I wish February had been Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month when I was growing up. I might have realized that in the era before e-mails or cellphones, my boyfriend’s demand that we speak on the telephone every night was unreasonable. I was in college and my life revolved around those phone calls.
At 18, I thought his behavior demonstrated intense love for me. Young and inexperienced, it never occurred to me that he wanted to control me. In my mind, this was love and love always hurts, doesn’t it? All I had to do was listen to a pop song or watch a soap opera to see that a love worth having was often portrayed as painful, or at the very least, something mostly difficult to endure.
My partner’s extreme jealousy was not a sign of love, but a warning — one that many teenagers in dating relationships mistake as caring or even flattery. Domestic abuse among teenagers is a phenomenon not readily understood within an adult framework. And confusing possessiveness with love is among the most common teenage mistakes leading to dating violence.