A quick word association test: What are the first things you think of when you hear the word February? For most of us, Valentine's Day comes to mind.
Valentine's Day with its ritual of gift giving can serve to bring some warmth to
traditionally frosty February. From early childhood when we sent lollipop cards
to classmate, to later years when we update Facebook statuses or hope for roses
and diamond rings, Valentine's Day has become synonymous with gift giving. Gifts are seen as an expression of love, proof that someone cares about you.
Early in relationships, individuals can be seduced by attention received
from their loved ones. Checking up on us or wanting to know our daily plans can reassure us that we are the object of someone's affection. Unfortunately, in
unhealthy relationships, caring sometimes becomes obsessing. This unhealthy
caring then leads to controlling. And, in some relationships, this type of
controlling becomes confused with caring. In realty, obsessive control is the
opposite of true caring.
Control can masquerade for the love we once knew. Many people in abusive relationships may choose not to seek help even though they are fully aware of what is happening to them and their relationship. Fear, not love, keeps them in the relationship. Some are afraid to be alone so they stay. Perhaps they endure living within the economic confines of a husband's allowance because of their fear of financial insecurity. They may permit their children to repeatedly witness shameful effects of out of control anger. Domestic violence can affect anyone no matter what a person's age, race, gender, religion, class, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
Perhaps this Valentine's Day should be different. Let's use this day to courageously look within ourselves and evaluate how we truly give and receive love in our lives. Make a commitment to the greatest love of all, the love we have for ourselves. Don't be reluctant or ashamed to seek help if change is needed.
This blog was written by Caran Pullen. Caren is currently a master's degree candidate in the Mental Health Counseling program at LIU Hudson's Rockland campus. She has 29 years of experience in special education and educational leadership.