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

What will my friends say when they find out?

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. But separation and divorce are very common these days.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. You're still you, even though your family is changing.

Will I be able to spend time with both parents?

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.

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.

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

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!

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

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

It's not your fault!