From childhood the idea of romantic interest is instilled in children. Two toddlers may enjoy a nice playdate and a friendly hug. Before long, mothers and grandmothers force the kids together as if they are destined to be lovers. These somewhat toxic behaviors stick with kids into adolescence. The standard of finding love is prevalent in culture and society. Movies, music, literature, social media all display this idea of perfect love. Deemed by younger generations as, “relationship goals”, these social media posts and accounts idolize a standard of love that adolescents strive to obtain and create.
By trying to produce an impossible belief, many teens find themselves in predicaments and falling into unhealthy practices.
One of these unhealthy habits is peer pressure. We often hear about relational toxicity in the form of peer pressure, which refers explicitly to the pressure teens feel from their friends to behave in certain ways. It can take the form of challenges, threats, or insults. Sometimes, peer pressure is unspoken, and an adolescent may feel pressured to do something simply because their friends are doing it, so they can fit in.
A teen may feel pressure to do things that they do not want to do while in a relationship. Their partner may ask them to go places or do things to prove they love the other person. A teen may do things because it seems as if the rest of the friend group are participating. A teen might feel like he’s unpopular unless he’s with his girlfriend, or a girl could be given an ‘easy’ label because she dates a lot.
Sadly, social status means everything to a teenager, so if their social status is raised or lowered because of their relationship; they will experience an artificial boost in self-confidence, or feel badly about themselves because of their status. Many teens are pressured into relationships, and the relationships become unhealthy. Friends can shape and influence many actions of teens; so many adolescents will do anything to please their friends. These actions can often be risky physically and emotionally. The maturity and confidence level of the teen will determine how far their peers can influence them. If the teen does not think for themselves and they are easily influenced, peers can often manipulate them into participating in deeds they normally would not do. Some of these activities include drinking, smoking, nonconsensual sexual behaviors. One of the biggest influences on teens is a significant other. Boyfriends and girlfriends frequently exert a larger influence than friends because youth often seek to please someone who seems to desire them. Although teen love is often fleeting and fragile, most teens look to please their significant other more than their friends because it is a new influence. When a significant other pressures a teen to try something harmful or illegal; saying no can be difficult being that partnership is an integral part of a growing and maturing adolescent’s life. Many kids wind up addicted to drugs or excessive drinking typically resulting from peer pressure. Although often overlooked as part of a destructive relationship, peer pressure can often be more damaging than other detrimental habits.
Another reason for an unhealthy teen relationship stems from having unrealistic expectations. Many teenagers will love with the mindset that the other person should magically change into the person they have in mind. Many teens have standards or requirements they want their significant other to meet. A young girl may expect her high school dropout boyfriend to suddenly become a lawyer, but her standards are unattainable. Going into a relationship with high or impossible expectations can lead to poor mental health. Thinking that the person is not as in love because they are not meeting their expectations can often lead to depression, and in extreme cases, suicide. Unmet expectations can also lead to violence, which takes many forms. Adolescents may feel upset when the reality of their relationship does not match their expectations. One study found the more relationships advanced differently than expected, mental health decreased.
One out of three teens will experience abuse of some kind in their relationship. Many unhealthy behaviors can lead to violence. Jealousy, where a partener lashes out because they are jealous. The abuser may start following their partner, accusing them of cheating, or prohibiting them from being with friend. Many abusive partners will manipulate their significant other. This includes, but is not limited to: influencing actions and decisions, friends, social attendance, and blackmail. A common type of dating violence stems from emotional abuse. Although less discussed than sexual or physical abuse, it is very much prevalent. Emotional abuse is a form of controlling behavior that involves forcing another person to behavior that causes a diminished sense of dignity and self-worth. Many times, emotional abuse causes a victim to suffer from anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. While there are many types of emotional abuse, verbal abuse is one of the most common. Verbal abuse can be used as a way to control victims by making them feel very insignificant and self-conscious. It can come in the form of threats, belittling, and/or degradation. Teens are already very emotionally vulnerable and verbal abuse by a partner can only increase the stress of the situation. Teens who are victims of emotional abuse are more likely to have low self-esteem, be depressed or anxious, and turn to drugs and alcohol for comfort. Although teens are still young and most likely cared for by their parents, they still depend on their significant other for many things. When self-worth decreases, they rely on their partner to boost it. Most abusers alternate from an abusive mindset and language, to a loving and caring partner. Generally, abusers will make it seem like the abuse never happened and everything is okay. A teen learning more about themselves before attempting a relationship can help ease the blindness of abuse. Many times teens in abusive relationships fail or refuse to realize their predicament because of high expectations and/or expecting to change or fix their significant other. Many may also believe their partner has good intentions, and they are just trying to help.
There are many consequences, immediate and delayed. Teens that experience dating violence are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety. Engage in violent habits like smoking, drinking, and drug usage. Victims may also present isolationist behaviors such as: dishonesty, burglary, bullying, and even violence. Victims of dating violence may even become suicidal as a result of their abuse. Many victims can not escape the hurt later in life. “‘We need more research to better understand how aggression functions in teen dating relationships.’”(Mealy, 2012). Cortens’ opinion on the research of teen dating violence is important to understand that dating violence is remaining a more prominent problem in today’s society. Cortens’ research also concluded that youths involved in an aggressive relationship are more likely to bear their hurt into adulthood and enter a relationship with another aggressor. Identity and freedom is frequently based in the mind; so when significant other damages a teen’s sense of identity or self-worth, this sense of degradation and loss of identity stays well into adulthood. When this loss of identity occurs, previous victims often fall prey to be mistreated later on in life. Research has shown that teen dating violence resulted in cigarette smoking and suicide attempts for both sexes. Binge-eating and suicidal thoughts were prominent in male adolescents, and smoking marijuana and high depressive symptoms in female adolescents (Eisenberg, 2007). Eisenberg’s research concluded that adolescent females that experienced teen dating violence also experienced unfortunate consequences later in life. Heavy drinking, depression, and violence victimization are among them.