When Lia started going out with her first boyfriend, she couldn’t imagine that at just 17 years old she would live in an abusive relationship, a toxic relationship model unfortunately common among adolescents, the young woman herself and the clinical psychologist Jordi Royo say.
“At first it was a normal relationship, but the months went by and he began to have a very possessive, very controlling attitude. He was very jealous and I thought that meant he loved me », says Lia, who four years later is in a « healthy » relationship with another boy in which she can « feel free ».
The young woman, who is studying to be a nursing assistant, ended that relationship “with low self-esteem” and after turning a deaf ear to her mother and brother, who had warned her that she should leave that boy. “One day I told my mother that I couldn’t take it anymore and they took me to a psychologist and I was hospitalized,” explains Lia, who assures that around her, among girls her age, she sees “many cases of toxic relationships” .
“It is a pattern that repeats itself. Many adolescents live in a toxic relationship but do not know it, “adds the young woman, who blames some television reality shows for showing as “normal” relationships in which jealous attitudes and patterns of abuse and submission are very present.
The psychologist Jordi Royo, clinical director of Amalgama7, and vice president of the mental health cluster of Catalonia, explains that a toxic relationship is characterized by the imbalance that implies that one is physically or psychologically abused.
In the case of adolescents, in whom love lives with great intensity and relationships are disruptive and oscillating, there are moods that are vulnerable and conducive to these bad relationships.
“Possible symptoms? Well, control the other person’s mobile to the point of demanding the password as a sign of love or controlling who they go out with or how they dress, “says the psychologist.
What can parents do?
What can parents do if they perceive these relationships? Royo explains that “if not all, almost all parents know perfectly well” when their children are seeing these kinds of experiences.
“What happens is that although they have a good message, they are usually bad messengers, so you have to find a friend” or another person from the environment so that they can talk to young people and encourage them to ask for professional help to get out of there.
Paradoxically, people who suffer some type of toxic relationship and, therefore, some type of abuse, usually respond to those who warn them “vehemently and belligerently” and have a “Stockholm syndrome” with the aggressor for which they justify their attitudes .
“They identify jealousy with love, when it is the opposite,” adds the psychologist, who warns that many people do not realize that they suffer abuse if there is no physical aggression component.
Even if the adolescent leaves that toxic relationship, it is common, Royo points out, for a trace of low self-esteem to remain for a while, even depression, which “makes it difficult and creates distrust for future relationships” in adulthood.
The clinical psychologist regrets that the school curricula of no Autonomous Community include preventive programs on affections to “teach children and young people what a healthy relationship is and what is toxic.”
Regarding gender bias, she points out that more girls than boys suffer in relationships of this type, as in other forms of gender violence, although she points out that the modus operandi of this abuse is different in relationships depending on the sex of the aggressor.
“Boys express abuse in a more primitive, more primary way, with physical and also sexual violence,” says Royo, “while girls do a more sophisticated, more psychological abuse, by which they isolate the other from their family and friends. , of everything that is outside the relationship».
Likewise, with the pandemic and the increased use of new technologies, toxic abusive relationships, as has happened with other phenomena such as ‘cyberbullying’, have gone digital to a large extent, and therefore the control of the couple abuser is exercised largely through the mobile.
“We talk about things as common as sending a message and if there is no immediate response, throwing in the face why they have not responded if they have already read the message, as if it were the most terrible thing in the world,” warns the expert.