Here’s what happens when people romanticize abuse in books and others read it: People start to think the way the love interest treats them is okay, that it’s romantic, it’s their way of showing love. Most of us grew up reading about or watching abuse that’s been romanticized and we thought it was okay. It became embedded in us that it’s a part of love when it really is not. We were told when we were young that little boys hit us or are mean to us because they like us. No one taught little boys that it wasn’t okay to do that. Instead, they laughed and said how much the little boys like the girl because they’re trying to get their ‘attention’. And then came the stories ‘Falling for my bully’ or ‘my bully is in love with me’ and their reasoning is that the bully bullied the girl because they secretly loved her. And eventually the bully—now, ex-bully and the girl end up together. It’s possible to reform themselves, but bullies leave scars, being bullied is traumatizing. And all of that is swept under the rug because they romanticized it. It discounts the trauma faced by the survivor and sends the wrong message to others.
Then there’s gaslighting. Gaslighters lie so much that you start to doubt your reality, your truth. They somehow are always able to turn things in their favor, put the blame on you, make you feel guilty for things you have nothing to feel guilty about. They slowly isolate you from others, make you agree with them. You start to doubt yourself, insecurity becomes constant and you’re made to think this is love. Sometimes gaslighters don’t even know they’re gaslighitng—but that doesn’t excuse it. We have to check ourselves, time and again. We have to think before we say. We have to recognize when we’re being toxic.
Besides that, there are many other subtle things that do count as romanticized abuse that people tend to overlook. For example, stalking. In books, it’s romanticized so much that it’s considered ‘looking out for the other person’ but that’s really going down the path of being Joe Goldberg. There’s the ‘unexpected’ kiss that really is a kiss without consent. It’s not romantic when someone suddenly grabs you and kisses you. Even if the MC does reciprocate it, it’s not romantic. Nor is not accepting ‘no’ for an answer. No IS an answer. It’s final. It’s not ‘try harder and my answer will be yes’. The concept of ‘hard to get’ is romanticized abuse. So is thinking you’ll be rewarded with someone’s affection just because you were good to them. No! No one is obliged to return your love. Being good isn’t something you should be rewarded for. It’s the bare minimum you should be doing for anyone. Don’t romanticize possessive behavior, restricting one another to talk to other people because of ‘jealousy’.
Check yourselves. And when you read, remember that that’s not how you want to be treated, because that’s abuse, not love. Love should not make you feel small and insecure. Love should not make you doubt yourself and your reality. Love should not make you entirely dependent on the other person. Love doesn’t mean you can’t talk to others. Love doesn’t excuse possessiveness led by jealousy. Love doesn’t mean you can excuse your partner’s sexism, homophobia, racism, etc. Love doesn’t make you feel unsafe. But if it does, then it’s not love. It’s abuse. Don’t encourge it. Don’t teach young children that it’s love.
And don’t discount what the survivors have been through by romanticizing abuse.