Does This Sound Like an Abusive Relationship?

Published: September 06, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I had a girlfriend that was long distance and even though we've broken up now and don't even speak anymore I've been reflecting a lot on the relationship and I'm not sure if it was a healthy one. The only reason I'm asking this is so that if it is abusive I can avoid one in the future and learn the warning signs. Here are SOME, not even all, things that she did that I now realize were sketchy: A) She would constantly say things like "it's only been four minutes and I already miss you." B) Whenever she was mad at me she would always do passive-aggressive things, like let's say for example (this didn't happen) if I told her I was busy and couldn't talk to her, she would post on Twitter "I hate it when people ignore me hahahahaha :))" C) When I broke up with her the first time, she literally faked jumping in front of a bus and being in a coma, which I know for sure is abusive. D) When she heard that my mom died and I needed some time off of social media but that my friend would pass messages on if she'd like, her very first question was if we were still together. E) She would constantly fake panic attacks whenever I gave her the hint that I was done with the relationship. F) She didn't really care much about what I had to say which I guess was more of an ADHD thing which she has but whenever I told her something I liked or whatever she almost always changes the subject. G) She wrote nice messages to me a LOT even when she knew that I hate(d) compliments. H) When we got in an argument after breaking up the second time and I was tired of sugar-coating stuff so I was just blunt and told her that she wasn't making me happy and I gave her tons of chances and promised she would change but she didn't so I made change, she was just like "I was eight months clean. Eight fucking months. All down the fucking drain." That's when I blocked her on everything because I was tired of her bs. I guess I already know the answer to this but I guess I just need reassurance that I'm not overreacting or something. So what do you think? Did this sound like an abusive relationship?
Signed: Does This Sound Like an Abusive Relationship?

Dear Does This Sound Like an Abusive Relationship?,

TeenHealthFX would like to start by clarifying what an abusive dating relationship looks like. TeensHealth has a very informative article on Abusive Relationships that you could take a look at. They offer the following information about abusive relationships:

What Is Abuse?

Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Physical abuse means any form of violence, such as hitting, punching, pulling hair, and kicking. Abuse can happen in both dating relationships and friendships.

Emotional abuse (stuff like teasing, bullying, and humiliating others) can be difficult to recognize because it doesn't leave any visible scars. Threats, intimidation, putdowns, and betrayal are all harmful forms of emotional abuse that can really hurt — not just during the time it's happening, but long afterward, too.

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, guy or girl. It's never right to be forced into any type of sexual experience that you don't want.

They also outline important warning signs of an abusive relationship:

Important warning signs that you may be involved in an abusive relationship include when someone:

  • harms you physically in any way, including slapping, pushing, grabbing, shaking, smacking, kicking, and punching
  • tries to control different aspects of your life, such as how you dress, who you hang out with, and what you say
  • frequently humiliates you or makes you feel unworthy (for example, if a partner puts you down but tells you that he or she loves you)
  • threatens to harm you, or self-harm, if you leave the relationship
  • twists the truth to make you feel you are to blame for your partner's actions
  • demands to know where you are at all times
  • constantly becomes jealous or angry when you want to spend time with your friends


Based on what you described and the information presented above, TeenHealthFX would not describe this dating relationship as abusive in nature. That doesn’t mean the relationship didn’t have its share of problems for you or things that bothered you, but that doesn’t necessarily make it abusive in nature.

It sounds to TeenHealthFX like your girlfriend was not feeling secure in the relationship and feeling like she was getting the love and attention from you that she wanted. And, at times, she became so focused on this need she neglected some of yours (like when your mother passed). Unfortunately, she was not able to communicate this to you in a healthy way. She actually went to some really unhealthy extremes to communicate her needs. And when she would do this with you, it sounds like it only served to irritate you or make you want to pull back from her (which is a common reaction). And the more you pulled back, the more she would do these things that bothered you – and on and on goes the cycle.

Clearly the relationship was not working for you, and FX can understand why given what you described. The fact that you were able to end a relationship that you were not happy with is definitely a good thing.   

If you are concerned about future relationships, FX invites you to consider the following:

  • Early dating relationships help us to learn about ourselves and the kind of relationship we want to be in. You can use this relationship to better understand the kind of person you want to be with and what does/doesn’t work for you.
  • If someone you are dating is coming at you in some way that bothers you, take a moment to slow down and think about what it is that they really want or need? Do they need to feel the relationship is a secure one? Are they looking to feel love and attention from you? The ways in which they are communicating their needs might be problematic, but the underlying needs themselves are not. If you can find a way to talk about this with future girlfirends, it would be helpful to the relationship.
  • How do you feel about being close with someone else? How do you feel about receiving love and giving love? If you are finding that this is tough for you, consider speaking to a trusted adult about it. You could talk to a parent, a school counselor or even a private therapist.
  • If you are ever in a relationship where you have concerns or are struggling with specific issues, reach out to a trusted adult about this as well so you can get the guidance and support you need in dealing with it and in learning how to talk to your girlfriend about it.


If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX