As someone who regularly creates for and reads content from Odyssey, I've come across a concerning type of content.
The type of content I speak of involves unhealthy dating behaviors masked as normal occurrences in relationships, and I find it concerning how often I see this type of content.
Before I dive in, I want to give a disclaimer on my evaluations of these articles.
I went through 25 hours of training through a nonprofit, domestic violence organization here in my county. It was a comprehensive, multi-week process involving a variety of intersectional training surrounding the systemic factors and consequences of intimate partner violence.
I also went through 5 hours of training on dating violence that is sponsored by a university-funded grant and has a curriculum created by the domestic abuse organization I volunteer my time to.
So while I am by no means the be-all end-all expert, my training and experience co-facilitating workshops mean I feel confident in my competency to speak on dating violence.
So when I come across content that sets of red flags in my mind, my background as an advocate makes me want to speak up.
One component of dating violence is emotional abuse, which is exemplified in the many unhealthy articles I read on this platform on what feels like a weekly basis. A few I've recently come across include the following.
Articles of this nature occasionally use grabbing headlines for the sake of readership, but then articulate other ideas within the body of the article. In the first article, the other "girlfriend" in question is actually the best friend of a girl's boyfriend, and it is said in the article that they joke about the relationship feeling as if three people exist in it.
The second and third examples, however, remain true to their headlines.
The themes present in these three examples as well as many others I come across include jealousy and isolation, which are both unhealthy (and sometimes abusive) factors in a relationship. While these are not the only unhealthy behaviors I see in articles, they are by far the most common ones.
Within the first article, the content seems quite harmless from a broad analysis. However, there exist a variety of problems describing the girlfriend's behavior toward her boyfriend and his best girlfriend.
Jealous behavior is one of them.
It is described how the girlfriend "throws a fit" or "turns off the computer" when her boyfriend talks with his best female friend for an extended amount of time, and then asks the rhetorical question "who wouldn't?" as an attempt to rationalize her actions.
These actions of hers, however, are not healthy.
These actions are evident of jealous behavior with a lack of communication to articulate and healthily express those feelings of jealousy. Jealousy is a natural human emotion, after all. However, what defines unhealthy versus healthy jealousy is how jealousy is expressed, and in this instance, jealousy is unhealthily expressed.
The attempt to rationalize the jealous behavior by an attempt to confer an agreement of "who wouldn't?" with readers is exceptionally problematic.
Rationalizing unhealthy or abusive behavior is often a way for someone to fix feelings of cognitive dissonance they might have over their behavior.
Rationalizing negative behavior in a public manner conveys to readers that it's okay to do so, which normalizes unhealthy behaviors.
The behaviors in the second article articulate very jealous and possessive dynamics that illustrate the author's sense of insecurity and jealousy over the idea that her fiance had a previous, high school relationship.
The continuous use of "I get" statements to describe aspects of the intimate relationship unique to the author illustrates a pervasive sense of jealousy the author has over the prior girlfriend from the repeated comparison of what she "gets" compared to the old girlfriend.
No relationship should have a partner who views a relationship in transactional ways to try and determine if they've received more in the relationship than the last partner.
The repeated use of "I hate that" language in this article also fosters an unhealthy, unnecessary resentment toward the prior girlfriend, including an accusation from the author that any previous displays of affection from the old girlfriend were only for the sake of popularity and not love.
The teardown of this past ex is not only angry, but it is also destructive. Tearing down another woman and unnecessarily pitting yourself against someone else conveys to female readers that they must "compete" with other women for male attention, which fosters unnecessary expressions of jealousy and abrasiveness between women.
And that's the last thing we as women need. We should be uplifting each other and accepting others, not attempt to sabotage other women in a jealous rage.
Attempting to isolate a significant other from other women over insecure feelings about yourself is both jealous and possessive, and one person does not have the right to separate a partner from or degrade other people in their life.
The third article in my example further illustrates jealous, isolating and possessive behavior. Consistently checking up on a parter's whereabouts as a mode of evaluating their loyalty, trust or to a degree their well-being is not healthy.
The author's invalidation of her boyfriend's concerns regarding her checkup up on him is unhealthy. Even if there exists the claim that the author doesn't care about who her boyfriend is seeing, the lack of consideration for each partner's communication style and comfort is problematic.
In general, people should be free to live their independent lives and go places that their life requires them to go. If a relationship has so little trust or communication in it that one partner attempts to elicit a sense power over the other via stalking their whereabouts, they need to re-evaluate the relationship.
The couples in these articles and many others like them may feel happy and satisfied in their relationships. If they do, that's personal to them.
However, I think it's critical to point out how many of these relationships showcase unhealthy behavior, and that they could often qualify as emotional abuse and potentially cause trauma in the relationships they occur in.
The influence that articles of this nature have in depicting categorically unhealthy behaviors as "normal" can have lasting impacts on readers.
Odyssey is a freelance platform, and I think it's critical to retain the openness and diversity of thought on this platform. However, given the readership of Odyssey as a whole and ability to influence readers, the excessive attention given to toxic ideas about relationships could potentially have negative consequences.
Unhealthy, toxic behaviors present in relationships should not be openly publicized. In the current socio-political climate we live in, the last thing our society needs is to foster a sense of interpersonal apathy between women or normalize unhealthy behaviors within our relationships.
Because what happens if we do?
People suffer. There's a risk of unhealthy and abusive relationships forming, which could have both physical or mental repercussions for those involved.
Further, creating a divide between women due to possessive or jealous feelings about partners risks women putting each other down in a time when women need to support each other the most.
Vouching for unhealthy and abusive behaviors is destructive. And as someone who works to foster positive interpersonal communication and end dating violence on a daily basis, I will not be silent over content that counters the issues I fight against every day.