Updated: Dec 2, 2019
As a relationship expert and abuse prevention advocate, I spend a lot of time writing and talking about unhealthy relationships. I speak regularly about how to detect toxic behaviours and have written extensively about it in this blog. Beyond the years of research, I am fuelled to do this work by my own life experiences of what happens when the vital signs are missed.
During my regular early morning run today, I began to think about signs to look out for that indicate a healthy relationship; looking at things from the other angle. Looking for the significant clues that lead towards a positive conclusion, rather than one of fear.
As I ran through the cool morning mist of the French vineyards - we are travelling through France on our way back to England at the moment - I began to mentally gather a list of the signifiers of happy, healthy love. The kind I believe we all deserve. And the very kind I myself have welcomed into my life in the past year.
Fittingly - in the way only the universe knows how - I returned home to an example of the very thing I’d been thinking over as I made my way through the lanes that morning.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table, as I write this to you. My running shoes are abandoned at the front door. My notebook lays in front of me, as a pot of tea quietly steams just beyond its open pages. A pot of tea that was made for me for my return. The very thing I was just about to come home and write about.
My partner knew I would love a pot of my favourite herbal tea to pour from when I got home from my run. And so, without announcement or need for recognition, he made sure there was one on the table amid his usual morning routine. No fanfare, just a love ‘heads-up’ without any further implication.
The significant meaning I am showing you isn’t in the beauty of the teapot beside me. No material item or purchased prize can possibly be a symbol of relationship health, despite what the retailers will tell us around the holiday seasons. The true gift this morning, in this kitchen? His intention.
In my previous, abusive relationship such a gesture was a manipulative tactic for me to fall back under abusive control following a nasty fight the night before. It was a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ ploy to encourage me to forget my plans to leave, or to remind me of my place. Identical gesture, similar teapot; but an entirely different meaning.
This tea, right here next to me? Nothing more than jasmine tea leaves and good intentions. That’s a difference to pay attention to.
One of the key elements that keeps abuse victims trapped is a gaslit fuelled sense of confusion. Victims are left with endless self doubt over whether what is happening to them ‘counts’ as abuse. The dizzying switches between highs and lows of the relationship are exhausting, as is the endless mental dialogue of whether to leave, and how.
Purpose. Intention. Objective. These are the places to look for the signs that matter. These are the places we need to look when we consider relationship health. The conditions and individual circumstances of each relationship may morph and vary, but genuine love and care is repetitive in its message of genuine care for our wellbeing. These are the clues to pick up on.
Seem a little complicated? Unsure whether what you’re experiencing in your relationship counts as healthy, or not? Click the link below, for a 7 point guide.
The Living Liberté website is now a place where you can find a range of online resources to help you piece together an understanding of how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing. It's where you can go to find downloadable PDF files as a point of reference when you need them. Your own pot of information tea, to pour from when you’re ready.
I lived through most of my young adult life in violent, painful cycles of relationship abuse. I never fully believed what was else possible, which was a part of what kept me in those patterns. Even now, I am astonished at the possibilities genuine, authentic love brings to my daily life. I think the fact I have been inspired to write an entire article based on a teapot demonstrates that, perhaps!
I share all of this with you, because I have dedicated my life to the belief that we all deserve the type of love that brings out the very best in us. The kind that keeps us safe from harm, and that adds to our life, not takes from it. This, readers, should be the standard. A standard we all deserve.
Including you. In fact - especially you.