you think that they’re reliable, you have confidence in them, and you feel safe with them physically and emotionally. Real trust takes time to build and requires that partners decide for themselves when they trust each other: it can’t be demanded of or pushed onto the other person.

Respect for physical boundaries can be a good indication of how healthy your relationship is. In a healthy relationship, partners know how far the other wants to go based on open communication, and they feel comfortable communicating with each other if something changes. When it comes to being sexually active, remember sex isn’t “currency.” This means you don’t owe your partner anything (including sexual favors or acts) in exchange for something else. It isn’t fair for them to claim that you don’t care about them because you’ve established or are establishing physical boundaries. Building and respecting physical boundaries depends on open, honest communication. Physical boundaries can change. Just because you’ve done certain things in the past, doesn’t mean that you have to continue. You can always change your mind.

If you’re trying to find the right way to discuss your boundaries, consider these tips for healthier communication: Find the right time. Talk face to face. Don’t attack each other. Be honest without being cruel. Check your body language: Ensure you’re not being intimidating and don’t try to have a conversation while you’re doing something else like taking a phone call, sending a text, or playing a video game. Use the 48 hour rule: If your partner’s behavior makes you upset or angry, you need to let them know about it, but you don’t have to do so right away. Wait 48 hours to process your feelings.

In this digital age, boundaries can get a little confusing, but setting firm guidelines and respecting those guidelines will clear any grey areas. Ensure that boundaries set are fair to each person.

The line between healthy and unhealthy relationships can get confusing once a relationship goes online. It’s not always clear what your digital relationship should look like, and different people may decide on different terms for their own arrangements. However, clear boundaries can be set. The freedom to follow certain people or be followed by certain people can be an issue. Posting photos of your partner can be an issue. Using your partner’s phone or tablet could be an issue. Make sure guidelines are fair and not oppressive to the other person. If you send photos, remember that while the relationship may feel like it’s going to be forever and you feel that you are capable of making this kind of  decision, if you think this is something that could get you in trouble with adults, it’s best to take a step back and evaluate your thoughts. Also, if you send photos that are not meant to be shared, and they are shared, then there has been a clear crossing of your boundaries and your partner is not showing respect. Your partner, in fact, could be in serious  trouble for doing this. Teen internet and phone use resources and education can be found at Hearts of Hope, Now Matters L8R. If you would like posters to display Teen internet and phone use awareness, go to the lafasa website at this link. Find legal details concerning non-consensual sharing here.

When it comes to settling differences, remember every relationship will have some conflict at some point; it is perfectly normal because people grow, mature, and situations change. That being said, arguments shouldn’t turn into personal attacks or efforts to lower the other’s self-esteem. If you can’t express yourself without fear of retaliation, you may be experiencing abuse.

Ask, Listen, Respect goes beyond just a sexual relationship. It includes digital and emotional aspects, too. If you trust your partner and they are respectful of the boundaries set together, then you probably are in a loving and mature relationship.

For more information about teen dating violence awareness and prevention check out Love Is Respect and the Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs websites.