Friday, December 4, 2015

Catching a Hail Mary Pass

Last night I watched the end of the football game between Green Bay and Detroit. In the last few minutes of the game things looked hopeless for the Packers. Fans were leaving the stadium, the players considered it over for them. In that moment, a penalty on Detroit opened a window to a slim chance—one more play. Aaron Rodgers threw a Hail Mary Pass 61 yards into the end zone. Richard Rodgers reached up and caught it for the win. It was the pass of a lifetime—a catch of a lifetime. A defining moment that will forever be attached to the two Rodgers’ lives.

I thought about how Richard Rodgers felt when that ball touched his fingertips and he tucked it to his gut. I thought about how we have those defining moments where we throw ourselves into the unknown despite hopelessness and fear and land on our feet. It’s when we flip the switch and realize, “I will survive without you. You are not good for my spiritual or physical health. I am finished with you,” and know in our gut that this time we mean it. It’s the joy of walking into our own apartment—a safe place to come home to. It’s when we awaken in the morning, and for the first time in a long time we are excited about a new day. It’s receiving that call that the job or promotion is ours and the satisfaction we feel when we look into the mirror and see the person we are meant to be, looking back. Filled with joy, gratefulness and amazement, we acknowledge how far we have come.

Another important point is that Richard couldn’t have caught the ball if Aaron hadn’t risk the throw. Those great moments of success can’t happen if we don’t take the risk. We have to— reach out for help, leave an unhealthy relationship, get into therapy—do all the recovery work to pull our lives together. We trudge forward ignoring the inner and outer critical voices telling us we are not capable of surviving on our own. We risk disappointments and still keep putting one foot in front of the other until we feel that ball fall into our hands and we know we have conquered our fear, we have saved ourselves. These are our defining moments. 


Friday, October 16, 2015

Fear, Sympathy and Anger--A Dysfunctional, Perfect Storm

When intertwined, fear, sympathy and anger create one chaotic, dysfunctional, perfect storm of an abusive relationship. Its gathering winds start long before the couple meet.
Humans in an attempt to understand their world are apt to create stories to explain situations. Children of a critical parent who never says the words “I love you,” tell themselves that they are inept and unloveable. They often become people-pleasers searching for someone who will love them. This is the story I carried into my marriage. I was exactly who a controlling partner wanted.
On the other hand, those who felt betrayed and cheated as children often tell themselves that the people they need will hurt or leave them. They feel entitled to take what they want as payback. The story they tell themselves is that in order to be safe, they must be in control. Sadly, that is usually at the expense of their partner’s safety. 
If you follow the threads of controlling behaviors to the end, you will find the underlying cause is fear. Jealously is the fear of losing a partner to someone else. Hiding all financial information from their partner is fear that their partner will have the resources to leave. Terrorizing, instilling fear of bodily harm, is driven by the fear that a partner may leave.
It didn’t take long for me to see through my partner’s bravado facade to the fear-infested person inside. The sympathy I felt for him held me in the relationship. I spent years trying to save him, assuring him that he was safe with me. All the while, I wasn’t safe with him. My desperation to earn his love was fear-based. I didn’t want to be a failure. The story I told myself was—if I could just hang in the marriage long enough, sacrificing myself, things would change. It took a long time for me to accept that his entitlement and fear-based internal stories created a lack of empathy and didn’t allow for the revelation or awakening that I had hoped to see in him. 
Therapy helped me rewrite my internal stories to healthy ones. My partner’s behavior wasn’t about me. The occurrences from my childhood that started the unhealthy story of who I was, wasn’t about me. This knowledge is a blessing, but it can also be dangerous. 
When we understand the underlying fears that caused the bad behavior in our spouse, our sympathy for them can keep us entwined. Hope that things can change may hold or draw us back into the relationship. It’s important for us to disconnect from our emotions and use reason to evaluate the relationship.
In those highly charged moments, I recited the following truths:
  • Though I feel sympathy for him, I will not minimize or excuse his bad behavior. It was wrong and should not be repeated. Nothing will change that fact. 
  • Abuse is a choice. My partner chooses to abuse me.
  • He is the only one who can change his behavior. If he wanted to save this relationship, he would have gone into treatment and followed the program. He did not, so he does not value our relationship. He will not change.
After leaving the relationship we experience a lot of anger and grieving. We mourn the loss of the dreams we had for our lives, and the men we thought our partners were. We are also angry. Our partners’ selfishness made a mess of our children’s and our lives. We feel enraged that we are left to suffer the consequences and clean it up.
Anger is good. It keeps us out of the relationship and gives us valuable energy to fight for a new and better life. As we move along the upward path, we can spend our time hating those who wronged us, but wouldn’t that mean they are still the center of our lives? Our focus is still on them—just where they want it to be. 
I suggest we turn our focus on ourselves and children. We can stop trying to force our partners to be who they should be. We can stop trying to make up for their bad behavior toward our children and others. Suppose we step out of the drama and accept that the controllers will spin their wheels, rant, rave and tell lies. Suppose we let their words pass though us without sticking to our insides—because we have new stories of who we are. His old lies mean nothing. We can be age-appropriately honest with our children about our inability to change their fathers. We can use this as a teachable moment where our children learn about choices and consequences. We can admit the truth of the situation to them without showing anger or hatred toward their fathers. 
Escaping and staying out of abusive relationships means rewriting our internal stories, accepting the truth of our situations and balancing our emotions with logic. Let us focus on loving ourselves enough to walk away and build a better life. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Healing Space

After struggling to free ourselves from the chaos of domestic abuse—battered in so many ways and worn threadbare—we limp away exhausted and convinced that we never, ever want another relationship. There is no way we will go through all the pain again. 

Consider this feeling a gift. I hear your collective, “What?” Stay with me. When you are determined to never again find yourself with an abuser, a space for healing opens. Our aversion to relationships blocks us from returning to the former nightmare, and keeps us from rushing blindly into a new one. 

While we want to speed further down our life road, leaving the hurt behind, healing has its own timeline that is unique to each of us. The only way to recover is to walk through the pain, feel it, cry it out, let it shake us like a dog with a rag-doll, until eventually it subsides. The tears will stop. Our hearts will mend. A space has opened, An opportunity arises. If we do the work, we are no longer condemned to stay caught up in the pattern of violence. 

Afraid to be alone and feeling desperate, weak and helpless (something that has been hammered into a victim by her former partner) a victim may search for someone to come into her life and do a quick-fix. (*) With a snap of his fingers, the perfect family life will appear. The problem is, most often the one eager to take control of the situation is another abuser. He’s searching for someone who is vulnerable. He shows himself as a savior, wanting to help, loving her kids and promising the moon and stars. Yet, it’s all a facade. When a victim looks for a quick-fix, she often finds herself trapped in another violent relationship.

Sometimes a victim who is afraid she may give her heart away to another abuser, closes herself off from any possibility of moving forward. She may fear that if she lets go of what happened to her, she will be hurt again. So traumatized, she tells her story over and over to anyone who will listen. Years of her life can pass as she constantly relives every painful past moment. She’s stuck in her fear.

Both of these reactions are exhausting. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is freedom from the past. Many victims do go on to rebuild their lives and have healthy and happy relationships, some with intimate partners and some without.

The key is to take the time needed to do the work required to recover. I always recommend seeing a therapist trained to provide victims of domestic abuse with the needed tools to move them along the path to recovery. Talking to friends is helpful, but the right therapist can help a survivor feel some relief within a few visits. If the survivor doesn’t feel any relief after three or so visits, she should find a new therapist. (There are therapists who charge on a sliding scale through social agencies.) As an addition or an alternative, a support group through the local shelter or social agency is another economical opportunity for survivors.

Most important, do the work. There is no way around it, no magic fix. You have to roll up your sleeves and get down in the muck. Read self-help books, write in a journal, get involved in activities you used to enjoy and find new ones. Practice trusting your gut. Get reacquainted with the strong marvelous person you are. Catch the negative voice in your head and counter it with positive affirmations. (I wrote affirmations on the back of business cards and carried them in my pocket as a reminder that things were going in the right direction. I also memorized uplifting hymns, and replayed them in my head when I felt overwhelmed and afraid.) Develop a mission statement stating who you want to be. Read it every day and make all you decisions based on achieving that mission.

It isn't an easy journey, but in the end it’s worth it. You are worth it. If you persist and do the work, you only have to do this once to move on to a better and joyful life. When you become whole, you will love and respect yourself and know that you can take care of yourself, you no longer need anyone. Then you are ready to choose to be with a partner who is whole, healthy and respects you. (Again time is your ally to determine who is right for you.) Wholeness a much better place from which to make a life decision than desperation, where you feel you need to have someone, and settle for anyone.

Join me on Facebook to connect with some magnificent survivors, brave women who are doing or have done the work.


( * In this post I use “he” when referring to an abuser and “she” for a victim, since that was my experience. Recognizing that the components of abuse are alike for either gender, I invite anyone reading this post to substitute the proper pronouns.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Truth about Power and Control

Most of us who are recovering from a controlling relationship struggled with this truth: Abusers driving force and only desire is for absolute power and control over their victims. So focused on that end, controllers do not see their victims as people who have a right to their own feelings and opinions. Abusers see and experience everything within the context of having to deliberately and systematically battle for control. They are willing to inflict any level of pain to achieve their goal.
While in the relationship, it was hard to accept that someone I loved, intentionally did such unkind acts. Especially acts that I didn’t deserve. Because I loved this man, I explained away his violent behavior.  I could not understand why he would resort to unnecessary, violent tactics when I was constantly proving my love for him. Why couldn’t he have said, “I don’t care for pork,” instead of throwing dishes and screaming at me? Why wouldn’t he want to return my love and devotion and live in peace? Why total domination? Why humiliation? Why did he reinterpret even the smallest gesture of love, like bringing him a cup of coffee every morning, as something he demand I do, instead of accepting it as an expression of love? It used to make me want to run screaming, “Can’t you see who I am? These tactics aren’t necessary for me to love you or give you attention.”
Abusers don’t see us as we are because we never enter the equation. It is not about us. 
This brings me to an important tool that helped me understand this dynamic— The Power and Control Wheel.
In the 1980’s in Duluth Minnesota, a group of battered women who were attending educational groups through a local shelter developed the Power and Control Wheel. They listed tactics that batterer’s use to control victims. They fell under 8 categories: Using Isolation, Minimizing Denying and Blaming, Using Children, Using Male Privilege, Using Economic Abuse, Using Coercion and Threats, Using Intimidation, Using Emotional Abuse. They also developed a Wheel of Equality depicting the qualities of  healthy relationships: Trust and Support, Honesty and Accountability, Responsible Parenting, Shared Responsibility, Economic Partnership, Negotiation and Fairness, Non-Threatening Behavior, Respect. 
Duluth's Domestic Abuse Intervention Project uses these wheels in their “Creating a Process of Change for Men Who Batter” curriculum. They are now used widely to help batterers in treatment, victims and others understand that the blame for abuse rests squarely on the shoulders of the abuser. 
The behavior of controllers is so illogical and cruel that victims (and the rest of normal society) find it difficult to believe that this behavior is focused and deliberate. For those of us who have been there, our healing began when we accepted this truth. The abuse had nothing to do with us. It was all about the abusers sick desire to feel powerful and in control. Unfortunately, it bruised the very core of who we are. We can change that.
The Power and Control Wheel
Using Isolation
Usually the first indication (red-flag) that the relationship is headed in the wrong direction is when the perpetrator begins to isolate the victim. It’s an easy miss, because it starts when the relationship is in the limerence stage, the couple is just beginning to get to know one another. Usually they are spending all their free time together, so excited to have one another. After a while, the victim may begin to express the desire to spend some time with other friends or family. The perpetrator, who believes she is pulling away from him, acts hurt, “Don’t you want to be with me?” “Aren’t I important to you anymore?” While this looks like love, it’s actually the beginning of coercive control. He begins to use her love for him to bend her will to his. It often becomes a game of-who do you love more?-prove you love me by giving up time with your friends or family-prove you love me more than your job, pursued passion, or activity. He points out her friends and family member’s “faults.” If she’s friends with past boyfriends or other guys, he’s hurt, jealous and angry. If she so much as talks to another male it sends him into a tirade. Nothing short of giving up all others will satisfy the controlling partner.
Minimizing Denying and Blaming
At the beginning of the indoctrination into the abuser’s world, a victim may still be strong enough to call the controller on his behavior. Immediately, he will minimize, deny and cast the blame on the victim. Telling her she’s too sensitive, his behavior wasn’t that bad then shift the responsibility to her, “If you hadn’t been flirting with that guy at the party, nothing would have happened.” Giving another guy any kind of attention is considered flirting to a controlling partner.
Using Children
Often controllers use the children by including them in the abuse, “Isn’t Mommy stupid for dropping that cup?” “See how fat you mama is?” Abusers threaten to take the children away if the victim doesn’t comply with all demands or if she tries to leave him. If she’s a stay-at-home Mom, it’s an easy threat, “You could never support the kids, the court will give them to me.” “I have friends who will testify that you are an unfit mother.” These types of statements terrorize the victim into compliance.
Using Male Privilege
The good old boys club is alive and flourishing when it comes to abuse. Cultural rules support men’s dominance over women. Religious tenets are twisted in faith communities. Media is constantly bombarding young men and women with images of violence and power. Glorifying bad boys while claiming nice guys are wimps. Teaching our young women that they are not perfect as they are but in need of cosmetics, surgery and extreme dieting to be acceptable. All this allows males to see themselves as superior and worthy of unearned respect. They are the kings of their castles and the one who makes and enforces the rules, at a cost to the victim.
Using Economic Abuse
Coinciding with the male privilege myth, a perpetrator often use economic abuse to hold his victim in the relationship, spouting the myth that men are smarter than women and should handle all finances. Information is power so a controller withholds all financial information from his partners.  The victims has no idea what the total family income is or where it is held. If she is allowed to work, she must turn her paycheck over to her partner, forcing her to ask for money. He holds tight reins on how much money she receives and how she spends it. She has no discretionary funds to do with as she pleases or to stash away so she can leave him.
Using Coercion and threats
A violent partner often carries out threats and harms the victim, the children or pets to make the point that he will do heinous things, coercing the victim to submit. Subsequent threats to take the children away, report her to child welfare, kill himself, the victim or children become very real possibilities to the victim. A controller who in involved in criminal activities often force the victim to participate to assures that the victim will remain loyal. A drug dealing partner may withhold dugs from the victim to force compliance.
Using Intimidation
The very fact that most often the male is larger, stronger and more physical than a female is causes her to feel intimidated. Menacing looks, pounding holes in the walls, brandishing a weapon, smashing her property and abusing pets and children terrorizes the whole family into obedience.
Using Emotional Abuse
Destroying a victim’s ego is key in holding the victim in the relationship. If she has low self-esteem, she is less likely to leave and more likely to obey. Name calling and constant criticism is internalized by the victim, causing her to withdraw from others. Crazy-making tactics force her to mis-trust her instincts. Making her feel stupid and foolish keeps her from talking to others. Humiliating or embarrassing her in public, causes her to avoid being in public. These tactics play into the isolation that eliminates any support base she may have had, giving the abuser full control.
All these tactics create chaos and fear in a victim’s life. The abuser uses physical and sexual violence to terrorize the victim into compliance, establishing the abuser as the one holding total power and control.
Once we step out of the emotionally turmoil, and accept his behavior for what it is—his own choosing—we can begin to put things into perspective and shed the guilt knowing that he and he alone is responsible for his behavior. We are in no way at fault. Every decision he made was his choice. Anyone who can choose to be cruel, can choose to be kind.
Most important, we see that we are not stupid, inept, or whatever they called us. We can begin to re-claim our true self.

The Power and Control wheel under the tab above is focused on Men battering women. Next month we’ll look at he Wheel of Equality. If you’d like to download a copy of these wheels for free, please see www.theduluthmodel.org. Wheels for other relationship styles (i.e. teens, same-sex relationships and elder abuse) can be found on the internet. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Intimate Partner Violence: One Woman's Story

Dear friends of Moving Up On the People Who Deserve Happiness List,
This month I am a guest blogger on Rachel Grant’s blog.  See my 4 part series Intimate Partner Violence: One Woman's Story at-- http://rachelgrantcoaching.blogspot.com/2015/06/one-womans-story-inside-world-of_8.html
Joanna

Friday, April 3, 2015

Every Good Choice Equals Success

We usually define success as that place where we arrive after a lot of hard work. What I've learned is that we are already successful just by setting our sights on a worthy goal and taking the first step in that direction. When you think about it, it makes sense. Every choice we make moves us closer to or away from the life we want. 
Coming out of a violent relationship, we seek a happier, more fulfilling and peaceful life. We may have a clear vision of what that would look like or we may have only a vague idea. Either way it doesn’t matter, our vision can be developed and tweaked as we move along re-learning who we want to be and what we want to do with our lives?  
As we pull our lives together we are often engaged in an exhausting battle with our ex partners over the children and possessions. If we keep our focus only on the struggles it’s draining and easy to give up. If we set a worthy goal for ourselves, one that aligns with our values, we will subconsciously be working toward that ideal. Does that make those daily battles any easier? No. We still have to put one foot in front of the other to deal with the difficult stuff. However, what it does give us is a solid foundation that hold us aloft, hope and expectation for a better future, that light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
What I am suggesting is that while we keep our eyes on our goals let’s also broaden our vision to include celebrating the changes we see in ourselves every day. Every good choice is a success. Every release of an old habit that held us back is a success. As we fill our lives with behaviors and beliefs that aligned with our values, the old detrimental behaviors and beliefs fade away, moving us closer to who and what we want to be. Our self-esteem grows giving us more strength to continue moving forward.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
Write a Mission Statement, an expression of your vision and values. Reflect on what is important to you. Keep it simple, just 3-4 sentences. Use positive statements such as; My home is a safe place filled with peace and kindness, I respect myself and others. Your mission statement can be adjusted as your life evolves. (See my post for 2013.10.01 for more about writing a mission statement.)
Create a Vision Board, to support your Mission Statement. On your computer or a bulletin board, collect and post things that bring you joy, words that you would like to describe you, your passions, affirmations that lift you up, and pictures of people you admire. Anything related to your hopes for your future. Put the board where you will see it every day. It will help you keep your focus on where you are going. 
By doing these two activities, you are already moving in the direction you want to go. The decisions you make from this point on are measured against whether they will move you closer to your plan for your future or away from it. 
If you are looking for a better job, make a list of the things that light up your soul, your passions. Post them on your board. Let your choices move you in the direction of a job that will align with your passions. Take a night class, computer course or study on your own. Network, get out among people who enjoy the things you do and let them know you are job hunting. Knock on doors. See every “no” as another step closer to  a “yes.”
If you are looking for a healthy relationship, list what you have to offer a partner then list the traits you want in a partner and post them on your vision board. As you meet potential partners, keep your eyes open and don’t minimize or explain away the red flags, i.e. rushing you into an intimate relationship, hurting your feelings then calling you “too sensitive.” You’ve pledged to respect yourself. If you feel rushed or disrespected, the relationship is over. Keep your kind heart in check and don’t get hooked into trying to fix someone else's life, this is the time to focus on your own. (You are not being selfish.)
Gather a support group around you. People who are positive and up-lifting. People who will call you out in a loving way when you’ve strayed from your path. Those who will meet you where you are and listen more than talk. Ones who let you talk out your struggle until you’ve come up with the best solution.
Keep a journal. It’s a great way to measure your success and see how far you’ve come. List all your success. Your first being that fact that you made the decision to leave an unhealthy relationship. Then you actually left, no small feat and another huge success. Now you are learning to let go of the false beliefs and relearning what a remarkable and gifted person you are. Keep a record of all your thoughts and feelings. Review your journal to remind yourself how far you’ve come.
This journey is a learning experience. That means there are no mistakes, just redirections. Setbacks will come, use them to reevaluate and tweak your vision. When the “old” behaviors try to take over, congratulate yourself for recognizing them and celebrate that fact that you no longer let them control you. Trust your vision to direct your path as the life you are meant to have unfolds.
Take a moment right now to celebrate your successes. Let’s happy dance!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grief

I read Fifty Shades of Grey to see what all the hype was about. I have to say that I found it disturbing. I have no argument with adults exploring their sexuality in whatever manner they agree upon. What concerns me is the message this book sends to young men and women-teens.
The book doesn’t depict a loving, healthy relationship but manipulating games. I don’t want young girls or guys thinking this is what sex is about. Healthy sex is so much better then the grief that comes from trying to live up to someone's demands. I’d hate to have teens think they have to be like these characters to be desired by another. 
In my opinion, great sex happens when two willing partners come to the encounter and each is as concerned about the other’s pleasure as they are about their own. That doesn’t occur in this book. Anastasia is manipulated into the relationship. She’s an innocent who is teased by Christian, baited, coerced and made over into who he wants her to be. She lives in constant fear of his wrath. She may have baled early on in the relationship if her friend didn’t keep telling her how hot he is and lucky she is. This is a common occurrence in violent relationships. Outsiders don’t see the dark side of the abuser only the facade. Victims don't want to admit how afraid they are.
It’s hard to end teen dating violence when the media glamorizes bad boys, the ones who are cold, withhold love and feel entitled to have everything their way. These are red flags we want our teens to recognize and walk away from. Like Anastasia, women are drawn in because their compassionate hearts want to heal the guy’s pain. She cannot. While hope that he will change holds her in the relationship, she is not the one who needs to do the work to change him. That’s his job. If he’s not willing to do it, he will not change. One of the biggest emotional shackle for women is that he often claims to want to change but can’t without her help. This is a lie to make her feel in control of his healing and stay. It’s his responsibility to work on his false beliefs and the many issues that cause his behavior. If he doesn’t, there will be no change.
Teens should know that in a healthy relationship both partners are willing to share who they are and how they feel and those feeling are respected. Like Anastasia, to be denied the pleasure of caressing and pleasuring your partner is denying you the enjoyment of expressing your love. Just because there is an orgasm, doesn’t mean the sex is healthy. He may know the mechanics to bring her to orgasm, but without a loving two-way relationship sex is hollow. How she feels after the encounter is important. Healthy sex brings you closer and fills you with joy. Mechanical sex leaves you empty. Lack of connection heaps unhealthy baggage on a partner by someone with a ton of his own. A woman doesn't need to start her sexual journey with someone who skews her understanding of what a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship is.
This book is fantasy. As adults we’ve been around the block enough to know fantasy from reality. I am concerned that young, inexperienced women will rush into experimenting with fantasies before they’ve built a trusting relationship with their partner. When fantasizing, you are in control of the situation. When another person is introduce into the fantasy, you are no longer in complete control. Having a partner that plays fantasies out with you is great; within a safe relationship where either can say “stop” at any time and know he or she will not be ignored or rejected for doing so. Playing out a fantasy with someone who is not trustworthy can be deadly.
Our teens are inundated with sex and stereotypes. Chances are your teen has already read the 50 Shades series. That’s why it is so important that you talk with your kids about healthy relationships and sex. You can use the 50 Shades books or the movie to point out the unhealthy and dangerous parts of the relationship. It may not be an easy conversation to have, but it’s important for your teen's safety.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Girl Claims Beating is Proof of Love

Dr. Phil aired an interview with an 18 year old girl who gives dating advice to others using Youtube. Seems she is very popular with younger girls. Deadly serious (deadly is the appropriate word here) she stated that a girl should be grateful if her boyfriend beats her. Why? Because he was taking his time to teach her how to behave better as his girlfriend. It means he loves her. Furthermore, she said he was investing his time and money in her so she should be grateful. In a later Youtube video she claims she broke up with the guy because he didn’t beat her hard enough so she didn’t think he loved her.
Yes, she really said the above. Worse yet, the first video received over 5 million views. 
With all the information out there on teen dating violence, it’s shocking to hear this. I’m sure that you are just as angry and horrified as I am at this girl’s misinformed, outrageous comments. There are so many wrong ideas included in her statements that I don’t even know where to begin talking about them. Let me try. She believes:
  1. He only hits her because he loves her. Someone who loves you would never deliberately inflict pain on you.
  2. His time is more important than hers. In her opinion, her time or pain wasn’t important enough to consider. She’s accepted a step down position in the relationship. In healthy relationships each person has equal value.
  3. He is entitled to make the rules for their relations. In healthy relationships each partner is as concerned for the other’s happiness and well being as they are for their own.
  4. Her assigned job is to be who he wants her to be. In healthy relationships partners are free to be themselves and are encouraged to pursue their passion in life.
  5. His opinions are more important than hersIn healthy relationships each partner’s opinion is respected even if it differs from the other’s opinion.  
  6. He has a right to hit her if she displeases him. In healthy relationships partners never inflect pain, humiliate, call each other derogatory names or intentionally hurt the other in any way.
  7. He is entitled to have everything the way he wants it. In healthy relationships, disagreements are negotiated. One person does not always have to kowtow to the other.
  8. She should feel lucky and grateful that he chose her as his girlfriend when he could have had anyone he wanted. In a healthy relationship each partner thinks they are the luckiest one and treats the other with care.
Dr. Phil, in his straight forward style, challenged her thinking, asking how she felt telling very young girls (who seem to be her biggest fans) something that could cause them serious harm? By this time I was on the edge of my sofa cheering Dr. Phil on. The girl steadfastly clung to her beliefs. She insisted that these guys love their girlfriends because by beating the girls, the guys risk going to jail. Dr. Phil outed her on the fact that she took a few thousand dollars from the guy to not prosecute him for battery. It was no surprise when she walked off the show. (You can see excerpts and a transcript from this show at drphil.com. Air date January 28, 2015.)
Was she just looking for fame? Most likely. However, the information she was willing to share is dangerous to our impressionable kids. 
To fight this sick thinking, we have to continue to get the word out to our teens, girls and boys. Relationships are based on mutual trust, respect and kindness. Someone who loves you wants you to pursue your passion and be all that you can be. They will be your greatest cheerleader as you are theirs. Jealousy, hitting and name calling have no part in a healthy relationship.
Each person is responsible to create a life using his or her own gifts and talents. When they choose to be together, their lives overlap creating a space where they nurture and build a solid relationship based on shared values, honesty, trust, love and respect. One partner’s life should never absorb and dissolve the other’s life. No one needs a partner to complete them. They are already whole.
It’s never too soon to start talking to your kids about dating violence and healthy relationships. Teach them the components of a healthy relationship so they have a measuring stick when they begin dating.
February is Teen Dating Awareness Month.