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Teen Dating Violence
BOYS, December 2010, by Dr. Julius Licata and Kaycee Jane
Teen Dating Violence
Have you experienced dating violence?
Say you’re talking to a guy at a party. Your boyfriend doesn’t like it, and later confronts you about it. He pins you against a wall. You yell at him to get his hands off you. As you’re trying to explain that the guy was just asking about one of your girlfriends, your boyfriend smashes his fist into the wall.
Often in teen relationships, violence takes the form of physical aggression, which can be minor -- pushing, grabbing or smashing an object, or major, slapping, slamming or punching. You’ve just experienced dating violence. But you love the guy. What to do?
Sticking up for yourself, making your boyfriend aware that he’s not treating you with respect, is the only way to earn his respect. It may feel good to keep him happy by doing what he wants—not talking to other guys, for example. But if he doesn’t have a good reason for asking you to do what he wants—and jealousy is not a good reason—it’s a bad idea. Why? Because you’ve given up your own needs to keep yourself safe and be able to happily accept how he treats you.
If a guy gets physical, he’s a Frog, not a Prince. Kick him to the curb. Period. Some girls do, but then take him back for reasons like it’ll-never-happen-again or I-can’t-live-without-you. You get lots of good feelings in a relationship, whether there’s dating violence or not. That’s why it’s hard to make the big self-respect choice and exit.
Should you take him back because you think you can change him? Absolutely not. When you enter into a relationship expecting to change someone, the only person who is changed is you. If your boyfriend punched the wall because you were talking to another guy, you fix the relationship by giving up your rights, you stop talking to other guys. So now the relationship works. But what happens the next time you do something he doesn’t like? His aggression won’t go away just because you love him.
It’s hard to know whether you can work things out with a guy—take back your rights, trust him to not to be physical, build a healthier relationship. But you must be able to do so if you’re going to make a “go-back” choice. In a healthy relationship, you get to decide when you want to give up meeting your own needs to meet your boyfriend’s. And if he gets his needs met by telling, instead of asking, he doesn’t know right from wrong. He doesn’t respect you. Again, he’s a Frog, not a Prince.
Healthy relationships are about being “mutual,” says Dr. Joanne Davila, professor of psychology at Stony Brook University in New York. She describes this skill as being able to have open, two-way conversations to see each other’s perspective, listen without judgment, take turns talking, and adjust your perspective when the other raises good points.”
Can your boyfriend do that? Tell him, “I have a right to decide who I talk to at a party, and not give reasons. If you truly cared about me, you’d trust me.” And ask him, “What makes you think I need a reason to talk to anyone?”
How can you tell if you can trust a guy not to be physical again? If you’re going to remain in the relationship, you have to tell your boyfriend, “Punching the wall is how you tell me you’re more powerful than I am. I’m not frightened. But I’m angry for the way you just treated me.” And ask him these questions, “What makes you think you can get away with that? When we disagree again, how do I know you won’t show this aggression?” Then let him talk.
If he gets angry at having to answer your questions, or refuses to answer them, he’s not being mutual. He can’t build a healthy relationship. If doesn’t have good answers to your questions, he doesn’t know himself. He doesn’t respect himself. So either way it’ll be impossible to determine whether you can ever trust him again after a threat, a push, a slap.
Don't be afraid to talk about physical aggression. Establish boundaries. It’s only when you tell him your boundaries that he’ll respect you and understand a healthy consequence, “If I step beyond them, I’ll lose her.”
If you say, “I’m outta here the moment you raise your hand,” and he does and you don’t exit, there’s a disconnect between your words and actions. How do you close that gap? By aligning what you do with who you are, your feelings, needs and beliefs. If you believe it’s wrong to hurt others, but your boyfriend hurts you, you must find the courage to leave him behind.
A guy needs to earn your love, meeting your needs one at a time. And you have to build your self-esteem by standing up for yourself and meeting your own needs. That’s why, if he ever pins or slaps you or smashes his fist against the wall, it’s time to exit the relationship. Throw that Frog back into the pond. It’s the only way you’re going to find a Prince.
About the authors
Dr. Julius Licata is director of TeenCentral.net, an on-line site that offers teens free professional advice and counseling. Kaycee Jane is the author of “Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends.”
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