In this TED Talk, relationship revolutionary Katie Hood reveals the five signs you might be in an unhealthy relationship — with a romantic partner, a friend, a family member — and shares the things you can do every day to love with respect, kindness and joy.
Katie Hood – TED Talk TRANSCRIPT
So when you think about a child, a close friend, or a romantic partner, the word “love” probably comes to mind, and instantly other emotions rush in: joy and hope, excitement, trust and security, and yes, sometimes sadness and disappointment.
There might not be a word in the dictionary that more of us are connected to than love. Yet, given its central importance in our lives, isn’t it interesting that we’re never explicitly taught how to love?
We build friendships, navigate early romantic relationships, get married and bring babies home from the hospital with the expectation that we’ll figure it out.
But the truth is, we often harm and disrespect the ones we love. It can be subtle things like guilting a friend into spending time with you or sneaking a peek at your partner’s texts or shaming a child for their lack of effort at school.
100% of us will be on the receiving end of unhealthy relationship behaviors and 100% of us will do unhealthy things. It’s part of being human. In its worst form, the harm we inflict on loved ones shows up as abuse and violence, and relationship abuse is something that one in three women and one in four men will experience in their lifetime.
Now, if you’re like most people, when you hear those stats, you’ll go, “Oh, no, no, no, that would never happen to me.” It’s instinctual to move away from the words “abuse” and “violence,” to think that they happen to someone else somewhere else.
But the truth is, unhealthy relationships and abuse are all around us. We just call them different things and ignore the connection. Abuse sneaks up on us disguised in unhealthy love.
I work for an organization called One Love started by a family whose daughter Yeardley was killed by her ex-boyfriend. This was a tragedy no one saw coming, but when they looked back, they realized the warning signs were there just no one understood what they were seeing.
Called crazy or drama or too much drinking, his actions weren’t understood to be what they really were, which was clear signs of danger. Her family realized that if anyone had been educated about these signs, her death could have been prevented.
So today we’re on a mission to make sure that others have the information that Yeardley and her friends didn’t. We have three main goals: give all of us a language for talking about a subject that’s quite awkward and uncomfortable to discuss; empower a whole front line, namely friends, to help; and, in the process, improve all of our ability to love better.
To do this, it’s always important to start by illuminating the unhealthy signs that we frequently miss, and our work really focuses on creating content to start conversations with young people.
As you’d expect, most of our content is pretty serious, given the subject at hand, but today I’m going to use one of our more light-hearted yet still thought-provoking pieces, “The Couplets,” to illuminate five markers of unhealthy love.
The first is intensity.
Blue: I haven’t seen you in a couple days. I’ve missed you.
Orange: I’ve missed you too. (#thatslove)
Blue: I haven’t seen you in five minutes. It feels like a lifetime.
What have you been doing without me for five whole minutes?
Orange: It’s been three minutes. (#thatsnotlove)
Anybody recognize that? I don’t know. I do.
Abusive relationships don’t start out abusive. They start out exciting and exhilarating. There’s an intensity of affection and emotion, a rush. It feels really good. You feel so lucky, like you’ve hit the jackpot.
But in unhealthy love, these feelings shift over time from exciting to overwhelming and maybe a little bit suffocating. You feel it in your gut. Maybe it’s when your new boyfriend or girlfriend says “I love you” faster than you were ready for or starts showing up everywhere, texting and calling a lot. Maybe they’re impatient when you’re slow to respond, even though they know you had other things going on that day.
It’s important to remember that it’s not how a relationship starts that matters, it’s how it evolves. It’s important in the early days of a new relationship to pay attention to how you’re feeling. Are you comfortable with the pace of intimacy? Do you feel like you have space and room to breathe?