Friday, March 07, 2014

The Relationship Spectrum

In my private practice I see many adolescent girls for a variety of reasons, ranging from sexual abuse recovery, to managing beyond control behavior, to dealing with cyber-bullying.  Often they are dealing with multiple issues that are inter-related. 

Regardless of the primary reason these girls are seeing me, I always counsel them about a few key issues that I believe all teenagers should know.  One of these is the age of consent for sexual activity (which in Guam is 16 and will be addressed in another article) and another is following their “gut” when it comes to all safety concerns, whether it be getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking, or trying to figure out if they are being manipulated.  This will also be addressed specifically in future articles.

One topic that can be confusing is dating violence.  Teens, as well as adults, are often confused about whether they are in a healthy relationship or an abusive one, when often they are in neither.  A better description might be an “unhealthy” relationship, one that is not healthy, but not quite abusive, and certainly not violent.

Note that boys can also be the victims of unhealthy or abusive relationships.  When I say that I counsel girls about these issues, that is simply because I tend to see a lot of girls.  I do see some boys, but I do my best to refer them to male counselors who might serve as positive male role models.

The following information is a handout that I give adolescents and can be found on the link:

Read it, think about it, and check off the items that describe your relationship.  You may find that your relationship is healthy in some ways, unhealthy in others, or even abusive when it comes to certain issues.  And remember, when in doubt:  Follow your gut!

A healthy relationships means that both you and your partner are...

Communicating – You talk openly about problems and listen to one another.
You respect each other’s opinions.

Respectful - You value each other as you are.

Trusting - You believe what your partner says.

Honest - You are honest with each other but can still choose to keep certain things private.

Equal - You make decisions together and hold each other to the same standard.

Enjoying personal time - You both enjoy spending time apart and respect when one of you needs time apart.

Making mutual sexual choices - You talk openly about sexual choices together. You both consent to sexual activity and can talk about what is ok and what isn’t. You discuss using condoms or other birth control methods

You may be in an unhealthy relationship if one of you is…

Not communicating - When you talk about problems you fight, or you don’t talk about them at all.

Disrespectful - One or both of you is not considerate of each other.

Not trusting - You don’t believe what your partner says.

Dishonest - One or both partners is telling lies.

Trying to take control
- One or both partners feel their desires and choices are more important.

Feeling crowded or not spending time with others
- Only spending time with your partner.

Pressured by the other into sexual activity – One partner tries to convince the
other that they should have sex, or more sex.

Ignoring the consequences of sex - The partners are having consensual sex with each other but are not talking about possible consequences.

An abusive relationships starts when one of you...

Communicates in a way that is hurtful or insulting.
Mistreats the other – One or both partners does not respect the feelings and physical safety of the other.

Accuses the other of flirting or cheating when it’s not true - The partner that accuses may hurt the other in a physical or verbal way as a result.

Denies that the abusive actions are abuse – They may try to blame the other for the harm they’re doing.

Controls the other - There is no equality in the relationship. What one partner says goes.

Isolates the other partner - One partner controls where the other one goes, and who the other partner sees and talks to.

Forces sexual activity -
One partner forces the other to have sex.

Blog Post Written by: Rosemarie B. Camacho, MA, IMFT, ICADC
Rosemarie B. Camacho is an Individual, Marriage, and Family Therapist and Certified Substance Abuse Treatment Counselor III who specializes in sexual assault recovery, family violence, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.  She currently serves as the President of the Association of Individual, Marriage and Family Therapists.  You may learn more about Rosemarie's professional training and experience at

No comments:

Post a Comment