College is filled with all types of relationships, spanning from acquaintances to engagements. In developing a sense of self, students search for others with whom they can relate well.
Unfortunately, with intimate relationships it can sometimes be difficult to realize when a relationship has passed its expiration date.
Emotional abuse can spoil relationships. It is not healthy and can turn dangerous. Evaluating the relationship is particularly important if it swings back and forth from emotional distance to extreme closeness.
Let's take an example with a couple of gender-neutral names. Look at both the actions of the abused (Casey) and the abuser (Jamie) to find emotional abuse in a relationship.
Be alert of Casey's actions:
Casey finds him/herself making excuses for Jamie's behavior. Casey is apologizing to Jamie frequently. Casey avoids discussing certain topics in the relationship to not offend Jamie. Casey is embarrassed about the situation. Casey feels emotionally helpless. Casey can't find a reason for Jamie's behavior.
Be alert of Jamie's actions:
Jamie consistently points out what's "wrong" with Casey (ex. You're not blond. You're not into sports).
These attributes may not necessarily be negative but are used as alleged downfalls. Jamie frequently compares Casey to other people. Jamie criticizes Casey's social group. Jamie refuses to discuss upsetting issues with Casey. Jamie is secretive around Casey. Jamie is often angry at Casey for no clear reason. Jamie views Casey as a sex object rather than a person. Jamie acts as if the abuse is no big deal, blames it on Casey or denies doing it.
If you recognize any of these in the relationships around you, take action. The after-effects of emotional abuse are very real. If you suspect that you or one of your friends is in an abusive relationship, there are steps you can take to help.
If you know the abused:
Let him/her know you are concerned. Help he/she recognize the situation is not OK. Acknowledge that the situation is difficult. Remind him/her it is not his/her fault. Listen to what he/she has to say and believe him/her. Be non-judgmental; if he/she has returned to the relationship multiple times, don't criticize him/her. Encourage him/her to talk to people who can help. Encourage him/her to focus on things outside the relationship. Tell him/her that he/she deserves to be in a healthy relationship.
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If you know the abuser:
SAY SOMETHING; your silence is the same thing as giving your OK to the abuse. Draw attention to it. ("When you do that, it makes your partner feel bad. That isn't cool, you know.") Let him/her know that you care about him/her but you won't tolerate him/her abusing someone. Tell him/her that his/her behavior makes you uncomfortable. Tell him/her a loving relationship does not include abuse. Remind him/her that people should never abuse others. Suggest he/she calls you if he/she feels he/she is losing control of his/her actions. Suggest he/she seeks counseling.
Speaking up is very important. Relationships that are emotionally abusive will often get worse over time, and many can escalate into physically abusive relationships. Say something today.
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