Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Healthy and Abusive Relationships

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In a healthy relationship, the partners

  • listen to each other;
  • consider each other's thoughts and feelings;
  • respect, trust, and support each other;
  • recognize each other's strengths and achievements;
  • respect each other's culture;
  • decide together if and when to have sex;
  • feel safe with each other, both alone and with others;
  • enjoy spending time with each other, both alone and with others;
  • encourage each other to spend time with friends and family; and
  • encourage each other to feel good about and take care of themselves.

In an abusive relationship, one person might

  • ignore the other person's feelings and wishes;
  • ignore or pretend not to hear the other person;
  • call the other person names;
  • put the other person down about the way he or she dresses, talks, walks, dances, and so on;
  • get jealous when the other person is around other guys or girls;
  • be suspicious about the other person's activities all the time;
  • control the other person with threats;
  • control how much time the other person spends with friends and family;
  • embarrass or tease the other person in a mean way;
  • play mean tricks on the other person;
  • not keep the other person's secrets;
  • act more friendly when alone with the other person than when around friends;
  • sulk when the other person doesn't do what he or she wants;
  • threaten suicide to get his or her own way;
  • encourage or pressure the other person to do things that make him or her uncomfortable;
  • show anger and use threats and/or violence to get his or her own way;
  • refuse to accept the other person's limits about sexual activity;
  • hit or push the other person around;
  • take or destroy the other person's possessions; or
  • hurt or threaten to hurt the other person's pet.

Do you recognize that you’re doing any of these things to another person? Are you having any of them done to you? If so, you may be in an abusive relationship. Whether you are the person abusing someone else or you’re the person being abused, get help. Talk to a school counselor, your family doctor, or another adult you trust. Ask for help to find a counsellor or community program. More help resources.

Q & A

Q:
I'm feeling guilty. Was there something I did to cause it?
A:

You are not the reason for your parents splitting up. Parents split up because of problems in their relationship.

It's not your fault!

Q:
I'm feeling really upset and confused about my parents splitting up. Is this normal?
A:

It's natural — and entirely normal — to experience some intense emotions. You will feel better over time. There are lots of ways to help yourself feel better, and people who can help you if you need it.

Q:
Who decides who I will live with?
A:

Ideally, your parents will make the decisions together about who you will live with and how that will work. Your opinion should be taken into account.

If they can't decide themselves, they might go to a mediator for help in reaching an agreement. Or they might have to go to court and have a judge make the decisions for them.

Q:
Will I be able to spend time with both parents?
A:

In the vast majority of cases, children get to spend time with both parents. How much time you spend with each parent, and exactly how that will work, depends on your custody and access arrangements.

Q:
If my parents divorce, will the same thing happen to me?
A:

Many teens whose parents split up feel anxious about their own relationships in the future. But just because your parents split up doesn't mean the same thing will happen to you. What happens in your relationships will be up to you, not your parents!