Love in a relationship is one of the most important things in life, but it is not taught in school. Love seeks to fill the educational gap. Its experts suggest starting with the main thing – learning to distinguish true love from sick and destructive feelings.
“Love itself is an emotion, an instinct. But the ability to love is a skill that can and should be learned, ”says One Love Foundation managing director Katie Hood in her talk at the Ted conference. In 2010, the foundation was founded by the parents of a girl who was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend.
“This and many other similar tragedies could have been prevented if we paid attention to the warning signs that often appear at the very beginning of a relationship,”says Hood.
Of course, toxicity in a relationship isn’t always fatal, but it usually involves violence – psychological or even physical. Here’s what Hood and her colleagues recommend looking out for to keep yourself safe.
We love fairy tales of love – we were taught to them from childhood (remember Cinderella, to whom the prince proposed on a second date). In adulthood, rom-coms, cheap melodramas, and tabloid novels feed our cravings for drama and passion. These genres simply love at first sight, the development of relationships at the first cosmic speed, extreme displays of feelings, and other not very healthy romantic impulses.
Haste and exaltation of actions should alert. If a partner swears eternal love in the first days, wants to know “everything in the world” about you, constantly calls, writes, demands immediate answers – these are sure signs that you could fall into the trap of an emerging toxic relationship.
Dissolving in each other at the very beginning of falling in love, spending any free moment together, and forgetting about the rest of the world is quite natural. But normally, such a period is fleeting and does not harm other areas of the life of partners – gradually you begin to spend days separately, see each of your friends, find time for relatives, do your favorite hobbies and implement interesting projects at work. But if for several months your life revolves around one person, you should sound the alarm.
“Healthy love presupposes freedom and independence,”Hood is convinced.
If your partner tries to isolate you from other people, criticizes your friends, asks you to leave work early, and wants to be together every night, chances are he has a violent tendency (moral or physical). In isolation from our close circle, we feel more vulnerable and driven and in the end, we can become completely dependent on the one person who remained close.
Jealousy is a natural feeling in many people. But sometimes it can take pathological forms and have devastating consequences. “Usually, the signs of this extreme jealousy are already visible at the very beginning of the relationship,” says Hood. She can hide behind the care and sincere interest: a new lover wants to know where and with whom you are spending time, constantly reminds of himself with calls and messages, carefully examines your profiles on social networks, quickly remembers the names of your friends and colleagues, meets you from work and applies unexpected visits home (with armfuls of flowers, sweets, and other pleasant gifts).
Over time, this awareness becomes threatening: the pathological jealous person sees signs of infidelity everywhere. A quarrel can be provoked by a comment or even alike under a friend’s photo on Instagram, not to mention having lunch with a colleague.
In healthy relationships, partners support each other – they rejoice at new beginnings and victories, together they go through career problems and crises, and console in moments of weakness. The abuser partner, on the other hand, suppresses the lover’s confidence in his abilities – he doubts his abilities, criticizes, makes fun of evil, and puts in an unfavorable light in front of common acquaintances.
We can all inadvertently injure a loved one, doubt some of his ideas, or criticize an act. But normally we do not use harsh expressions and quickly realize that we are excited. Or we listen to our partner when he notices our hostility and asks not to offend him. The abuser, on the other hand, does not recognize the problem, accuses the beloved of being oversensitive, and uses phrases like “You wind yourself up” and “It seemed to you.”
When a relationship is like a roller coaster, it’s a reason to think. If a partner wants to leave today, and tomorrow offers to move in; at first insults, but immediately apologizes; accompanies the clarification of the relationship with sobs, and then behaves emphatically coolly; makes loud but empty promises – all these unstable outbursts signal a potentially violent relationship.
This dangerous potential is not easy to discern – possible violence is often hidden behind skillful manipulations and beautiful gestures. But the signs described above can serve as important signals that the relationship is worth ending. Experts from the One Love Foundation do not recommend abruptly cutting off the connection with the abuser: “It can only make him angry and encourage violence,” Hood warns. She advises to enlist the support of loved ones and/or contact a specialist (for example, a psychologist) who will tell you the safest way out of the relationship.
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