Where is the line between love and abuse?
Easy, you say. If a person hits their partner, that is abuse. That is domestic violence.
But what about verbal abuse? What about partners who mock-physically fight? Is that ok?
What if you want to do one thing and your partner wants another?
I think that it comes down to boundaries, control and respect.
If one person controls the other, and violates boundaries, that is abuse. To say, I'm going to hit you because you talked to a different man at the bar. To say, the family will go to the zoo at two, and then no one goes, because of sickness. Or alcohol. Or drugs. To say, I will only be in contact with you if you do what I say. Otherwise I will withhold my love, withhold sex, I won't talk to you, I won't be friends with you. That is not love, that is control and abuse.
Each person needs boundaries. This is what I am going to do. This is what I would like to do. Would you like to do this with me? No? Is there something else we could do together? Or is there another time I could be with you?
I go to my kids' concerts, and once a year, I want them to come to mine. They are not required to like it. When they were younger we discussed behavior: it was ok to read a book until the concert started, but then polite attention was expected. Consequences would ensue for slithering down on the bench and being obviously asleep with your head leaned back on the pew. You don't have to applaud enthusiastically, but I expect courtesy. If one of the kids had categorically refused to go, I think I would agree, but there might be a period where I was disappointed and a bit less enthusiastic about doing something extracurricular that they enjoy more than I do.
Vacuuming is one of my least favorite chores. Unfortunately my kids hate it too. So we take turns, since it's a chore no one enjoys.
Is the line between asking someone to behave a certain way or do something for you and between controlling the person easy and clear? I don't think so. I think it is more subtle than anyone admits. I think that we want to pretend that it is obvious and that we all agree where the line is. Am I controlling my children by saying that I really want them to come to my concert once a year? If I do things that they want and they do things that I want, and sometimes I sort of want something and they don't want to do it and I drop it, and sometimes they want something and it is too expensive or I am on call or we've already made a commitment and they drop it. I think the essence of love is the respect for the other person's feelings, whatever they are and even if they seem unreasonable to us, and a give and take. That each person gets to choose at times.
The IT did a Swim-a-thon yesterday, to fund raise for the swim team. She swam 250 lengths of our 20 meter pool. 5000 meters. The EF stopped by, at my request, about an hour and a quarter into it. His sister was already at 170 lengths, with me as her counter. The EF decided to stay and cheer her on and see his sister finish. He was proud of her. She was pleased. I'm a terrible length counter but another parent was less fidgety and I could double check my numbers.
Love is not control. It is give and take, boundaries, respect. Working together as a couple or a family, but each person is also an individual. Love is being together and being separate at the same time.