My boyfriend “Jared” and I met at camp and have always been really great friends. During my last year of high school, we decided to make things official, even though he lived two hours away in Pennsylvania. Our relationship has mostly consisted of long phone calls, FaceTiming, and lots of texts, but I try to visit him as much as possible.
When I went away to college this fall, my parents wouldn’t let me take my car. It’s been really hard to see him. The train and bus are expensive and not really convenient for either of us, but this doesn’t stop him from pressuring me to travel to Pennsylvania all the time. Since I started classes, Jared began texting me non-stop. If I don’t text back right away, he’ll call me until I answer, and scream at me for not getting in touch. I’m finding it really hard to make any real friends because when everyone is going out on the weekends, I’m stuck on the phone with Jared.
Recently, I brought up the idea of studying abroad for a year, and he lost his mind. He began texting my friends, trying to get them to talk me out of the idea. The last time we talked, he said that he couldn’t imagine how he would ever survive the year with me gone, and that he would rather be dead than be across the world from me.
I love Jared so much, but I feel so anxious all the time now. I’m nervous that if I really do go abroad, Jared may try to hurt himself or worse. Is this just the normal college transition, or is this bad feeling in my stomach something more?
Many individuals enter into college with a relationship that is long distance. While distance can put pressure on relationships, it is not an excuse for abusive and controlling behavior. The behavior your boyfriend is exhibiting is not part of a normal college transition.
Your anxiety about being away from your phone, and Jared requiring that you answer his text messages right away, indicates you may be experiencing technological abuse. You are allowed and entitled to have your own independent life outside of your relationship. Jared’s constant texts and phone calls are a way of controlling your behavior. As you mentioned, if you do not answer right away he gets upset and yells at you. There is no magic number of text messages when things become abusive, but when you start to get anxiety about being separated from your phone, this is an indication to us that the behavior is not acceptable.
Jared’s use of your friends is a tool to manipulate you and it is also concerning. You are allowed to have relationships with your friends without your boyfriend getting in the middle of those friendships. Moreover, threats of self-harm and suicide are very common manipulation techniques abusers use to control their partner’s behavior. It can be really tough to decide what you want to do with that threat looming above your head.
To answer your question directly, aspects of Jared’s behavior are abusive. Many people believe that your partner must be physically present to gain power and control, but that is not the case. When you start changing your behavior in a way that is not comfortable for you in order to avoid upsetting your partner, we begin to identify a relationship as abusive.
If you would like further information about your situation, or are interested in creating a safety plan, please feel free to call JCADA’s free and confidential helpline at 1-877-88-JCADA (52232). Licensed clinicians are available to give support and help safely plan with you around any concerns you have with your relationship.
For the past 17 years, JCADA has offered support to victims and survivors of domestic and dating abuse. These free clinical and legal services are available to any resident of the Greater Washington area, 14 years of age and older, who is affected by any type of domestic abuse. Staff are available to answer questions, offer support, and connect callers to services on our free and confidential helpline Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1-877-88-JCADA (52232).