Love—such a powerful word; a word full of emotion and splendor. And yet a word that too often gets confused with obsession and possessiveness. It’s our interpretations of love that really give love a good or bad rap. Do men love different from women? Shouldn’t a woman and a man be able to express love in whatever ways they know best? There are varying opinions about that.
The love of a good partner is like good soul food. It fills you up! It makes you feel as if you can do anything, be anything, conquer the highest obstacle. But when the highs of an intimate partnership fall into the pit of solitude, isolation and fear it can be overwhelming and frightening trying to find an easy way out.
According to statistics, 1 out of every 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. And at minimum, 1 in 3 female homicide victims will occur at the hands of a woman’s current or former intimate partner. Is that love? Is that the passion women live for? Of course not!
So how does violence and exploitation get confused with love?
There are many reasons. Most times, women who grew up in violent households or came through a family where violence was present even indirectly are more vulnerable to dating or falling in love with a violent partner than someone not raised in a violent household. Same holds true for men. If men witnessed violence in their immediate family while growing up the likelihood that they will recreate violent behavior in their lifetime is that much greater.
Many of us have heard of Titi Branch, one of the co-founders of Miss Jessie’s hair care line. Tragically, Titi took her life by suicide last December. In a recent New York Post feature, Miko Branch, Titi’s sister and business partner, alleges Titi’s social and mental decline were primarily due to an exploitive love relationship. Titi’s family blames her then boyfriend for keeping TiTi isolated from her family, coercing money out of her to start a business and ultimately contributing to her depressive mental state.
As a psychotherapist who has worked with survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner exploitation, I can’t assume Titi’s death was a result of her feelings about being in an alleged opportunistic relationship. However, a woman being beaten and a woman being exploited are not so different in the psychological effects it has on someone’s psyche. Being involved in a relationship where you’re bullied, coerced, physically assaulted or emotionally manipulated is all very traumatic and damaging.
This story is all too common. We may not always see the scars to realize someone is also being mentally abused. If you think you are experiencing love but it’s through physical or psychological pain that you are receiving or giving it, stop and seek help right away.
Remember—love doesn’t hurt.