What to Say When a Teenager (or Adult) Has an Abusive Boyfriend
By Barbara Rose, PhD
When I was eighteen years old I had an abusive boyfriend, and I was miserable. My mom would sit and tell me how poorly I was allowing myself to be treated. Back then, I remember hearing her words and knowing deep in my heart that she was 100 percent correct with respect to everything she was telling me. I felt humiliated, and I felt low self-worth. I felt embarrassed to admit that she was right. I wanted to look good. I didn’t want to look like a failure, and I certainly did not want to admit to her that she was right. Although everything she said hit home, and I knew it, what I really wanted was support, understanding, and someone to guide me in a loving manner so I could break up with that abusive boyfriend.
I needed a real friend, not a daily lecture.
Of course my mom was pointing out the obvious, and she was doing so in the best manner she knew how. All parents do the best they know how. Now, this book is in your hands to help bring you another perspective so you can glean some beneficial insight to help you with your teen. The only one who can help you with how you relate to your teen is you, backed by your decision to learn whatever you can to help you get to a better place, so you can lovingly guide your teen to the best possible place on all levels of his or her life.
If you see your teen dating someone you feel and know is not in his or her best interest, here’s an approach you can try that may work wonders. Try letting your teen know that you truly believe in him or her and that his or her current choice may simply be a mistake, which he or she didn’t see at the beginning of the relationship.
Isn’t this true for all of us who have ended relationships? We usually did not see that the relationship would not be in our best interest when it began. Everybody goes through this. It is so important for you to let your teenager know that everyone who was ever in a relationship that turned out to be painful really did not see that in the beginning, and this does not make your teen a failure.
Try this approach as well. Try saying the following: “I believe in you and I know you are very smart. I know this is a difficult time and I know you will come out of this shining. Relationship mistakes are filled with great lessons to be learned. So even if you feel sad, please never feel like a failure because you never failed! It’s okay and even positive to walk away from a relationship that causes you to hurt. I did, and I know many other people who have. The most important thing for you to know and remember is that a relationship is never a reflection of how good you are deep inside. You were born good. You’re just learning through experience, the way everybody else learns, and in my life, the most painful times taught me so much. I know you are going to make the best choices that will cause you to feel happy again, and I am behind you all the way.”
Now, I believe that the above paragraph expresses sincerity, unconditional love, support, honesty, humility, and wisdom. I also believe that by relating positively to your teen and supporting him emotionally rather than preaching to him, you would most likely help him make a swift departure from a negative relationship in which he feels miserable.
Here is the alternative, and please be honest with yourself as to which dialogue you would rather hear from your parent if you were your teen.
“How can you let yourself be treated like dirt? Where is your backbone? You’re acting like a spineless wimp. He uses you, treats you like garbage, and you take it like a doormat. Why don’t you just break up with him? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have a brain in your head? I can’t stand to see you let yourself be treated this way. You’re miserable. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Take a stand and show a backbone.”
Which of those examples do you think will really reach your teen? Which one feels more supportive? Which one do you think your teen would respond to faster? Which one would you respond to faster and with more sincerity if it was about you?
I believe you would prefer the first paragraph. I believe you would prefer to be related to with loving support rather than being preached at. Let me ask you a question now, being you are a grown adult. Has your parent ever spoken to you in either of the ways expressed above? What do you honestly prefer, to be related to and supported or to be preached at?
If you’re anything like most human beings who have feelings, I believe you would vastly prefer to be spoken to in the most gentle yet loving and sincere manner. Truth must be spoken at all times. But the manner in which it is spoken makes all the difference in the world.
I want nothing more than for you to be able to thrive in your relationship with your teenager. I’m a mom, too, and nothing is more important to me than my own teenagers. What I did was speak and behave toward them in the exact opposite manner from which I was spoken to and treated when I was growing up. I know what it feels like to wish I had a parent who could really understand me, be my friend, and relate to me, while he or she showed me he or she truly believed in me.
I am positive that if you did not have that growing up, you most likely wished for the same thing. I would also venture to say that if your teen does not feel an incredible amount of unconditionally loving support coming from you, your relationship may be decaying, when deep in your heart you would prefer that it thrive. At least I hope this is what you would prefer.
Exclusive excerpt from the bestselling book Dear God, I Have Teenagers. Please Help! (ISBN: 0974145777 Rose Group, April 2007) © Copyright 2007, 2011 by Barbara Sherry Rose, PhD All Rights Reserved.