Columnist

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Q.I recently broke up with my boyfriend. I wasn’t happy with him. Our relationship was all about him. I thought I was in love, but now I know I wasn’t. I was just attracted to him. He didn’t listen to me, or think of my needs. He’s not taking it well at all. At first he was all about begging, but now he’s just mean. He sends me horrible texts. I’ve blocked his number but then he got a new one, so now I don’t respond to any number I don’t know. He’s talking trash about me on Instagram. Actually, he’s all over social media posting negative stuff about me. He’s telling our friends lies about me. Through it all, he acts like if he pushes me enough, I’ll go back to him. I will not. Is he right? Am I being unreasonable?

17-year-old

Mary Jo’s response: Making a decision about an unhealthy relationship isn’t unreasonable, it’s wise. You are the only person who knows your needs; relationships should enhance our lives and bring us joy, not cause us anxiety.

Love is tough to define. Love is a personal emotion; no one can tell you if you’re in love. The connection between love and lust – attraction – is complicated. Most people begin relationships due to physical attraction. Relationships don’t always evolve into love.

Even if two people are in love, their love may be mature or immature. A mature relationship involves empathy and commitment. Each person listens to the other and cares about the other person’s needs and happiness. Partners in mature relationships are able to be other-directed. Mature relationships are based on respect. Immature relationships are often selfish. Jealousy and verbal abuse signal immature relationships.

While healthy relationships may not end easily, a mature relationship will leave both people feeling safe. Yes, a breakup can cause emotional pain, but your ex is trying to use power to force your return to him. Using power and control in a relationship isn’t OK. Sending you rude or mean texts is a sign of an unhealthy relationship and should reinforce the rightness of your choice.

Early life relationships are often learning experiences. We discover our relationship likes and dislikes as young people. Serious relationships are often too intense for teens. This time of your life passes quickly; enjoy it by spending time with friends who are mutually supportive.

Breakups are challenging; they also are opportunities to observe behavior. The following red flags should make you cautious:

1. Using social media to attack.

2. Violating your privacy, both on social media and with friends.

3. Trying to control you.

4. Spreading lies about you.

5. Abusing you verbally.

Have you shared this situation with your parents? I strongly suggest a trusted adult know what’s happening. Ex-partners can be dangerous, and his refusal to move on might signal more than verbal abuse.

Inability to handle rejection can also be dangerous. Adults need to model respect when relationships end. Learning to deal with rejection is a life skill.

Here’s a website about emotional abuse in relationships:

Be strong. Returning to an unhealthy relationship can damage your life.

Peer Educator response: Walk away and keep on walking. No matter why you break up, your decision should be respected. His actions on social media alone are enough to keep you apart. He’s shown you who he really is. Stay away.

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email at podmj@healthyteens.com.

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