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

My parents never married. Do they have to go through the same process that married parents do when they split up?

Parents who chose to live together without getting married don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end. But they do need to decide what will happen to their children and how they will divide their property.

I really feel like I need some help. Who should I ask?

There are lots of people around you who can help. Tell your parents, teacher, school counsellor, family doctor or another adult you trust.

If you aren't getting the help you think you need, keep asking until you get it.

What is the difference between separation and divorce?

When two people have been living together and they decide not to live together anymore, they are separated. However, when married people separate, their marriage has not yet ended. They have to get a divorce to legally end a marriage. Common-law couples don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end.

Can I do anything to get my parents back together?

Most parents split up only after trying very hard to save their relationship. Some teens hope and believe that if they try to be on their very best behaviour, their parents will get back together.

However, this plan isn't likely to work, since their parents' decision to split up had nothing to do with them. Their decision to separate or divorce is usually final.

Do I have to take sides, or choose one parent over the other?

No, you don't. You have the right to love and be loved by both parents.

If you are feeling pressured to take sides, and you feel you are caught in the middle of your parents' problems, tell them.