Being a relationship virgin doesn’t just mean lacking sex experience. It also means being naïve about all the nuances, struggles, and excitement that comes with it.
When we talk about relationship virgins, we too often consider that it means having never been kissed, told someone I love you, or considered moving in with someone.
But it also means we can be naïve to the ugly side as well. We might wonder why people stay in abusive relationships, or why they pick partners who seem so obviously ill suited for them.
I definitely felt that way. Having grown up seeing healthy relationships, I figured any abusive relationship was light years away from my perfect bubble.
That is until my father told me that my uncle beat his first wife. And while I was relieved that my uncle initiated their divorce, I was left wondering why did his first wife endure that abuse?
I never met her, as her marriage to my uncle was before my time. So I could not ask her. And while I combed stories online, I was looking for a different level of understanding. And one day, it came to me by accident.
I read Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us. What I thought was a light summer romance novel, turned into a story of love, pain, heartbreak, disappointment, and abuse.
When I first picked up the book, I devoured page after page, until the main character was slapped by her boyfriend. I put the book down.
I was so disappointed. This was not the perfect, romance, boy meets girl story that I had paid for.
It took a couple of days for me to pick up the book again. All the while I read, my ignorance started to become sympathy and understanding. And even though I can’t ask my uncle’s first wife why she endured the abuse, I could find some answers in a novel. Hoover based her novel off the relationship of her parents, one instance that cannot begin to define every abusive relationship. But it provided the small window into domestic violence that I needed.
Walking away from an abusive relationship isn’t like quitting a job or leaving the tennis team. Something I hadn’t understood.
Hoover explained that walking away from an abusive relationship and someone that you love is like breaking a cycle.
Hoover brought me to a different level of understanding. She wrote about the courage it takes to get out of a relationship. A perspective that I hadn’t considered.
But even as I have a better awareness, I know that I cannot understand it completely. But what I do understand is that ending domestic violence is the responsibility of everyone.
And taking responsibility does not have to be a grand gesture. It can be one that will make a more personal impact.
Sarah Brewington earned her BA in Communication Studies from the University of San Diego. After attending college in California, she moved back to the northwest to be closer to the trees and her family. She’s world traveler, a feminist, and an eternal student who’s always eager to understand new perspectives on life.