Everyone remembers their first relationship. Whether you were 16 or 21, everyone has their first love. But how do you know whether the relationship that you are in is healthy if you have never had a relationship before?

I don’t really remember being taught about healthy relationships at school or what was or was not acceptable.  I think that growing up you watch the relationships of others around you, maybe your Mum and Dad or your Nan and Granddad.

Transitioning from childhood to adulthood can be a confusing time when your emotions can be all over the place.  You know best, and you know what’s best for you, who cares what anyone else says?  Who cares if your parents don’t like him?  At least that’s what I was like when I was a teenager, not so long ago.  However, young people who experience domestic abuse do so at such a vulnerable point in their lives.  I think it is really important to understand that the abuse that young people experience is no less severe than older victims. Abuse is abuse no matter what your age.

In fact, young people experience the highest rates of domestic violence of any age group.  I think that it’s important for young people to understand what a respectful relationship looks like and what a disrespectful relationship looks like.

Do you sometimes forget to text your boyfriend? Does he see this mistake as normal and say ‘it’s easy to forget – next time it might be me!’.  Are you only intimate with each other when you both want to and you’re both ready?  Can you make your own choices without feeling uncomfortable or pressured?  This is what a respectful relationship looks like to me.  Or does he stop you from seeing your family and your friends?  Does he put the blame on you?  Or even worse use emotional blackmail and threaten to hurt himself if you leave him?  These are examples of unhealthy relationships.

“I was 17 when I met him at a house party. He was older than me, 24. I was full of drink and he was adamant I had to stay at his.  We started to meet each other and within a couple of weeks he was very controlling, aggressive and demeaning.”

You might misinterpret his constant texting, calls and snapchats as romantic.  He constantly wants to know where you are, what you’re wearing, and you might think this is nice at first, who wouldn’t?  But this kind of jealousy and control can result in you becoming isolated from your family and your friends as your relationship goes on.

If you are a young person reading this blog, you need to know that if someone is making you feel afraid in your relationship, afraid that they’re going to hurt you or afraid to disagree with them or disobey them, then it is not normal and it is never your fault.

Talk...

Talk to your mum, your dad, your friend, your teacher... Swallow your pride of knowing best (let’s face it, you still do!) but tell them what’s going on and let them help you. There is always a way out.

And if you are a parent or carer of a young person reading this: encourage your child to express their feelings.  Be understanding and listen.  If they can’t express their feelings in words, get them to send you a text message. Communicate and be open with each other. Give them time.  And don’t judge them – because you were once their age.

At Next Chapter, we want you, as young women, young men and teenagers, to have relationships that are free from domestic abuse, and I think that giving you enough knowledge so that you can make your own informed choices is the most effective way of preventing abuse in future relationships.

Remember though - we're always here if you do need us, even if it's just to check something out that doesn't quite feel right...