What is a healthy relationship?
As I look back on my childhood, I feel blessed to have grown up with loving parents who raised my brother and sister and I in a healthy, safe environment. I don’t remember ever feeling fear in my home growing up; I never remember hearing arguing or experiencing violence in any way. I think the way I grew up has a lot to do with how I am in my own relationships now. I can’t stand being yelled at and I have a strong idea of what a healthy relationship is.
However, working in a shelter with victims of domestic violence and hearing about stories from friends of my own has showed me over and over again that violence in the homes happens to many, many people. I have asked a few good friends what it was like to grow up in a domestic violence home as children and how it has affected them now as adults. I think the most profound thing that I heard from these individuals who had experienced domestic violence in their homes as children, was that for that whole time growing up they had no idea what a healthy relationship was. Sure, they could watch TV and look at the families on there, but the television shows are often unrealistic, and only show a portion of what a relationship would be like. No family is perfect, and often television and Hollywood only paint a black and white portrayal of what a family life would be like. That is not reality.
One of my good friends often saw his dad yell at his mom and emotionally abuse her after he came home after work and got drunk. He experienced his dad hitting him and yelling at him as well. He has told me that during that time, he felt incredibly helpless. The experience of going through domestic violence in his childhood deeply affected him. And he expressed his general fear that he had as a child of his father and his mother’s new boyfriend who often would yell and beat him. A general fear that he may be beat to death. “When you are a child, anything seems possible. You haven’t even built the ability to understand long term consequences for your actions, so how could you comprehend other people’s boundaries? You are inferior, with no power, and you know it. It’s a helpless feeling.”
The one thing that he really wished growing up is that he was able to actually see what a healthy relationship was. He said that going through the domestic violence as a child affected how he handled conflicts as an adult and that he thought the only real way to handle conflict was to “be really loud and to have a temper.” Without knowing how to handle conflict and without knowing what was healthy in a relationship played a direct role in the relationships once he was an adult.
That is where we can help. We can help children understand what a healthy relationship is, that violence is not the answer and that it is possible to have a loving relationship without the violence. It is our job as society to be showing examples to the children what it means to be in a healthy relationship, what it means to grow up in a home without violence. It is our job as society to end the cycle of violence. If a child has no idea what a healthy relationship is and grows up believing that violence is normal in the home and in their relationships, then how will the cycle of violence ever end?
It’s time to end domestic violence. It’s time to put a stop to the idea that violence in the home is normal.
- Makers of Memories is now “Children of Domestic Violence”
- What Is Childhood Domestic Violence?
- Makers Calls on Schools and Homes to Join Crusade against Domestic Violence through Active Awareness & Education Initiatives
- Don’t Miss the Groundbreaking “Dr. Phil” Episode on Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence Featuring Makers of Memories
- Safety Plans Can Help Keep Children Out of Harm’s Way In Domestically Violent Homes
- Children’s Fate Hangs in the Balance with the Upcoming Senate Vote on Reauthorizing VAWA
- Dr. Kelley Ward on how violence can alter brain function in children
- “Dr. Phil” to Air First Ever National Program Focused on Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence