What is love anyway? My theory is that love can’t be defined – love is a mother breaking rest to feed her child in the early hours of the day, love is a father working late to put food on the table, love is eating dinner as a family, love is the blessed feeling of waking up next to your partner, love is the rush of emotion upon a reunion, love is supporting another through grief, hardship and ease; love is, undoubtedly, in the little and constant things that we may or may not notice in our daily lives.
But what is love not? Often people confuse love with lust, with the feeling of being lusted after, with reliance, the feeling of being relied upon, with necessity, with the feeling of being needed, with pity and with the feeling of being pitied and with heartbreak and the power to break hearts.
In English Law, recklessness is also ‘closing one’s mind to the obvious’ – I can’t find a more accurate phrase to describe the state of mind of victims who refuse to accept that they are being abused.
It is not love when you feel anxious every time they look your way; assessing you, your looks, your clothes, your academics and your self-worth. It is not love when you change to please – not for better; but for worse. It is not love when you wear a mask every day and struggle to keep it from slipping off because when it does – and some time or the other it will – the slightest disapproval from your partner or parent sends you reeling.
It is not love when that same parent or a partner hurts you when you fail to conform to their standards – there is no valuable lesson there – it is just a display of power. How do we know it’s a display of power?
Just ask the child who starved for spilling coffee on the rug, or the spouse who lost a few teeth because of a jealous partner in a rage.
Abuse – it’s such an ugly word and it’s so dogged with social stigma. Perhaps that’s why people are so reluctant to admit that they are suffering from it that they delude themselves that they are in love and that they are imperfect and broken for not living up to the standards of the people in their lives. Their character erodes and what is left is but a mere shell of a human being. They hide their bruises under their clothes and they carry on in the name of love.
It is not love when a parent forces their children to follow a path they don’t want to follow – in terms of education, for an example. Often it comes from a misplaced sense of duty that their children should complete their legacy or that they should follow a path that they themselves have failed. What they fail to realise is that they may be pushing their burdens onto unwilling candidates.
It is not love when their partner make sexual advances towards them without their consent. Non-consensual sexual intercourse – there’s a word for that – rape.
It is not love you see in his eyes when he pins you down.
It is not love that compels them to stay with an abusive husband. It is the fear of being shunned in a highly cultural and conservative society; it is the fear of abandonment. But times have changed, laws have changed but society, however, has a long way to go.
The bruises may disappear but the memories, the hurt and the low self-esteem still remains.
Remember – love is not physical or mental abuse. It is not pain. It is not hurt.
By Fathima Nuha Rishafy (18) Law student