Love has different meanings to different people – it can be caring, compassionate, unselfish. Love is also powerful. It has the power to heal, to bring happiness, to bring hope. However, love also has the power to cause pain, to control someone.

Nearly 75% of girls and 50% of boys have reported some sort of emotional partner abuse. Sadly, 81% of teenagers experiencing abuse never access support.

Could love be the reason that people in abuse don’t walk away? It is not wrong to want to try to fix what is broken, especially when it started off as something very beautiful. In abusive relationships, the victim forgets about their self-worth and blames themselves, or something else, for what went wrong, because the relationship wasn’t always like that. Love is the reason they keep trying to sort out the problems. Unfortunately during this process they bring themselves more pain, have more failures and lose their own happiness.

One in 10 teens think saying sorry makes it okay after they have hurt or forced a partner to do something. 

Love does teach us forgiveness; but should you draw a line if you are being abused, and where would you draw that line? Would it be at the nasty comments that put you down, or would it be where it gets physical?  It is hard to know what exactly abuse is and when you have to stop trying and move on with your life.

Only 23% of girls show a full understanding of what an abusive relationship looks like. One in 5 teens believe it is okay to tell a boyfriend or girlfriend what to do, with the figure rising to more than 1 in 4 (27%) in young men.

Knowing what makes a healthy relationship may be something that is learned through experiencing romantic relationships or it may be due to the way people in your life have treated you, especially close family members and friends. It can also be something that young people are educated about. Many young people don’t have an understanding of what a healthy relationship is. 64% of young women (16-21) feel that sex education at school doesn’t focus enough on relationships. Proper education on healthy relationships could avoid a lot of pain and destruction of self-confidence in young people.

Picture of heart cut-out in woodIn the past, some have talked about the importance of forming a good relationship with the parent of the opposite gender as a way of helping with future relationships. I think any relationship with anyone of the opposite gender may support your future relationships, but just because someone has a good relationship with a parent or sibling of opposite gender doesn’t mean they are less likely to end up in an abusive relationship. They may even trust men/women quicker because of their positive past experiences.

Love and healthy relationships develop through age, time and experience, but even with these, you may still not know what a healthy relationship is. Not everything you or your partner does will be right all the time but relationships are about sacrifice and learning throughout.

Knowing yourself, your worth and what you want from a relationship – and a partner – help. I don’t think abusive relationships are something anyone ever foresees. It’s easy to say that you will never let yourself be in an abusive relationship, but nowhere near as easy to walk away from one.

Team V LogoAsh James is the Team V Leader for Southampton. Team V is a national volunteer leadership program and in February ran a nationwide campaign called “Love is…?”, focusing on healthy relationships, what this means and where to find support. You can follow them on Twitter @TeamVSoton.

What do you think love is? Do you think loving someone gives you certain rights in their life? Tell us in the comments below!

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