love is respect advocates talk to young people every day about situations related to dating, healthy relationships, and unhealthy or abusive behaviors. Every situation is unique, but chances are other people have the same questions you do.

Our Ask an Advocate series sourced questions from teens and young adults across our social media platforms for a panel of trained advocates to respond to. Their answers are shared here (with permission) to help inform your choices as you consider the context of your own situation.

We’re no longer accepting submissions for Ask an Advocate , but our trained advocates are still available 24/7 via text, phone, and live chat to answer any questions you have about dating and healthy relationships.

Me and my girlfriend of 14 months broke up yesterday. She had never told me about what I used to do that upset her…

…and after a year of being together she finally exploded and told me how angry and hurt she was. I had no idea, because it was all from stuff that happened more than eight months ago. We tried going on a break for a few weeks, but yesterday she told me that she couldn’t see herself getting over it in the foreseeable future and didn’t want to be together anymore. I’m hurting so bad and I just want to be with her.

love is respect advocate:

Wow! So much happened in such a short amount of time. It makes sense that this has felt extremely overwhelming. I appreciate you reaching out to love is respect! Being together for 14 months and then breaking up can definitely shake you up and feel confusing, so I can totally understand how you feel.

It would help to know some of the things that she says you did that upset and hurt her in order to better understand the situation. For example, if there were unhealthy behaviors like putting them down, controlling who they talked to, pressuring them to do things they did not want to do, or any of these, then there was definitely a reason for the person to be hurt and feel the need to put distance between you and them. It can be helpful to ask yourself if you might have been responsible for any of these and if so, take accountability and seek help – we can help you get information on where to go for that.

Even if there weren’t any of these behaviors we mentioned, it’s important to know that everyone has the right to end a relationship at any point and for whatever reason. The only thing you can do is respect that choice, take steps to take care of your own feelings and find ways to move forward. What are some ways to shift the focus to accepting how you feel, respecting their decisions and feelings, and focusing on things that you enjoy? You deserve to take this opportunity to do what reminds you of the great things going on in your own life.

Overcoming this is probably not going to be easy, so you’re welcome to reach out to us 24/7 for more support! We’re here for you!

I’m a 24 year old girl who’s never had a boyfriend and I’ve been dealing with a lot of self-doubt...

…I just keep thinking that the moment a guy ever starts paying attention to me, I’ll jump into a relationship without ever considering whether I should be with that person or not — just because I’ll be scared of the fact that maybe no one will ever find me attractive. I don’t know how to deal with this.

love is respect advocate:

Thanks for your submission! That is such a tough spot to find yourself in!

One thing to consider asking yourself is what it is that you’re looking for in a partner: nice eyes, great smile, a good sense of humor? After you get through that part, or maybe before you begin checking that off your list, consider the way they treat you. Someone that treats you with respect, is comfortable around your friends, supports you in pursuing what you love, and doesn’t pressure you to do things you don’t want to do, might be a great person to have a healthy relationship with.

Sometimes we may feel like we’ve jumped into a relationship, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t end it anytime you feel like you have to, especially if you feel like the relationship isn’t healthy. You also never need a reason to end a relationship you don’t want to be in; not wanting to be in it any longer is more than reason enough.

It can be really challenging when we struggle to let go of feeling unattractive and embracing what does make us stunning, engaging, appealing, and completely worthy of love and respect. Recognizing what makes us valuable human beings is important to focus on first before giving someone else an opportunity to do that for us. Whether or not someone responds to or recognizes our beauty, sexiness, or intelligence, it is there and it exists in all of us.

I’d encourage you to take some time to focus on yourself and find out who you are and what you want out of life. We’re made to believe that our youth is all about (and only about) finding your other half and that we have this timeline we’re supposed to abide by, which is so not true. Maybe this should be a time for loving ourselves as a whole person and not a half person. Doesn’t that sound a lot more kind and compassionate towards ourselves?

You’re always welcome to continue to call, chat or text with us as you continue to navigate this. We’re here for you!

Recently, my girlfriend said I was gaslighting her, and her friends started telling me I’m an abuser. I need help...

…Because of all this, I feel isolated.

love is respect advocate:

It sounds like being talked to about your behavior has opened up some introspection that can be a really good place to start. You deserve to have a space where you feel safe to talk about what these conversations have brought up for you so that if there is a change that needs to take place, you have support in your life to make it a lasting one. Our phone, chat, and text services are open 24/7 — it could be useful to reach out so we can talk about specifics or help point you in the right direction for your own support system. I hope this helps!

My girlfriend keeps telling me that even though I went through a lot when I was younger, there are people out there who have had it a lot worse and I should just get over everything that happened. I feel hurt...

…not just by the fact that she said that, but because she’s currently hanging out with another girl that she says is just a friend but she sees and talks to her more than she sees and talks to me. Her “friend” goes around telling people that my girlfriend is her girlfriend. What can I do?

love is respect advocate:

It sounds like that was pretty minimizing. Anyone can look at their life and think that someone else may have it worse, but the reality is that this is your life, and what happened to you was real and deserves the space and empathy to help heal as well. It would be hard to say what’s going on with the other girl, but how you feel about it is valid. If something makes you feel uncomfortable and her explanation didn’t soothe your thoughts on it, that discomfort may not change. You deserve to have trust and understanding in any relationship you have.

I have feelings for a man and a woman. I feel like I need to decide on one or the other before it gets too serious...

…I don’t want to hurt anyone and I care for them both dearly but I feel guilty and would appreciate any guidance.

love is respect advocate:

Sounds like a tough spot! Having feelings for more than one person is perfectly normal, but it’s important that there is open and honest communication happening between you and your partner(s). You don’t necessarily have to decide between them if everyone is on the same page about being in an open relationship, but that comes from honest communication. If you’re unsure about what you would like your next step to be, maybe stepping back for a bit and seeing where your heart is leading you would do the trick. (Cheesy right? But really it works!)

My first boyfriend was kind of weird: He didn’t like me playing video games or watching movies that had nudity in them...

…and would scold me if I did (even if they were just female boobs — I’m a hetero girl!). He’d say to me, “it’s disgusting.” Would that count as abuse?

love is respect advocate:

It’s anyone’s prerogative to like or dislike any forms of entertainment like video games and X-rated movies. With that in mind, no one has the right to try and control what you watch just because they don’t like it! When you’re in a relationship, it’s healthy to make compromises for the betterment of the relationship, but it’s not up to your partner to set up the rules. Just because he doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean you have to refrain from it if you don’t want to.

It is OK for him to express how he feels about video games and movies with nudity. However, it would be considered abusive if he scolded you or pestered you about it. Once you set your stance on how you feel, it is not his place to try and change you — that’s a red flag for controlling behavior! Look at it like this: he is your partner, not a parent. Forcing you to abstain from nudity and trying to make you feel guilty or bad about it is wrong. This type of behavior can often be a red flag for other controlling and abusive behaviors.

My abuser and I volunteer at the same place. I really want to go back and help but I get triggered by them...

…I would love to talk to them about what happened, but they absolutely refuse.

love is respect advocate:

It’s hard for a survivor to see their abuser in a work or volunteer setting. Abusers are known to antagonize their victims and even try to get them in trouble or fired in retaliation for leaving the relationship. Survivors may also be emotionally triggered by constant contact with their abusers, which may affect their ability to do their job. In general, it’s dangerous for a survivor to have any contact with their abuser because it exposes them to further manipulation and increases the risk of physical violence.

I encourage you to try and find a similar place to volunteer or work. Unfortunately, abusers aren’t likely to compromise in these situations so it will probably be up to you to give up the position or find another place to volunteer. But consider this: even though you may feel you’re taking a loss by giving up your volunteer position, what you gain is so much more valuable. You gain back your power and the freedom to live a happy, abuse-free life.

It’s also difficult to leave an abusive relationship without closure or some type of resolution. Survivors are often left with a sense of injustice and confusion. But the odds of an abuser granting you closure are low. Abusers are all about having power and control. One way they maintain power is by denying their victims the closure they need or validation for their feelings and experiences.

Instead of acknowledging their fault or taking responsibility for their actions, abusers will often use the opportunity to manipulate their victim into coming back. Because of this, it’s best not to even have the conversation with an abuser. There are other ways for victims to gain closure, like domestic violence counseling and support groups, talking to friends and family, journaling, or creating art.

I work as a waitress at a dinner and I have a huge crush on one of the waiters. The problem is he’s 25 and I’m 18...

…He almost asked me out twice (I think). Should I just go ahead and do it myself? What do 25 year olds even like to do? People also tell me if a girl asks out a guy, then the guy would take advantage of her and I don’t know.

love is respect advocate:

Romance can be a lot of fun! If you both get along well, go for it! Be sure that you are asking him out respectfully. Invite him to do something that you both like to do, or maybe try something new together!

It’s true that with a bigger age gap between partners, there’s a higher risk of abusive behaviors, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Regardless of age, if partners treat each other equally and respectfully, you can have a great, healthy relationship! Be sure to keep your eye out for red flags that could pop up in relationships with large age differences — age is not an excuse for abusive behavior!

Be respectful, be yourself, and be sure to have fun! If you need someone to talk to, we’re available 24/7 via phone, chat, and text. Our services are always free, anonymous, and confidential.

I’m in a relationship with an individual with physical/learning disabilities, and he can be really rude, controlling, selfish, and manipulating. I’ve been with him for 7 years and I don’t know how I should go about leaving this unhealthy relationship...

…I haven’t been happy for a while, but he can’t grasp it. I even told him to go on your website to learn about relationships and abuse. He still doesn’t get it. What should I do?

love is respect advocate:

It sounds like you’ve made a great effort to help him understand his abusive behaviors, and he still isn’t getting it. You don’t owe it to him to stick around until he understands what he’s doing. Abusers can change, but only if they are willing, and it doesn’t sound like he’s willing. You deserve a relationship that is healthy and respectful! If you are ready to leave the relationship, be sure to consider your physical safety as you plan. Give us a call or chat with us and we can help you figure out your options as you go through this difficult time!

I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 6 months now but I still get anxious when he adds other girls on Facebook...

…because even though he says he isn’t going anywhere, I’m still afraid he will find someone better than me and it makes me really anxious. I just want to be normal and not think these things.

love is respect advocate:

I completely understand how you’re feeling. Jealousy is a normal feeling that people can get about certain situations. It sounds like your boyfriend has been reassuring you when you do start to feel anxious and that’s great.

Healthy partners are able to respect their partner’s friendships outside of the relationship. I think maintaining open communication when you start to feel this way is important, so you’re able to talk to your partner about what exactly is making you anxious. When you do start to feel anxious, another tip could be to go and do something for yourself that you enjoy outside of the relationship. Self-care is super important because it’s how we take care of our emotional well-being.

My two friends have been in a relationship for years. I have witnessed several instances of psychological and verbal and emotional abuse. The abused reached out to me for help...

…when she had a chance, because we pretty much only see each other when the abuser is there. What should I do about it?

love is respect advocate:

Woah! I’m glad your friend built up the courage to reach out to you for support! And seeing that you too are reaching out to better support her validates how great of a friend you are.

I can imagine witnessing your friend enduring abuse from her partner (who is also your friend) must have felt very disturbing, and disheartening. It’s so difficult to watch someone you care about being hurt by their own partner. It’s always tough when you are friends with both of them. It’s important to remember that what her partner is doing is not okay. No one deserves abuse, especially from someone they’d expect to care and support them.

Abuse is cruel, confusing, and a choice her partner is deliberately making to diminish her sense of identity, self-worth, and dignity. It can be a safe idea to only support her when her partner isn’t around since abusive partners tend to isolate their partners from support. When it’s safe, it would be helpful to remind and reassure her that every human being is always worthy of being treated with basic respect and dignity (including her!), and that you’re concerned for her emotional safety. Most importantly, honoring that she knows her situation best and respecting every decision she makes. You can also offer what you’d like to provide, whether that’s a listening ear, a place to stay, self-care plans, or safety planning with her. Anything you can do to help humanize her and shift power back to her. Also, it can be important to keep in mind that ending an abusive relationships tends to be the most dangerous time in the relationship, so you can encourage her not to tell her partner any contemplations or steps she might take to end the relationship.

Last but not least, you can always talk with us, and you can motivate your friend to do so too. We’re here to support 24/7 via call, chat or text! I’m so grateful that she has a support person like you in her circle.

I emotionally abused my former girlfriend and I want to get help...

…It‘s rare to find help for those who have abused. It’s a mistake for us to try and get back together again, but I want to prove to her and everyone else that an abuser can change.

love is respect advocate:

Thanks for reaching out. It’s super important to take ownership of what you need to do in order to ensure your future relationships are healthy and I appreciate your honesty in understanding how it is not a good idea for you to try to get back together with your ex.

A healthy relationship is based on trust, honesty, respect, and equality. We actually have daily conversations with people who have identified abusive behaviors within themselves. If you would like help in trying to change, we’d be more than happy to have a more in-depth chat about your needs and what steps you might be able to take to make that happen.

Wanting to get help is a great start! It’s essential to provide yourself with enough space to really focus on the work you will be doing to change as well as an opportunity for your former girlfriend to receive the support and help she may need to heal.

Another thing I’ll add is that it might be a better idea to not approach this with the goal of proving to your ex or everyone else that you can change, but instead to make the commitment to change for yourself. Remind yourself that you deserve to have a safe and healthy relationship and so does the person you’re with.

You are always welcome to reach out to us 24/7.

Is it normal to get jealous when my boyfriend messages his friends when he’s with me or when he tells me he will go or went out with them? I don’t make a scene and try to control my feelings...

…but when I’m not having a good mood in general (like when I’m on my period) I start crying and get angry. I don’t know why I feel this way, maybe because I don’t have friends I can hang out with. I don’t know. Any advice?

love is respect advocate:

It sounds like you are being incredibly self-reflective in an effort to get to the bottom of why you’re feeling this way — which is not an easy task!

Jealousy is a normal emotion to have; it’s how we display jealousy that determines whether our behavior is healthy or unhealthy. Feeling comfortable in your relationship to express how something makes you feel is important, and it looks like you may be making such an effort to bottle it all up that it bubbles over sometimes in an unhealthy way! Maybe taking some time when nothing has happened and emotions are mellow to talk to your partner about how you feel will help you feel more grounded and comfortable.

In a healthy relationship, it’s important for each partner to maintain their individual lives outside of the relationship, like work, hobbies, or friendships. It helps build a strong foundation for the relationship when each partner feels “whole.“ You mentioned that you feel pretty isolated. This may be a time to look into things that you enjoy and establish relationships with others that can help build you up and grow too!

My current boyfriend has been acting quite distant lately, like he just can’t look me in the eyes. I can tell he doesn’t want to talk about whatever is bothering him...

…What should I do?

love is respect advocate:

Communication is an important element in a healthy relationship, so I commend you for wanting to talk over whatever is bothering your partner.

When your partner is being distant and doesn’t want to share why, it could be for a number of reasons. It’s best not to assume even if something has occurred and you feel his treatment is directly related to that. What you can do is find a good time and place to sit with your partner and have a conversation. For example, you can plan to talk with your partner when you know he has the time, like on an off day. Also, you can plan to talk to your boyfriend in a safe and neutral place. Maybe a place that’s public but where you can still have a private conversation (like a park). You can start the conversation by saying how you’ve been feeling in regard to your boyfriend’s distance and encourage him to open up about what’s going on. If he resists initially, you can explain how you feel about the relationship and how you want to make sure you both feel comfortable expressing your feelings. The latter may be a roundabout way to spark conversation but it might be just the thing you need to get your partner to talk.