Thursday, July 07, 2011

It's Only Puppy Love...Or Is It?

“You’ll get over it…after all, it’s only puppy love.”
I can remember an adult saying that to me when my high school-to-college boyfriend and I broke up on Valentine’s Day my freshman year of college.

It sure didn’t  feel like puppy love to me.  But we both got over it.
Some young people don’t get over break ups…they don’t think they can live without their boyfriend or girlfriend. 

Apparently this is what happened to a young lady with a full life ahead of her named Lauren Astley.  Allegedly her ex-boyfriend, Nathaniel Fujita, thought he could not live without her and killed her. You can read more about the murder here.
My heart breaks for the family of Lauren Atley.
Did you know the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence is when they are leaving or having left a relationship?  In cases where a person is murdered in such a relationship, 75% of the time it is when they are leaving or have left their abusive partner.

So – before you tell your daughter or son “it is only puppy love” please consider this:
In a Liz Claiborne Survey released in March 2006, half (50%) of the 1,004 teens surveyed reported they’ve been in a dating relationship and nearly a third (32%) said they’ve been in a serious relationship. This same survey found that:

·    One in four teens (24%) reported feeling pressure to date; and 14% said they would do almost anything to keep a boyfriend or girlfriend.
·    In the same survey, 20% of teenagers who have been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner.
·    A significant number of teens (14%) said they have been threatened with physical harm—either to them or self-inflicted by their partner—to avoid a breakup.
·    One out of 10 of these teens have been threatened with the spread of rumors by their partner as a means of control.
·    A shocking 7% said someone in a relationship has either threatened to kill them or commit suicide in an attempt to stay together.

How do you know if you should worry?

A common characteristic of unhealthy and abusive relationships is the control that the abusive partner seeks to maintain in the relationship. This includes telling someone what to wear, where they can go, who they can hang out with, calling them names, humiliating them in front of others.

Over time, the isolation from a person’s social network increases, as the abuser insists on spending time "just the two of us," and threatens to leave or cause harm if things do not go the way they want, "You must not love me." Creating this isolation and dissolution of one's social supports (loss of friends, disconnectedness from family) are hallmarks of controlling behaviors.

In addition, abusers often monitor cell phones and emails, and for example, may threaten harm if the response to a text message is not instant. Parents are rarely aware of such controlling tactics as these occur insidiously over time, and an adolescent may themselves not recognize the controlling, possessive behaviors as unhealthy. "They must love me because they just want to spend time with me."

While the following non-specific warning signs could indicate other concerning things such as depression or drug use, these should also raise a red flag for parents and adult caregivers about the possibility of an unhealthy relationship:
·         no longer hanging out with his/her circle of friends
·         wearing the same clothing
·         distracted when spoken to
·         constantly checking cell phone,
         gets extremely upset when asked to turn phone off
·         withdrawn, quieter than usual
·         angry, irritable when asked how they are doing
·         making excuses for their boyfriend/girlfriend
·         showering immediately after getting home
·         unexplained scratches or bruises

Maybe the best advice for parents is to start talking about what constitutes a healthy, respectful relationship early on with your child.

Sharing the warning signs of teen dating abuse with your child and saying, "If you know someone who's experiencing something like this, let's talk about it, let's talk about how you can be a good friend and help them stay safe."

For great booklets on talking to your teens about dating relationships visit Liz Claiborne’s Love Is Not Abuse website at

So, next time you are tempted to say "Oh, it is just puppy love, you'll get over it," maybe you'll say "Hey, let's talk about it." And that may lead to a really good talk about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

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