Hello, friends. My name's Stephen LaConte, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed, and according to my friends and family, I'm pretty darn good at giving advice.
So I've invited the world to message me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places) with your biggest problems — and I'm solving 'em right here on BuzzFeed, one DM at a time. Let's get right to it.
Today, we've got this teen girl, whose boyfriend has started controlling every part of her life:
I'm so glad you recognize that your boyfriend's behavior is unacceptable, harmful, and — as you yourself put it — toxic. Unfortunately, what you're going through is all too common: 1 in 3 teenagers have experienced an unhealthy or abusive relationship, and many of them are afraid to seek help. So let's talk about how to get out of this situation as quickly and safely as possible.
First of all, I think you should let a parent — or another trusted adult in your life, like a teacher or counselor — know about what's going on. Even if you'd rather handle the breakup yourself, it's important to let an adult know about the situation. They can make sure you have all the resources and support you need as you navigate this.
In terms of the breakup, I don't know whether you're able to see your boyfriend IRL during this pandemic, but either way I think you should have this particular talk via phone or FaceTime. That will make it easier for you to remove yourself from the conversation if you become uncomfortable.
When you talk, don't feel like you have to defend or justify your decision to leave. If he starts demanding that you give him reasons, it's because he's looking for things he can argue with. And trust me, he'll have a million excuses for everything he's done wrong — but a simple and firm "this is over" is much harder for him to debate.
As for his reaction? Your boyfriend sounds like a controlling, manipulative person, and while I don't know how he'll respond to the breakup, I do know this: whatever he does will likely be a veiled attempt at changing your mind.
For example, maybe he'll be an asshole and say horrible, degrading things to you. This would be him trying to tear down your self-esteem — to make you feel like you don't deserve better than him. Don't fall for it.
Or maybe he'll be super sweet and charming, and say all the right things. This would be him trying to make you question whether you did the right thing by leaving. Don't fall for that, either.
Or maybe he'll be really sad, and cry to you, and tell you that he cannot possibly live without you. That would be him trying to guilt you into going back. Once again, don't fall for it.
And honestly, his reaction might be some combination of all the above! Maybe he'll be a dick one minute, then a nice guy the next, and then a sobbing mess after that. Emotional manipulators will try all sorts of different tactics on a person in order to break them down. The most important thing for you to do is stick to your guns — and don't be afraid to cut off contact with him completely, if he's making you uncomfortable.
No matter what happens, remember that you don't have to go through this alone. If you haven't already, tell some friends about what's been going on in your relationship. Emotional abusers often try to isolate their partners from their social circles to make them easier to control. So surround yourself with people who know what's going on — they can serve as a shoulder to cry on, and a protective barrier from your ex if he comes knocking.
Last, but certainly not least, please check in with yourself over the coming months. If this relationship has left you feeling depressed, anxious, or with low self-esteem, consider asking an adult to help you find a therapist. And if you'd like some additional support while navigating this, LoveIsRespect.org and BreakTheCycle.org offer helpful guidance for young people looking to get out of abusive relationships.
TL;DR: Tell an adult, break up with him, and then surround yourself with people who know about the situation and have your back. You can do this <3.
That's all the advice I'm giving today, folks, but if you've got any words of wisdom for our DMer, please share them in the comments. I'll be reading.