Changing the face of Relationships

                    I speak with a lot of people who have questions about certain behaviors that take place in their relationships and whether these behaviors are considered abusive or not. I believe this type of confusion happens because people view healthy or unhealthy characteristics of a relationship differently. Behaviors that were once considered “normal” or expected such as trusting your partner, healthy communication, or faithfulness has widely changed. These characteristics have been replaced by unhealthy ones such as checking a partner’s phone records, text messages, or social media sites. Some partners are now making it mandatory that their partner provides them all passwords to technological devices. Some people don’t even believe that actually being committed in a relationship with their partner is required!

                There are many different factors that contribute to this change in relationship dynamics ranging from family values, societal pressures, or lack of knowledge about healthy relationships. One large reason that these types of unhealthy behaviors are becoming acceptable is because they are what the media broadcasts, and almost made desirable.  In order to end dating abuse we must address these changes and educate people about finding healthy love, not just love.

                There are plenty of famous love stories that mostly everyone can recall at the top of their heads. Some examples of these would be Edwards and Bella from the Twilight series, Ana and Christian Grey from “50 Shades of Grey”, and Romeo and Juliet. These are widely famous love stories that I would like to think everyone can recall (cause I certainly can!). When most people think of these stories it’s well known they were passionate ones and both partners were described as not being able to exist without the other. These are the types of relationships that the media portrays, they receive a lot of attention, and then everyone wants their own relationship just like it. However, when we take a closer look at these relationships we realize they may not be so healthy.

                In the world famous Twilight saga, Edward and Bella were both in high school when they fell in love. (Let’s ignore the whole he’s a vampire and sparkles in the sun thing shall we?) After falling deeply in love with Bella, Edward described her as his own personal brand of heroin (yikes!), and because of that he was drawn to her. Once they were in a relationship Edward tried to control who Bella hung out with. He had such a problem with her hanging out with her best guy friend that he even removed a piece of her car so she couldn’t drive to see him! (Of course, Twilight fans would say: But that was only to keep her safe from the werewolf). However, in a healthy relationship one partner does not have the right to try and control who the other partner hangs out with for ANY reason. We are all responsible for our own safety, and “love” is not a reason to try and infringe upon someone’s right to act they want to. I can understand that a partner would want to keep their partner out of a dangerous environment but who gets to decide what type of environment is dangerous? Partners could tell their partners they don’t want them to go out with their friends because it could be dangerous. Or they don’t feel comfortable allowing them to drive themselves to work alone because something could happen. An abusive partner could use these same reasons to try to isolate or control their partner. These are not valid reasons to try and infringe upon someone’s right to make decision

                Another well-known love tale would be the story of good looking, wealthy mogul Christian Grey and how he captivated young Ana Steele. After reading “50 Shades of Grey” a lot of women have decided they would like their very own version of a Christian Grey. What’s not to love? He was handsome, wealthy, and very much in love with Ana. However, he often showed his love in very unhealthy ways. Christian, like Edward, also tried to control who Ana could hang out with. He didn’t like it when she would hang out with her best guy friend, nor did he want her to be around her male boss because he was rumored to be a bad guy. Christian also tried to control what Ana would wear. In one instance, he became upset with her when she went to the grocery store in a dress that was “too short”. Another time Christian didn’t like that Ana accidentally went topless on a beach in Greece, where it was actually considered normal to do so. (For those that didn’t read the books Ana was playing a joke on Christian by taking her top off and sleeping on her stomach, but then rolled over. In case you were wondering how someone “accidentally” goes topless!) He was actually so angry that he covered Ana with hickies so that she would be too embarrassed to do it again. These are just a few instances of unhealthy behavior displayed by the highly desired Christian Grey.

                Christian Grey fans of course would argue that those actions are taken out of context and he wasn’t like that ALL the time.  Or that he only did those things a few times, he was right about the guy friend having feelings for her, her boss was a bad guy, and the hicky incident was “romantic”. I’m sure a lot of people would make these statements about Christian, and even their own partners. However, even if media does portray these behaviors as acceptable, they aren’t. In a healthy relationship both partners have the right to dress the way that they want, hang out with who they want, and make their own decisions.

                I can agree that when you are in a relationship with someone it isn’t ideal for them to dress inappropriately or behave in ways that you feel aren’t respectful. However, it’s still important to remember that is their right to do so. We are all responsible for our own actions and choices. If you are in a relationship with someone who you don’t believe is treating you the way you want to be treated, or behaves in ways that make it hard to trust them, you have the right to end the relationship. It’s not okay to try to force someone to behave the way you think they should, and it’s not fair to you to have to put up with someone that doesn’t respect you. Think about it: Is that the type of person you want to continue a relationship with?

                The last example that I used was the infamous relationship between Romeo and Juliet. We have all heard the story, read it, seen it in movies, or learned about it from some reference or another. There love was believed to be so strong that they could not live a day without the other, however does that mean that it was healthy to feel that way?

                Romeo and Juliet were kept apart by their families and not allowed to be together. They were said to have each other so much they would rather die than not be together. This was evident in the end of the story when both partners believed the other was dead and then killed their self.  Although this is made out to be a romantic notion, it’s actually quite scary. In recent news we have heard many stories about men and women who have killed their partners for this reason: they felt they could not live without them. One partner decides to end the relationship and the other partner murders them (or attempts to physically harm them). According to the U.S Department of Justice 1.3 million women and 835, 000 men are violently attacked by an intimate partner in the U.S. each year. This “I can’t live without you” belief is not healthy by any means, even if society is making these types of relationships seem acceptable or desirable.

                Understandably so, it is desired to be in love with someone who is in love with you and makes you happy, but the notion of “not wanting to live a day without you” doesn’t always mean that it’s a healthy relationship. When relationships are established between two people, both partners should be secure within themselves. It is not healthy to enter a relationship with someone and become dependent upon them for your happiness (or vice versa). That can be overwhelming for the other person, and can have dire effects if the relationship were to come to an end.

                I am not meaning to say that it is not completely normal to be sad after a relationship end, because it most definitely is. Breakups are hard, no matter the length of the relationship or the type of relationship that it was. However, if one partner’s sole happiness depends on the existence of the other that is not reasonable or healthy. Unfortunately we have seen these types of relationships end with violence and the loss of life once one partner decides to walk away. In the case of Romeo and Julie once partners believed that the other was dead they decided to take their own life. Society makes this type of love to be desirable, when it often leads to tragedy.

                These are just a few examples of how the media is portraying the idea of “love” and what it means to love one another. Although these are all fictional tales of love I believe they are great examples of the types of unhealthy characteristics that are being broadcasted. No partner has the right to control who their partner hangs out with, to check their phone or social media, to control what type of clothes they wear, etc. These actions are then looked at as acceptable or even desired when they are really unhealthy. We must put a face to these characteristics and label them for what they are: unhealthy and often abusive. We must change the face of relationships so that we can end dating abuse.

             Are there are any behaviors in a relationship that you are confused about? Feel free to comment any that I didn’t mention. Let’s put label them! 

Remember to SHARE Love, 

Anitra Oneill

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