by Teresia Smith
Season of Love
We just passed Valentine’s Day, and we know it can be a painful and uncomfortable time for many. Women especially feel a lot of pressure to be in a relationship during this season. Much of that comes from believing they are not socially acceptable if they are not in a romantic relationship.
The media is a big culprit here as the commercialism surrounding Valentine’s Day has made it big business. Commercials are often show men plying women with diamonds, jewelry or huge bouquets of roses in romantic settings. Maya Gittelman explains it like this, “Modern western constructions of romance are typically deeply patriarchal and rooted in rape culture: romanticizing dependence and obsession, maintaining that women are expected to perform emotional labor, and men are supposed to passively receive or reciprocate with material goods, etc.”
Many times women stay in bad relationships because they have been made to believe the abuser’s actions are born out of love. If you were raised in a dysfunctional home, you were never shown what actual love looks like. Many times we end up romanticizing abusive actions because we don’t know better.
Even if you do know what true love looks like, Valentine’s Day can bring up hurt feelings that stem from heartbreak from past relationships. When we brush aside the flower petals and candy wrappers, we uncover real grief. It’s okay to not be okay. Having Valentine’s Day images saturating social media, TV, radio, etc. can make your grief over past hurts feel overwhelming. The wounds caused by abuse, assault or even lost love leave you unable to anticipate what may trigger them to open and bleed again.
So how do you get through these feelings and move forward? First of all, don’t let anyone tell you not to feel how you feel. Feel your sadness and anger and use it as a building block to a stronger you. Use your feelings to figure out what kind of relationship you want – if you want one. Reject a fake love that uses gifts as apologies, thinks that possessiveness is romantic or thinks they need to tell you what to wear or who you can talk to.
If you want a relationship, (and not everyone does, and that’s okay), find REAL love. Real love is truth, communication, kindness, respect, understanding and working for the mutual betterment of each person. Your partner should be your teammate, not your competition. When you have real love, you are able to share each other’s pain, insecurities and vulnerabilities and love them warts and all. Real love encourages each other to learn and grow and be the best you can be. Real love accepts your scars and knows that each battle you have fought has shaped you into the person you are today.
Relationships with others start with our relationship with ourselves. Maya Gittelman goes on to say, “Love is a process, radical self-love is a process, and it can be one you share with other people, learning to love them as you learn to love yourself, to love who you are when you are falling in love. We must remember that internalized victim blaming and negativity are symptoms of rape culture and emotional abuse. We must recognize that if your brain chemistry defaults you to anxiety and depression, no amount of love, Hallmark or otherwise, will ever negate that truth. These experiences are valid, and they will not necessarily go away, ever. But love can coexist with them.” The first big step is to acknowledge that you deserve to love yourself. Show yourself self-care and make yourself a priority. Need ideas? Spend some time with friends or family you enjoy. Watch or read something you find interesting. Spend some time alone doing what you want to do. Remind yourself that you are a beautiful and amazing person, and your worth has nothing to do with other people’s opinions.
Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free crisis counseling, support groups and other services free of charge to Jackson County residents who are survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence. You may reach us at 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.