Many Wildcats at Ukiah High go in and out of many different relationships. It can be incredibly hard to identify if the relationship you are in is a toxic one or not. Whether your relationship is friendly or romantic, it can still be harmful to you mentally or physically. It is essential to note some red flags in your relationships so that you can get out of them and better yourself.
There are many red flags to look for in any meaningful relationship. UHS News worked with Ukiah High counselor Kristen Frith to develop five significant red flags in your relationship based on an evidence-based curriculum called, Shifting Boundaries.
Intimidation: Frith said coercion in a relationship is “making somebody afraid by using looks, actions, or gestures.” Intimidation within a relationship can take many forms, whether it be putting someone down, making them believe that something is their fault or humiliating someone. These are all forms of emotional intimidation and can be toxic in any relationship. In any healthy relationship, you should be feeling good about yourself, and if you have mind games and pressure in your life, it’s emotional abuse.
Isolation: According to Frith, isolation within a relationship often involves pushing boundaries and making people feel uncomfortable. “It’s whenever you control what the other person does, who they talk to, who they see.” More examples of this would be reading text messages or making you break off relationships with other people, or you can’t be with them. It’s isolating one person so that the other person in the relationship can control them, and often in teen relationships, isolation is a huge problem.
Economic Abuse: Frith pointed out that young people often think economic abuse doesn’t seem to apply to you. Whenever someone denies you the opportunity to get a job because of them or threatens to show up at your work and cause a scene, that is economic abuse. Though it gets more intense as people get older, its effects can be seen in young people. Frith characterized economic abuse. “Making them pay for everything or making them dependent upon the other person to get what they need.”
Denying Feelings: Whether we realize it or not, feelings get denied in relationships all the time. The relationship does not have to be romantic for this flag to be there. It happens in friendships all the time as well. Firth described denying feelings as “minimizing and denying someone’s feelings or shifting the blame and responsibility for something on to the other person.” If emotions are getting denied in your relationships, this is a huge red flag, which usually goes on for a long time if nothing is done to prevent it.
Power Dynamics: Though this red flag only applies in male and female relationships, it can happen in same-sex relationships as well. There is a more dominant person in any kind of relationship, whether that truly is the man. “It’s a huge red flag if someone is trying to say who’s got more privilege and therefore who gets to call the shots.” It all comes back to power and control and how much you are willing to let a person have over you.
Flirting or Sexual Harassment: It is super important to recognize the difference in what is flirting and what is sexual harassment and where that line is drawn.”Flirting is wanted. It makes someone feel good and boosts their ego. It’s mutual and not threatening.” Sexual harassment is “Unwanted. If it’s sexual harassment, you can feel it inside. It isn’t mutual, one-sided.” It can be challenging to identify the murky waters between these two, especially for teenagers who are new to the game of flirting and dating, still learning all the rules. It’s all about what you’re comfortable with within your relationships.
Not to worry, though, if you recognize that you are in a toxic relationship, including some of these red flags, you can get out. The first thing Frith said to do was tell somebody. “You have to tell somebody else, whether it be a friend, a teacher, a parent. Somebody that you know you can trust.” Once you recognize that you’re in a toxic relationship, you start breaking it off unless you are in danger. “You have to let that person know how you feel,” Frith said. “You have to say ‘no, I really mean this is it. It’s over.’ you have to say it in a way that that person’s going to hear it.”
Though red flags can help show us when we are in a toxic relationship, they don’t mean that relationship had to end. “It doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship; they’re just red flags. If used wisely, some of those red flags can actually transform a relationship or a friendship into something more meaningful because if you use good communication and talk through it, it’s an opportunity for growth for people too.”
Whether these red flags apply to your relationships or friendships, they can help change someone’s life. Though it can be hard to identify some of them, teenagers need to keep their eyes peeled as they gain their first experiences in dating and seeing which friendships are meant to last a lifetime and which ones are toxic to you.