Get Healthy Carson City: How do teens know when a relationship is healthy?

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Chocolate, flowers and heart-shaped expressions are gifted as signs of love during the month of February. He/she loves me, he/she loves me not is a game of chance. Plucking petals on a flower to find the answer when the last petal remains. Cupid launches arrows causing a person to fall in love. While Eros, a handsome immortal, uses golden arrows to incite love and leaden ones to sow dislike.

When we live relationships day-to-day, it does not take long to learn that they can be complicated. Relationships can be healthy and they can be unhealthy. Flower petals and arrows aside, how do we know? 

As with many things our younger selves can set the stage for our older selves. While healthy relationships can have a positive effect in our lives, abusive relationships often do the opposite. Throughout February, organizations and individuals nationwide are highlighting the need to educate young people about dating violence, teach healthy relationship skills, and prevent the cycle of abuse. The information that follows is also wisdom for all ages.

Healthy dating relationships are those that are respectful, mutual and nonviolent. In healthy relationships we feel valued, cared for, and safe. Healthy communication is open, honest, and understanding of the other’s thoughts and feelings. It protects us to “agree to disagree.” Being comfortable with someone when we are with them, but also being able to be apart to explore our own talents and separate friendships is healthy. Healthy relationships benefit both individuals who work together and share responsibilities.

Teasing and name calling can sometime feel like normal parts of a relationship. Spending a lot of time with only the person in a dating relationship often happens at the beginning. So does frequent texting and phone calling. But these behaviors could be signs of abuse or become abusive if they are done routinely.

Abusive actions can take many forms. Attempts to cause bodily harm like kicking, slapping, punching, hair pulling, and shoving are more obvious. Throwing things as well as destroying pictures and things of importance are other unhealthy actions. A partner isolating you from others, making all the decisions and controlling your activities are actions of abuse. Someone else choosing what you wear and who to be friends with are controlling behaviors not loving ones. Jealousy and possessiveness are also not signs of romance or love. Communication that is hurtful, makes you feel afraid or bad about yourself is abuse. Threats to tell lies, spread rumors, or share weaknesses about you with others is a form of verbal control and abuse.

Disrespecting digital spaces is a new and growing form of abuse. For today’s teens, digital technology is in every aspect of daily life. Digital technologies make personal boundaries far from clear. Digital abuse can include unwanted, repeated calls or text messages, privacy violations such as breaking into email or social networking accounts, and pressure to send nude or private pictures or videos.

Teens may blame themselves or feel ashamed if there is abuse in their relationships. But know, everyone deserves a healthy, safe relationship. Everyone.

Having a safety plan in place is extremely important when choosing to end an abusive relationship. This is not a time to go it alone. Letting a parent, trusted adult, school nurse, guidance counselor and/or your doctor know what’s going on is an important step. Carson City Advocates to End Domestic Violence is also a local resource right here in our community. They have a 24-hour crisis hotline at 775-883-7654 to help talk through your questions. You can also visit their website at or follow them on Facebook at . AEDV is the largest domestic violence shelter in Northern Nevada and offers many programs to help those who are or have experience abuse is relationships. is a national online resource that educates teens and parents about healthy dating and how to spot unhealthy and abusive patterns. Teens and concerned family or friends can connect 24/7 with trained peer advocates by calling the helpline at 866-331-9474, texting LOVEIS to 22522, or TTY 1-866-331-8453.

Through the Futures Without Violence interactive website, along with the Respect Effect app, young people can learn to recognize, avoid, and prevent dating violence in their lives. The “That’s Not Cool” initiative includes a vast array of online resources, including active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, as well as innovative new apps and games, providing ways for teens to learn and practice healthy relationship skills, and to ultimately “draw their digital line”.

These resources can help teens know when a relationship is healthy and where to go to for support when it is not.

For information about services and programs available to you through Carson City Health and Human Services, go to, or call 775-887-2190. You can also find us at 900 E. Long St., in Carson City, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter @CCHealthEd, or Instagram @GetHealthCarsonCity.

Veronica Galas, RN, is a public health educator for Carson City Health and Human Services.


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