Beware of "loving" expressions that normalize violence

There are learned behaviors such as jealousy, exclusivity, or possession of the other and the belief that love "forgives all". Young people should be attentive and critical of what their partners say to them, love themselves, and look for loving partners, not enemies, respecting personal autonomy.

Beware of "loving" expressions that normalize violence
You should be mindful and critical of what your partner tells you, love yourself and look for loving partners, not enemies, where personal autonomy is respected. Photo by Sammy Williams / Unsplash

Sometimes evident and sometimes hidden, some actions we have in love relationships are deeply rooted in traditional gender roles, which are socially developed over generations, normalize and replicate violence, as well as the inequity of one gender over another. Learned behaviors such as jealousy, exclusivity, possession of the other, or the belief that love "forgives all", are myths of romantic love, explained Brenda Magali Gómez Cruz, social psychologist and professor at the Faculty of Higher Education (FES) Zaragoza, UNAM.

Many of these attitudes seem cute and romantic to us until they progress to psychological or physical violence, she said during the virtual conference "Violence against women in the name of love". She spoke about the myths of romantic love and highlighted those that belong to the group "love can do anything", where the fallacy that we can change our partner for love, the omnipotence of this feeling, the belief that opposites attract and understand each other better, the false idea of the compatibility between love and abuse, the normalization of conflict and the belief that "true" love forgives or endures everything is installed.

The psychologist defined the characteristics of the second group of myths called "predestined true love", where the idea of the "better half" that will give complementarity to our life, emotional reasoning, the belief that there is only one true love in life, and the myth of durability, eternal passion or equivalence stand out. The third group is called " love is the most important thing and requires total surrender" and highlighted the fallacy of pairing and conversion of couple love in the center of our lives and as the only reference of our existence, the idea that love gives happiness and requires total surrender, as well as understanding it as depersonalization.

In the fourth group, which Gómez Cruz identified as "love is possession and exclusivity," she emphasized the myths of marriage as the key to the ideal relationship and happiness, jealousy (which even at the beginning of relationships is experienced as compliments), and the sexist myth of fidelity and exclusivity. "Phrases like you are mine and you are the love of my life stand out in this group." In context, she said that gender-based violence is an act of aggression that results in possible or actual physical, sexual, or psychological harm, including threats, coercion, or deprivation of liberty, whether it occurs in public or private life.

Both men and women can be victims and/or aggressors; however, it has been documented that it is women and girls who experience particular forms of abuse. The specialist cited the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which in 48 population-based surveys conducted worldwide, found that 10 to 69 percent of women revealed that they had been physically assaulted by a male partner at some point in their lives. 38 percent of murders worldwide are committed by a male partner. "Violence can negatively affect women's physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health," she said.

Young people are encouraged to be aware of the myths of romantic love that they live in their relationships, to be critical of what they say in songs, social networks, and media that replicate these false ideas and behaviors, and urged especially women to be autonomous, maintain their interests and find love partners, not enemies. "The idea is that we do things to change our bonds with our partners and with other people because love is not only for a couple but also for other relationships and myself," she clarified. To change our roles it is important to be aware of our family history, of what we want in our relationship, and to that extent, to negotiate.