Unhealthy Relationships


Ava Francis-Hall

High school often brings about the first experiences of love, heartbreak, and romantic feelings for students. Navigating boundaries and the meaning of commitment is a learning experience that shapes an individual’s view of their own romantic relationships. Something truly wonderful can begin when two people decide to begin a relationship. However, healthy relationships can quickly morph into unhealthy relationships if red flags are not addressed. 

A relationship’s health can be put on a spectrum. A healthy relationship involves communication, honesty, and mutual support. These pillars create a crucial dynamic that fosters the bond between two people in an appropriate way. However actions that involve pressure, manipulation and dishonesty are indicators that an unhealthy relationship has formed. Abusive relationships rely on the elements of control and isolation, and force the victim into a position that is more difficult to get out of. 

Emotional abuse is an experience that could be harder to identify for a victim. Punches come in the forms of words, and the bruises they leave reveal themselves in the poor mental health of the victim. 

The creation of a totally isolated relationship is used by abusers to manipulate their partner into thinking that their love is the only love.

“There definitely has to be more of a balance in any relationship,” said an anonymous female student.  She experienced a feeling of isolation with her partner, which in turn produced exaggerated fights about small issues and a copious amount of stress. 

 According to the Center for Domestic Peace, one in three youths have been victims of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner. 

Novato High school students are invested in improving the relationships of their fellow peers. Senior Jennifer Vleyvis has been training to be a peer counselor through Marin Against Youth Abuse (MAYA). 

She offered insight into some of the signs of an unhealthy relationship. 

“Your partner is not your parent or police officer, you shouldn’t have to ask to go somewhere,” she said. 

She pointed to social media, specifically Snapchats map feature, Snapmaps, as a tool for stalking behavior, another form of abuse.

Terra Linda High senior Isa Farfan is a member for the Center for Domestic Peace, and a member of the Sexual Health subcommittee of the Marin County Youth Commission. She is passionate about creating a healthy, respectful campus culture that addresses abusive behaviors among its students. Vleyvis expressed a similar goal and noted that she has approached students as an understanding friend rather than an overbearing one. 

Relationships are difficult, and require commitment and understanding from both sides. It can be difficult to have those conversations about boundaries and respect if there is a fear of retaliation, or even discomfort. 

Another female student, who wished to remain anonymous, had firsthand experience with this kind of dynamic. 

“He never took constructive criticism well, it wasn’t something I was doing to be hurtful but something I was trying to do to be beneficial,” she said. 

The friends and family members of a victim can go through appropriate steps to aide the situation. Both Farfan and Vleyvis recommended calling the hotline at 415-924-6616. They also stressed the importance of being a peaceful, understanding presence instead of a commanding one. Telling the victim outright that they should break up with their special other could discourage them from being truthful. 

These conversations are not only crucial, but absolutely necessary. 

“There are a lot of challenges in convincing people that healthy relationships are something to be invested in,” said Farfan. 

Even those not in groups like MAYA can make a big difference in their community. Looking out for one another and being aware of what a healthy relationship looks like can create an environment that fosters growth and respect.