Love is Respect
By Mildred Thompson, Writer
February 1, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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Too often, adolescents find themselves in relationships that are toxic to their well-being and have absolutely no idea how to identify unhealthy relationships or safely remove themselves from one. Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the US alone experience physical abuse from a romantic partner annually, according to dosomething.org. One in three high school aged people report experiencing physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a significant other, which is a figure drastically higher than any other form of teen violence, statistics gathered by dosomething.org. One in every ten high school students have been physically harmed by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Abuse is a very real issue affecting adolescents, continuing in a vicious cycle that unfortunately sometimes lasts their entire lives.
Abuse is not just physical, though. Control is an aspect of abuse that a vast majority of the population overlook because they tend to dismiss it as their partner simply being “over protective.” If your partner insists on going through your personal possessions, such as phones, social media accounts or a diary, they are exhibiting controlling behavior and it should not be taken lightly. Your significant other should trust you to uphold your end of the relationship and should reciprocate the feelings of love and respect you give them.
Many high-schoolers are in relationships riddled with control like a wooden house infested with termites. Your partner is not a marionette doll with which you can perform elaborate schemes and plays; they are a person who is meant to improve your life, an addition that should bring happiness and stability. If you honestly feel that you cannot trust your partner, abusing them is not the way to approach this issue. Communication is key, and if communicating with your partner about your worries does not resolve the issue, perhaps ending said relationship is the best choice for both of you.
Having a boyfriend who doesn’t allow you to hang out with male friends without him also being present is not cute. Having a girlfriend who punches you until you allow her to sort through each interaction with any other female on your phone is not acceptable. A boyfriend who disrespects you, your family, your interests and your friends is not normal. Having absolutely no trust present in your relationship is not a situation you want to find yourself in, because ultimately it leads to dissatisfaction in your relationship and life in general, and the longer it happens, the worse it will get.
Teenagers also regularly find themselves engaged in physically abusive relationships, but they hide it from friends or family or constantly tell themselves they’ll leave “next time.” Allowing a next time is not acceptable, as a first time never should have happened. This mentality causes you to repeatedly tell yourself next time, but unfortunately for some, there eventually isn’t a next time as their partner hospitalizes or even kills them, at which point they have no choice about when they’ll leave. Ignore the voice in your head that says things will get better. Ignore the pleas from your abuser when they claim it’ll never happen again, with tears staining their cheeks and sweet words. They’re lying. It will only escalate from here until they’re abusing you like clockwork and you’re left wondering where it all went wrong. When you accept their apologies, their subconscious is telling them this is acceptable behavior and that they can continue to push the limits to see just how far you can bend before you ultimately break.
The trend of “crazy girlfriends and boyfriends” and “over possessiveness” dismissing all unhealthy behaviors in relationships must come to an end. Allowing this to become the norm in relationships is allowing those exposed to it to normalize signs of abuse and to believe everyone goes through what they are, leading to never making an attempt to leave as they truly are under the impression that everyone will treat them this way. As a society we must actively work to counteract this role we’ve created, teaching young children and adults alike the red flags for abuse and how to escape when they find themselves in an abusive relationship. Being well educated on healthy relationships and what is and isn’t normal proves time and time again to be life saving, when the boy who was ashamed his girlfriend was beating him comes forward and finally receives help. When the mom who honestly was influenced to believe that no one else would love her and her children finally realizes that she deserves much more and that what she experienced was a case of extreme abuse, their lives are changed in a vastly positive manner and their outlooks take a complete 180 turn from where they were before.
Love is not a romantic partner who suddenly closes themselves off like a clam protecting a pearl, refusing to open up to you despite your best efforts, and it is not being allowed absolutely no privacy because your partner has “trust issues” from previous relationships. A relationship in which you feel legitimately scared of how your significant other may respond to your actions is not healthy, and should not be normalized. If the person you’re with coaxes or forces you into sexual involvement with them, that is not normal. Romantic involvement with someone is not signing over your basic human rights to that person, allowing them to walk all over you even when they’re in the wrong. If you find yourself being isolated, threatened, physically, verbally, emotionally or sexually abused, find help in any way that is possible.
Don’t allow your abuser to placate you into submissiveness. Don’t allow yourself to be reduced to almost nothing, slowly withering away until you have no sense of self left. Don’t put yourself into a place where you’re endangering yourself and those around you. Don’t let your life be in danger daily from the person that claims they love you. Recognize the warning signs and get out as quickly and safely as possible.