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"I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman." -Anais Nin
What is love?

The word “valentine” comes from the Latin valens meaning worthy, strong and powerful. It’s only been in recent history (ca. 1400s), that “Valentine’s Day” became associated with romantic love. But what can this association teach us about the meaning of love? What makes love worthy? What makes it strong? Is it powerful?

In my field as an advocate for victims of domestic violence, the word “powerful” often causes me to shudder. Tactics of power and control can wreak havoc in romantic relationships. We know that as many as 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and as many as 1 in 6 men in his. In light of these sobering statistics, it’s easy to forget that love can be worthy, strong and powerful in the most positive of ways.

So, how do we tell the difference between a steadfast, flourishing love and one that uses strength and power to create imbalance and unrest? For starters, it can be helpful to review a list of common “red flag” behaviors.

“The following is a list of early warning signs that someone may be abusive. This list was put together by survivors of domestic violence who reflected on the early phases of the battering relationship and identified some of the early warning signs of abusers.

Someone who:

Wants to move too quickly into the relationship
Does not honor your boundaries
Is excessively jealous and accuses you of having affairs
Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails and texts you throughout the day
Criticizes you or puts you down; most commonly tells you that you are ‘crazy,’ stupid and/or fat, or that no one would ever want you
Says one thing then does another
Takes no responsibility for their behavior and blames others
Has a history of battering
Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on their partner; for example, ‘My ex was a total bitch.’
Grew up in an abusive or violent home
Insists that you stop spending time with family or friends
Rages out of control and is impulsive

Pay attention to the ‘red flags’ and trust your instincts. Survivors of domestic violence frequently report that their instincts told them that there was something wrong early on, but they disregarded the warnings signs and didn’t know that these signs were indicative of an abusive relationship. Always take time to get to know a potential partner and watch for patterns of behavior in a variety of settings. Keeping in touch with your support system and participating in good self-care can lower your risk of being involved in an abusive relationship.”

If you’ve experienced any of these behaviors with your partner, considering ending the relationship. In almost all instances, violence only increases in both frequency and intensity as time passes.

If simply ending the relationship seems impossible because you are worried how your partner may react, please consider talking with one of our staff about it. Our advocates can help you plan for your future and your safety. All of our help is 100% free and 100% confidential. We also promise not to force you into things you aren’t comfortable with. We will only help you discover your options in a safe environment.

 

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