The Real Love Campaign

Please welcome guest blogger, Sid Scott Lee. He is one of the co-founders of the Real Love Campaign and one of the volunteers for Rock & Roll Saved My Soul, co-running our Tumblr account. 

Please be advised that this article discusses sensitive subject matter. If you are easily upset, or triggered by discussions of abuse, please proceed with caution or click away from this article. 

What is a healthy relationship? 

It's a simple enough question but many people struggle to find the answer to that. My friend and I wanted to to share our experiences with this question.

My friend, we’ll call her Becca. Becca grew up with parents in an unhealthy relationship. She witnessed her mother being abusive to her father and to her. 

I was born just a few years before my parents’ marriage started to fall apart. I don't remember many times where they had positive interactions, and as I got older. I also was in my fair share of abusive, toxic, and potentially dangerous relationships. 

Becca and I relied on media to tell us what a healthy relationship was, which wasn't always the best choice, and I know many other teens do as well. When we were younger, Becca went for a man who was strikingly similar to a character in a media we both thoroughly enjoyed. However she learned quickly that the things this character did, did not feel good in reality. I watched this man, well, you could barely call him a man, take a confidant, fiery women, and put her out. 

By the end of their year long relationship there wasn't even a single spark left, to this day I have never seen anything so heart wrenching. She didn't think to leave-- she was too afraid to, afraid of his reaction and also afraid that no one else would want her, that possibly maybe she deserved this, or that this was truly how relationships were supposed to be, because she never knew the difference, convinced she needed to just toughen up. It has been seven long years since I chased him out of her life, and even with love and support of myself and other close friends, she is still struggling to heal. She's on a very long journey of learning to love herself. 

I would also like to touch on the fact that this boy didn't just become abusive overnight. At first he was sweet, romantic, and charming. Becca had truly thought she'd found her soul mate. Soon into the relationship though, he began to talk down to her, slowly getting worse until he escalated to threats of harming her family or any future children they may have had. To this day I can't think of the way he began to speak to her without feeling sick and angry, and she becomes deeply withdrawn if anyone so much as uses the same tone of voice.

I have been in my fair share of toxic relationships as well. It's often hard for me to be open with my boyfriend now. He's one of the few healthy people I have been with in my life. It is something that I am working very hard on, but it's still hard for me to remember that I won't face negative rebuff if I don't agree with something or if I am feeling hurt.

I want to open up conversation about what is and isn't healthy in a relationship, and help teens and young adults recognize when unhealthy actions are romanticized in media, because I know too many people who have had to find out the hard way or teach themselves what abuse is.

I have seen people destroy people, and I want to do something about that, even if it's small and seemingly minuscule. I want to be a catalyst to change. I want to help young adults understand what is and isn't healthy when they have no one else to teach them, so they know that they can run before you get in too deep.

I've asked a few people to define what they see a healthy relationship as, here are some responses I got: 

“Honesty and openness is key. It's being able to discuss things in an adult manner without raising your voices. You're going to argue, but if you can talk about things afterwards, that's what matters. It's allowing your significant other time away from you, because no two people need to spend ALL of their free time together. It's compromising, a lot of it. And it's also being there for your other half, giving them the time and attention that they need and deserve. It's treating each other with love and respect in all aspects of your relationship.” -Kate, 32

“A healthy relationship is when two people help each other and help build each other up. They support each other in things. They spend time together and even do things that one person may not care for, but do it to show the other they care about the other person. It's all about communication and compromise.” - Sandy 31

“A healthy relationship should be at It’s core: open and honest. You shouldn't have to fear being honest with your partner about your wants and needs.” - Sid, 20

I also asked the question “What would you want to tell young people going into their first relationships, or something you wished someone had told you when you were young?” 

“You don’t have to date someone just because you think you have to. It's okay to be alone. I went to a Catholic school, we didn't talk about dating, so telling me anything would have helped.” Susan, 51

“Don't do anything you're not ready for. If you're unsure, don't do it. Trust me. I've been down that road before. If you're uncomfortable, listen to that voice in your head that's telling you it's a bad idea. Trust your judgement and your gut instincts, they're not often wrong. “ - Kate, 32

“Be who you are no matter what and don't do anything you don't feel comfortable doing. Someone should like you for who you are. You shouldn't have to change for someone to be with you. If you don't feel comfortable doing something there is a reason why. Don't do something if it feels weird or off. Listen to your gut. It's usually right.” - Sandy 31

“Take the time to get to know yourself, don't rush into a relationship just because you feel like you have to. You're worth any any less because you don't have a significant other, even it may seem that way. I wish someone had told me that relationships require a lot of work and communication,”  - Sid, 20

“Always be open about your feelings, always have an open, honest, and respectful flow of communication, people are going to mess up, don't just sit and take it, but don't over react to it either, tell your partner how what they are doing is making you feel and work toward solutions together.
And have a life outside of your relationship. It's easy to make that person your everything, but it's not healthy, you both need your separate activities, friends, and time. You are still an island, you just have timeshare with someone else on their island and they have timeshare on your island now,” -Tempy, 22.

Now, let's talk about things that your partner should not be doing. 

•Your significant other should not be putting their hands on you. Regardless of their gender.

•Your significant other should not be isolating you. Does your partner say things to turn you against your friends, or keep you from your family? 
“Your friends are all bad if they don't like me. They're trying to break us up,”, 
“Don't you love me?”, 
“So you love them more than me?” 

•Your partner should not be pressuring you, or forcing you into any situation you do not feel comfortable in.
“If you really loved me, you would do this”, 
“If you don't do this I'll…”

•They should not be making threats.
“If you leave me I’ll kill myself,”, 
“If you leave me I’ll hurt you/your family,” 

•Your significant other should not be invading your privacy, reading notes, texts, emails, etc, without your permission, and you are under no obligation to give this permission to them.

•Your significant other should not cause damage to your property or pets.

•Your significant other should not be insulting you or humiliating you in private or in front of your friends.

•If your significant other makes you feel unsafe, please trust your gut and run or ask for help. It's okay to need help. Talk to a trusted adult.

•Do not accept excuses. Your significant other is responsible for their own behavior. No amount of alcohol, stress, or drugs justifies them causing any arm to you. They are lying if they say it won't happen again. 

In conclusion; Real Love is dedicated to opening up a dialogue about relationships in literature, helping teenagers and young adults call out when something abusive or toxic is over glorified, and to recognise signs of abuse. We're here for those who don't have someone to teach them about healthy and safe relationships. 

What I want you take away from this:
The media can lie, don't accept something that hurts you, just because you think it's “normal”.
You can ask for help. 
Real Love; isn't supposed to hurt.
Do not accept excuses. 

Thank you for reading the first article for Real Love; an organisation dedicated to opening up conversation about healthy relationships and the romanticization of abuse in literature. I hope the information here can help you or someone you know. 

Domestic abuse hotline USA: 1-800-799-7233

Domestic abuse Hotline UK: 0808 2000 247

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger dial emergency services first. 

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