Ahhh, young love… it’s powerful, passionate, heart-throbbing and oftentimes all-consuming. But, it can also be dramatic, turbulent, unhealthy and sometimes downright toxic.
Teenagers, especially, have a tendency to dive into relationships with both feet. And, most parents who have weathered the storm of a rocky relationship with their teens know, the bliss of being “in love” oftentimes brings with it a fair amount of ups and downs.
One minute they’re on cloud nine basking in the glow of true love, the next they’re on the verge of breaking up. Another minute they’re feeling totally connected and convinced that they’re each other’s soul mate, the next they’re on shaky ground unsure if the relationship will last another day.
As our kids learn about the complexity of relationships including how to deal with issues of freedom versus possessiveness, jealousy versus trust, honesty versus deception and togetherness versus separateness, there’s bound to be problems. However, sometimes in young love, the relationship takes a turn.
As parents, we need to give our kids enough healthy space and healthy dating practice while they’re living under our roof so they can learn how to navigate complex relationships and shape their dating standards. But, when happy and harmonious is replaced by hurtful and harmful, it might be time to step in.
If you’re worried that your child is in an unhealthy relationship, here are 10 red flags that the relationship may be taking a turn toward toxic:
Being Treated Poorly in Front of Friends
If your child is being yelled at, belittled, teased to the point of tears, brushed aside or ignored by their boyfriend or girlfriend when they’re hanging with friends, it could be a sign of a serious power play. Insecurity and the need to control the relationship could be a driving force behind your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend’s actions and a sign that the relationship isn’t on steady ground. Most importantly, if your child is regularly being treated with disrespect in the relationship, it’s probably time to move on.
Extreme Jealousy When Your Child Hangs with Their Friends
A little jealousy is fairly normal in young relationships, but when jealousy is taken to the extreme it can be exhausting. If your son or daughter is constantly dealing with jealousy-driven questions and accusations and they have to explain their whereabouts or actions every time they hang with their friends, the relationship is missing one of the most important aspects of any successful relationship – trust. With a little open, honest communication, there may be a chance to develop trust in the relationship. However, if attempts are unsuccessful, the relationship may not be worth fighting for.
Being Forced to Spend Every Waking Moment with Them… or Else.
Young love can be exciting and exhilarating. But, when playful and fun turns possessive, it can put a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure on a relationship. If your son or daughter is caught up in a possessive relationship filled with ultimatums and threats, chances are your child has become so hyper-focused on catering to the insecure demands of their girlfriend or boyfriend that they’re putting forth far more energy into keeping the relationship going rather than actually enjoying the relationship. If that’s the case, perhaps it’s time to see the relationship for what it is and break free.
They Threaten to “Break Up” When They Don’t Get Their Way
Girls, especially, are notorious for being emotionally manipulative in relationships. Sniffling, crying, pouting, getting defensive, the silent treatment or threatening to break up are all signs of a manipulative, unhealthy, toxic relationship. If your son or daughter is having to navigate around relationship “landmines” that are wearing them out emotionally and quite possibly physically, encourage them to see the relationship for what is and gently persuade them to break free from the chains of the relationship.
They Freak Out When Your Child Talks to the Opposite Sex Even Though They’re Just Friends
This one is all too common. When kids develop a deep emotional connection with someone – an emotion they haven’t quite figured out how to navigate and deal with yet – sometimes jealousy and mistrust sets in. While an occasional amount of suspicion or mistrust might find its way into any young relationship, when it points toward extreme it may be time to hang up the towel. If your child has reached the point where they’d rather not deal with the wrath of their boyfriend or girlfriend when they hang with or talk to kids of the opposite sex so they end up avoiding it altogether, the relationship has simply turned unhealthy. In a healthy relationship, your child should have the freedom to hang out with friends (regardless of their sex) without having to explain themselves at every turn or deal with jealous interrogations.
They Throw Out Constant “Cheating” Accusations Every Time They’re Not Together
Fueled by feelings of insecurity and a lack of trust, constant untrue accusations that your son or daughter is cheating on their boyfriend or girlfriend can be a serious red flag that the relationship is on seriously shaky ground. If your son or daughter is being continually and falsely blamed of being unfaithful or cheating every time they spend time away from their boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s not only emotionally draining as they fight to defend themselves and attempt to establish some level of trust in the relationship, it can take a toll on their self-esteem and confidence – time to walk away.
Trying to Control Who Your Child Hangs Out With Because They “Don’t Like Them”
In healthy, normal relationships there’s a generous amount of give and take, acceptance, understanding, and consideration for the other person’s like and dislikes. If your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend is trying to control or dictate who your child spends time with outside of the relationship because they “don’t like them,” it’s a sign that shouldn’t be ignored. Your child should have total freedom to choose their own friends, hang with whomever they choose and reach out to make new friends without the fear of being manipulated, controlled or influenced by their boyfriend or girlfriend.
Tracking Your Son or Daughter’s Every Move and Checking in Incessantly
In every relationship, time apart is healthy and normal. In unhealthy, toxic relationships, time apart is often met with suspicion and skepticism. If your son or daughter’s boyfriend of girlfriend tracks their every move via GPS, checks in incessantly to see what they’re doing and who they’re with and blows up their phone when they don’t text them back in five minutes, it’s a tell-tale sign that the relationship is on unsteady, unhealthy ground.
Invading Your Child’s Privacy by Going Through Their Phone Texts and Emails
Self-doubt is fairly common in young relationships, but when your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend starts snooping around and demanding to read your child’s emails and texts just to see who they’re talking with and what’s being said, it’s no longer curiosity, it’s an invasion of privacy mixed with a total lack of trust. A serious conversation is in order to lay down the ground rules of the relationship and, if that doesn’t work, it’s time to move on to brighter pastures.
Demanding Access to Your Child’s Phone Password
Along with snooping on your child’s phone to read texts and emails, if your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend is demanding full access to your child’s phone complete with password – thinking they must be hiding something if they don’t – there’s reason for concern. Healthy relationships are based on trust. When trust doesn’t exist and your child is being bombarded with accusations and demands triggered by intense uncertainty, it’s time to walk away.
According to Psychology Today, early romantic experiences can leave a lasting imprint on who we are and even who we fall for later in life, which is why we need to stay attuned to what our child is experiencing in their young relationships. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should control or hover over our kids or their relationships, it simply means we should be vigilant in helping them avoid relationships that can negatively impact them and their outlook on future relationships.
Sometimes, a non-judgmental listening ear is all our kids need to get the conversation going. Once we prove to our kids that we’re capable of listening without overreacting, we’ll open the door to future conversation and improve our chances of being able to guide them and their future decisions.