Mothers of teenagers in the BTR.ORG community frequently ask, “How can I help my teen avoid abusive relationships?”
Tune in and read the full transcript below for more.
Help Teens Avoid Abuse by Identifying Red Flags
In this interview, Lucy shares her list of “red flags” that she made with the help of her mother.
You can help your teen avoid abusive relationships by having regular discussions about what red flags they can look out for in potential dating partners, and even taking it a step further by making a physical list that your teen can have in a journal or diary.
Some “Red Flags” you may want to discuss with your teen include:
- Coercion, including sexual coercion, that can include guilting, sulking, shaming, and subtly conditioning victims to participate in sexual activities.
- Manipulation, lying, and gaslighting.
- A preoccupation with their phone.
- Any degree of violence, including harming objects or animals.
Encourage Teens to Focus on Their Own Goals
Teens may find it easier to engage in healthy relationships when adults encourage them to focus on their own goals. Rather than spending time and energy seeking out dating opportunities, teens can use that time and energy to learn healthy habits and behaviors and develop a strong sense of self.
“I think it’s much safer to just live your own life. I wanna say keep your head down and focused on your own goals, but hold your head up. Focus on your own goals.”
– Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG
How to Help Abused Teens
If your teenager has experienced psychological and emotional abuse and sexual coercion, then it’s time to step in and help them escape.
Where a crime has been committed, consider reporting to authorities.
Teens, like all victims of covert abuse and betrayal trauma, deserve to be validated, not blamed. Abuse is never the fault of the victim. Parents can help teen victims by:
- Helping them report crime.
- Developing a safety plan to make sure that the abuser no longer has access to them.
- Seeking professional help for the victim.
- Validating the victim’s experience.
- Reassuring the victim that they are not at fault.
- Allowing the victim to talk openly about their experience, without judgement or blame.
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
At BTR.ORG, we know how difficult it can be to show up emotionally for your abused teen while also processing your own betrayal trauma. Our BTR.ORG Group Sessions are available to you. Please attend a session today.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. I have Lucy on today’s episode. She is a TikTok-er. You can find Lucy at Guru Lulu on TikTok. She is 19 years old. So Lucy’s mom is really interested in betrayal trauma stuff and has been talking to her about this. And because Lucy is 19 and dating, she’s been thinking about this in relation to her mother, and so I thought it might be fun to have a fellow TikTok-er on.
Again, she’s at Guru Lulu and we are on TikTok as well. We don’t often have 19 year old women on the podcast, so I’m happy to have her here. But we do have a lot of women who are in relationships that are emotionally and psychologically abusive and they are concerned about their kids. So Lucy had a video go viral on TikTok about this, and so that’s why we thought, oh, this will kind of be a fun thing to talk about. So, Lucy, as you are dating, what red flags do you look for when you consider dating somebody?
Red Flags in Teen Dating Relationships
Yeah, I have. I have 10 written down and the first one is: He can’t hold a deep conversation.
2. He’s on his phone a lot when y’all are together, instead of interacting with you.
3. He does not let you have his phone pass code and/or freaks out when you go near his phone (because that typically means that he has something to hide). Some will say that’s a violation of his privacy, but oh my gosh, considering all the perversion, corruption, and trouble someone can get into with one click of their thumb <laugh> on the internet, you better believe I’m gonna need access to your phone. If we were in the same room right now and you asked for my phone pass code, I would give it to you because I don’t think that phones were made to be these little boxes of our hidden secret worlds. And if you don’t have anything to hide, I think that you should share that.
4. He is not health-conscious; he does not eat well and/or exercise.
5. If the guy you’re into has issues and is claiming that he will change for you, it never works out. Move on.
6. He doesn’t respond well to you on your bad days. Does he manipulate the situation? Does he gaslight? Take note to how he reacts to your reactions.
7. His words don’t match his actions.
8. Aggressive jealousy.
9. He has no goals for himself, doesn’t believe in anything important and/or lacks healthy hobbies.
10. He’s overly dependent on you and doesn’t have other close relationships.
“I’ve Yet to Meet a Guy Who Fills All Those”
Those are really good. How have those helped you thus far?
Yeah, so actually I’ve never dated before <laugh>. So that being said, I’ve yet to meet a guy who fills all those.
You have not been able to implement your list yet.
But also I am not really looking to date right now either; I’m not on the lookout for a relationship. I’m 19, I’m pursuing my surfing and my music and all this other stuff. So in the defense of men, I’m not on the search for a relationship right now.
<laugh> I like it.
Not that I don’t want that in the future, but I just don’t think that that needs to be my priority right now.
“Hold Your Head Up; Focus on Your Own Goals”
I don’t know if it ever needs to be a priority.
Yeah, I agree.
And the reason I say that is because if you fill your own life with things that you love and goals that you have and someone comes along and they are kind and they’re your friend and he’s respectful and all of that, then it would happen naturally. But actually seeking it out seems a bit dangerous to me because it feels vulnerable when you’re trying to find something, when you feel like you’re lacking something. Because it’s very easy for someone to step into that place and say, “Oh. Well, I can be that for you.” They may or may not have those qualities and so it’s a vulnerable place to try and go look for something.
I think it’s much safer to just live your own life. I wanna say keep your head down and focused on your own goals, but hold your head up. Focus on your own goals. You don’t need to keep your head down or anything.
I absolutely agree with all that. Yeah, 100%.
Now, knowing that you have not dated before, if that came about for you, and let’s just say you began dating, what red flags would make you end a relationship? Are those same things on your list or do you have other things?
Abusers Are Great at Hiding Red Flags
No. The ones that I just talked about and went over are more-so ones that would make me put my guard up and maybe hold back a little bit. Things that I would just kind of look out for, but not necessarily end it right there and then, because there is different situations and scenarios. As dating progresses, what red flags would I look out for? I’ve got five that I wrote down.
1. He has addictions whether that’s alcohol addiction, pornography addiction, drug use or smoking or anything like that. Also an untreated mental illness such as bipolar or a personality disorder or something like that.
You may not know, right? They might have an addiction or a personality disorder, or they might just be abusive and blame it on that stuff.
So that’s something to think about. If somebody has a personality disorder or someone has an addiction, you might not find out about it for years or you may never find out about it. So that’s something to think about. Maybe you can keep that on your list, but also adding the behaviors: even if you don’t know about the addiction or the personality disorder, [for example] they lie. Stuff like that might be another thing you wanna consider.
Porn Use is a Deal Breaker For Lucy
Even talking to other women who have dealt with a man who has addictions and talking with other people who do know the signs, I think is a really good thing to do as far as making sure you do see the signs of somebody who has an addiction, hearing from other people who have dealt with that.
Number two is: He does not have control over his sex drive. And <laugh> culture is like, “What?! That’s impossible!”, you know what I mean? But I believe pornography is one of the most devastating things that ever hit humanity. I could go on and on about this topic alone.
Genuinely, people’s lack of self-control over their sexual urges has caused more destruction in my life than anything else, by far. So if a man watches porn or has a history of watching porn and has not recovered from that, that is a deal breaker for me because I can’t have any more destruction in my life caused by that specific thing. So that is a huge one for me.
That is awesome.
<laugh>It’s not popular.
Talk about that cause you’re on TikTok and you’re a surfer, right? So you’re in your swimsuit because that’s what you wear when you’re a surfer, right? And you’re 19 and you’re super cute. So talk about what kind of push-back you get on TikTok for having that stance.
Healthy Men Have Healthy Boundaries
Honestly, not a whole lot. I haven’t posted a lot on this specifically for one reason: TikTok takes down videos that are too harsh or whatever, which is really annoying. But the video that I did post about dating and my standards, I honestly got more positive comments than negative.
3. He remains in a toxic relationship with other people such as friends, work partners or family, and if he’s close to dangerous, narcissistic, abusive people. That always ends up affecting the people that they’re close to if they’re in other toxic relationships. So unless he has set very firm boundaries that keep both him and the woman that he’s interested in safe from that toxic, abusive person, that is a deal breaker as well.
Did your mom help you write these or are these things you just came up with? Talk about how you came up with these lists.
No, she didn’t help me write these, specifically, as I was in my kitchen writing them down. But her and I do have a lot of very juicy conversations about all these types of stuff. So I feel like we kind of bounce ideas off of each other. Did she help me specifically write these down? No. But, yes, she did absolutely impact my view on all this. And she did help me and give me ideas. If I missed something, she said like, “Oh, you should add this or that.”, and I was like, “Oh, you’re right.” But, no, I completely wrote these down because I have so much to say on this stuff, so it was pretty easy for me to come up with some juicy opinions.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama, is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations as well as infographics at the back. When you go to our books page and click on any of those books, it just takes you directly to Amazon and you can throw those books in your cart after you have purchased the book. Please remember to circle back around Amazon and write a verified purchase review along with a five star rating that helps isolated women find us. Back to our interview.
“There’s a Difference Between a Nice Guy and a Good Guy”
I’m 45. When I was 19, my list was like: He’s cute, he is active in my church, he wants to have a good job, and he’s not abusive. That was about it. Just general he’s-not-a-jerk kind of stuff. But trying to figure out who was a jerk and who wasn’t a jerk was more difficult because I didn’t understand gaslighting. I didn’t understand grooming. I didn’t understand manipulation and all the other stuff, so it was easy to see who was just an obvious jerk.
It was harder to see, and it’s harder for women of all ages to see (and all the women listening to this podcast are like, “Yeah.”), that grooming when they have a goal of coercive control. It’s almost impossible to really view it for what it is unless you know what you’re looking for. And also that you give it time that you observe, and don’t listen to their words. That you have enough time to observe their behaviors, and that’s what you’re talking about, so that’s awesome.
You know, there’s a difference between a nice guy and a good guy. <Laugh> and I kind of learned that a while ago. Sometimes a guy can act really nice, but there’s those other really important aspects to a good guy that make him dateable and, honestly, marriage material.
Healthy Men Don’t Prioritize “Image Management”
My sister’s husband is a really good guy. I respect him. He’s a really good dad. He’s a very good husband, but he doesn’t strike people anywhere as “nice.”
I’ve thought about that quite a bit. His top priority is his wife and his kids, and he’s not so worried about what people at church think of him. He’s nice at his job; I’m not saying he’s a jerk, but that’s not his top priority. Image management and making sure people think he’s a good guy is not even on his radar.
Healthy Men Exhibit Healthy Behaviors Behind Closed Doors
I love that. And I know men like that as well. I can totally resonate with what you’re saying cause I do know a handful of good men who aren’t bubbly and huggy, but they’re actually genuinely good men behind closed doors and with their wives and family.
And for women in abusive relationships, it’s the opposite. They go out and their husband is just nice and everyone thinks he is a great guy, but behind closed doors, things don’t feel right. Things are off. And he might even be “nice” at home, but he’s lying and manipulating, so it just doesn’t feel right even if it seems nice, even if he’s not screaming and yelling or something like that.
So you had a video go viral. In that video you shared why you aren’t willing to settle for less than you deserve in a partner. Why do you think that video went viral?
What Are Modern Dating Standards?
I think my views on dating and my standards and boundaries are pretty drastic for this day and age. A lot of people hear my standards and opinions on dating and they think I’m ridiculous, expect too much, and specifically expect too much out of boys and men. I think people are also thirsty for a new take and opinion on dating because over 50% of marriages end in divorce and that’s a scary statistic; that’s one out of two.
Clearly, we’re doing something wrong because relationships don’t always work out and it’s sad to see. So I think ultimately that video did well because even though they’re drastic, it’s a new perspective. I think deep down we all want that kind of relationship that lasts, and ultimately believe in going back to that original plan for men and women to live holy, fulfilling lives. And I think deep down all people want that.
When you say it’s drastic and it’s different and it’s new, what is your perception of what other people your age view as their dating standards? Do they have any at all, or they just have sex? What’s your perception of other people your age, who don’t have the same standards as you, their view on things?
Choosing Sexual Self-Control Isn’t The Norm
I don’t think people go into dating having very high standards and I think that sets them up for failure. I heard something once that said, if you don’t believe in anything, you’ll fall for anything, or something like that. This is such a sexualized culture and pornography, masturbation, it’s all so normalized now. So to hear somebody talk about purity, talk about self-control, it’s like, “Wait, what? That’s a thing?” <laugh>. So yeah, I don’t think people think about it that much- about standards and going into it in a holy way.
Are you religious?
I am, yeah. <Laugh>
Yeah, I’m a Christian.
Do you feel like other Christians your age feel that way, or do they just talk the talk but they don’t actually believe it? What’s your thought about that?
How To Consciously Self-Acknowledge Red Flags
I think that people in the Christian world, as well as secular world, are doing something wrong too, unfortunately. I think that a lot of Christians do talk the talk and not walk the walk like you said, which is really sad.
With your discussions with your mom, and all the thinking about it that you do, and all of the research that you’ve done, what do you think young women could do to avoid becoming attached to abusive partners before they’ve had an opportunity to identify and consciously self-knowledge the red flags?
So <laugh> culture’s gonna hate this one. My biggest piece of advice for that is be very slow to be sexually involved. Sex is such a beautiful thing and it’s also a very bonding act and even just physical affection in general, I think, is really bonding. And when you’re discerning if a man is a safe partner or not, I do not think you need that kind of attachment getting in your way.
“I Saw Some Red Flags – I Did Not Know How to Process Them”
I totally agree: taking the time to identify. Those of us who have been in abusive relationships, some of us, saw some red flags. I did not know how to process them. I wasn’t capable of saying, “Oh, this is abuse.” It was more like, “Oh, he’s grumpy and this is happening.” It’s weird. And so I attributed it to stress or I attributed it to this or that thing. I wasn’t capable of processing it correctly. Now after enough time with him, realizing, “Wait a minute. He’s still acting like this, so that must not have been the reason.” It took a long time for me to figure it out.
So many women who listen to this podcast have been married for 10, 20, 30 years. Mine was seven. My ex actually had to get arrested before I figured out what was going on. And so knowing that you may get involved in an abusive relationship, and that it’s okay…I know that sounds like a weird thing to say to somebody, but because these things are hard to process or they’re hard to understand or they’re hard to perceive, it’s okay if you find yourself in this situation.
“It’s Never Your Fault If You’re Abused”
The abuse is not okay. I’m not trying to say it’s okay to be abused. I’m just trying to say- don’t blame yourself. Don’t feel bad.
Think, Oh, now I can see this. Now I can process this and now I know what to do. Now I know I just can separate myself from this type of harm and get myself to safety. So it could be psychological, emotional. It could be sexual coercion, whatever it is, but know that these things take time.
I married my ex five months after meeting him online and I’d only known him two months in person. It seemed like a dream come true and it was not. But I also know of women who dated their abusive husbands for a year or two before they got married and everything seemed okay, and then they got married and it wasn’t. So know that you could do everything you can and still end up in an abusive situation, and it’s still not your fault. It’s never your fault if you’re abused.
Still a hundred percent on him, right?
“I Was Lied To & Manipulated, and That Was Not My Fault”
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. <Laugh>. Yeah. You’re never in the wrong for somebody else abusing you. Absolutely. These are just tools to help people hopefully avoid it. Some of these guys are just master manipulators. It’s scary, you know? And I’m not above it. I’ve been manipulated, I’ve been lied to. And sometimes you just leave a relationship feeling like, oh my gosh, how did I fall for that? How was I so blind? And in the end, you are never wrong for caring, you’re never wrong for wanting to believe the best in somebody. They broke your trust, they did you wrong. That’s on them always.
I wanted to say that cause I got married when I was 31, so at that point I was like, “I know I’m not gonna marry an abuser.” I thought I asked all the right questions and then when it turned out that he was, I felt really stupid. I asked him about porn, I asked about all the things, and I thought I was marrying a really good guy. And then finding out that he wasn’t, I <laugh> felt really dumb and I didn’t need to feel that way. I was lied to and manipulated, and that was not my fault. However, had I taken more time and not been in such a hurry, then I may have been able to see it a little bit more. So that there is something to be said.
How Can Parents Help Their Children Date Healthy Partners?
Yeah. And that’s also why I think it’s really important to check their phone histories, to have their pass codes, to randomly check their internet access: because people lie. You cannot take the word of these people because trust is built over the span of years of them proving to you that they’re trustworthy. Even if you feel like you trust them, people are so good at manipulating and you’ve gotta be extra careful and go that extra step to make sure.
Well, and I think that probably was always the case, right? The 50 year olds listening, the 45 year olds like me, the 70 year old women listening to this podcast also needed to know what these things were. I think it’s always been the case. Today, the thing that has exploded is their capacity for lying because of phones, because of devices. So they’re much more capable of carrying on a double life or having a secret sexual basement with pornography or affairs or something else.
It’s easier today than it ever has been in the history of time because they don’t have to slink out of the house at three o’clock in the morning to go pick up a magazine at the triple-X store. They can just access it on their phones, so that has changed.
From your perspective, is there anything you think parents should know to help their children who are dating?
Parents Can Supervise Children’s Internet Activity
I don’t have a whole lot to say on this. As a person who’s not a parent, I don’t wanna give advice that I’m not sure is gonna work. But I will say this- if you have a child and they have a device with internet on it: a cell phone, computer, a video game of some kind, you’ve gotta have the pass codes to their devices and check them regularly. Like I said before, there is such a dangerous world on the internet and kids can get into so much trouble and be living different lives that their parents have no idea about. So you’ve got to have access to their internet and what they’re into. That’s just the way it’s gotta be.
I’m so grateful that you’re sharing your thoughts with us and also with TikTok and that you’re living your best life. It’s exciting. I’m excited for you. I’m excited for all of the wonderful experiences and then the hard things <laugh> that are gonna happen through life. But it sounds like you’ve got a really good foundation to be able to deal with anything that comes your way. Thank you.
Support the BTR.ORG Podcast
Yeah, thanks so much. I appreciate that <laugh>. Thank you for having me. This was so much fun.
<Laugh>, if this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.