Being in an abusive relationship taught me a lot about myself- it also taught me a lot about our society, and how much toxic, unhealthy relationships become normalized, and even glorified.
There is something about dangerous, unpredictable, Bonnie and Clyde-esque romances that audiences absolutely love, but some of us go a step further, when we start trying to turn our own love stories into those movies.
Rihanna songs like…
“Just gonna stand here and watch me burn, but that’s alright because I like the way it hurts…”
…make for beautiful song lyrics, but a terrible real life story. And I will be the first to admit that I have tried to turn my mundane life into a movie. Since I was about fourteen years old, I would intentionally chase boys who I knew would wreck me. I would put myself into situations that were potentially dangerous, or illegal, or just plain stupid, because I felt invincible, and decided that the end story was worth the risk. As a result, my short, twenty-one year life has been full of crazy, dramatic stories, but my mental health has been left in shambles.
I’d love to play dumb, and say that I have no idea why these things happen to me, but I do know why. I didn’t ask for an abusive relationship, but I did ask for trouble. My previous relationship began when I found him doing a line of coke. It ended with me breaking up with him over the phone, after he got sent to jail for a DUI. I paid fifteen dollars to break up with him. That relationship was a tornado wreck, beginning to end. A couple months in, it was clear to me that he had a drinking problem, but I still stayed for two years. I think a part of me romanticized the idea of being in a broken relationship, because it kept me broody, depressed, and writing.
I’ve spent a lot of time with guys who took advantage of me, and treated me like shit. And it’s not as if I didn’t know any better. I think I just liked having a story to tell afterwards.
There’s a reason why break-up songs are so popular- they are fun to write about. When a relationship is peaceful, and calm, and comfortable, no one wants to hear about it. But when love comes in like a storm, wrecking everything in it’s path, that’s poetry. We love to talk about the things that destroy us. The things that leave us immobile, and broken, and crying in bathtubs. There is art in being broken.
But I don't want to be broken anymore. I no longer want to seek out bad situations for the sake of memorable stories. For the first time in my life, I am in a healthy relationship. He is kind, and compassionate, and rational, and our relationship feels normal. And while the word 'normal' is subjective, what I really mean is, our relationship isn't dysfunctional. It doesn't feel like a game of Jenga, where one wrong move could send it all tumbling. I don't feel like I'm constantly walking on a tightrope. I feel safe with him.
This is the healthiest relationship I've ever been in, but it isn't the relationship I thought I needed. I always believed that the strongest relationships were the ones that were wild, and crazy, and obsessive, but the difference between movies and real life, is that a movie ends after two hours. Wild and crazy relationships make for an interesting plot line, but they are not sustainable, if you want a relationship that lasts.
My ex boyfriend used to get really defensive and angry when I wanted to go out- he would pull me aside, tell me that I belonged to him, and he didn't want other guys looking at me. And I thought this was so romantic. It wasn't. He wasn't being romantic, he was being insecure and controlling.
We need to stop romanticizing possessive relationships. Obsession, control, insecurity, jealousy- these traits all play into toxic relationships, not healthy ones. And a relationship that starts toxic, rarely becomes anything but toxic.
"The Notebook": Noah threatening to kill himself on the amusement ride unless Allie agreed to a date?
- That's harassment. In fact, that entire movie was problematic. From beginning to end, the two never stopped fighting, and yelling at each other. Allie cheated on her fiancé with Noah, and they still fought. Noah and Allie are the perfect example of a dysfunctional couple that media loves to romanticize. And sixteen year old Liz loved this movie. I thought it was so romantic, and beautiful, and it likely played into my dysfunctional mentality of seeking love. Possession is not love.
When "Suicide Squad" came out, people became so infatuated with the relationship between Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and the Joker (Jared Leto), never mind the fact that throughout the entire Batman franchise, the Joker has always been incredibly abusive towards Harley Quinn. They have a terrible relationship.
Sometimes I like to joke about how I've become a grandma in my twenties, but I think I've just grown up. I did enough stupid things in my teen years, that at this point, I can't see the point of it anymore. I no longer want to turn my life into a Quentin Tarantino film. I don't hang out around drug addicts anymore, or go to places that make me feel unsafe. I can enjoy sad music without wanting to feel like the protagonist.
It can be fun to imagine our lives like movies and songs, but it becomes destructive when we start trying to emulate them in real life. The Bonnie and Clyde-esque relationship is often seen through rose-tinted glasses- people forget that Bonnie and Clyde were thieves and murderers. They were also shot dead.
Maybe my love won't turn into a romance film, or a popular Rihanna song, but that's okay. I don't want a love that burns out like a match, none of us should. And that's what films and lyrics draw inspiration from: those small, explosive snippets of a relationship that make them appear otherworldly. And that is a dangerous love to seek out- matches burn bright but they also burn quickly. I want a relationship that is comfortable- and I also want to stop treating the word 'comfortable' like a bad word. Comfortability is not the death of passion, it's a sign of a long-lasting relationship, and I want a love that lasts. I want a love that would bore audiences to tears, because it is too functional, and beautiful, and safe.