It’s almost Valentine’s Day! Like it or hate it, every year we’re bombarded with messages about romance, flowers, candy, candlelit dinners and lovey-dovey cards to give to our sweeties. Valentine’s Day can be overwhelming and, we admit, a little silly, but we like to think of it as another day to reaffirm the importance of healthy, respectful relationships – with yourself or with others!
Some of the messages we hear around Valentine’s Day, and about love in general, are a little concerning though. “Be Mine,” “You’re the Only One,” etc. all start to sound a little…creepy, right? Society’s notions about love can be pretty unhealthy. The way we talk about and therefore perceive love is often about “possessing” or “owning” someone else. How many times have you heard, “You’re all I need,” “You’re everything to me,” or even, “If I can’t have you, no one can.”
But healthy love isn’t about possession or ownership. Far from it. In a healthy relationship, partners are recognized as individuals with different boundaries and needs. Sure, you and your partner can share some of the same boundaries and needs, and maybe that’s what makes you a great match! But safety and respect for each other come first. Being in a relationship is a choice you make every day of that relationship, whether that relationship lasts a few days, months or a lifetime. Same goes for your partner. You don’t own one another, you’re not objects. You are human beings with complicated desires and feelings. When one person in the relationship feels like they own the other person, or when they try to control their partner because they “love” them – well, that isn’t love! Those are actually big flashing warning signs of abuse.
So this Valentine’s Day, ask yourself what healthy love means to you. How do you want to be treated in a relationship? How do you want to treat your partner? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you build healthy relationships throughout your life. We also invite you to read and share the National Respect Announcement with your friends, family and community:
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we’d like to remind you that everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship. Remember, love has many definitions, but abuse isn’t one of them. If you or someone you know has a question about a relationship, healthy or unhealthy, visit www.loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522.
Bonus: these articles can help as you figure out what healthy love means to you!