The Scoop: Maintaining healthy relationships is central to a person’s well-being and happiness, yet the education system doesn’t offer relationship classes to help people navigate their personal lives. The nonprofit organization known as One Love has stepped in to fill this gap and educate people on the hallmarks of healthy relationships and the red flags of unhealthy relationships. We talked to One Love CEO Julie Myers to learn from her insights on what makes love last.
Thanks to the voices of self-help gurus like Mel Robbins and Brené Brown, the world is in the midst of a love awakening. Now more than ever, people are not just seeking relationships, but information on how best to find, keep, and nourish those relationships in healthy ways. Organizations like One Love are one of many entities created to help us achieve just that.
Founded by the family of domestic abuse victim Yeardley Love, One Love is a non-profit organization on a mission to end relationship abuse. One Love’s online resources, in-person workshops, and educational trainings equip young people and families with the tools to identify the signs of abuse and take necessary action.
In our interview with Julie Myers, CEO of One Love, we inquire about the blurred lines between healthy and unhealthy relationships, tips for most effectively approaching a friend or loved one in an unhealthy relationship, and visions for a healthier future in the name of love. Here are the key takeaways.
Know the Signs of a Toxic Partner
Whether we want to confront it or not, Julie points out, “unhealthy relationships are all around us.” In fact, more than 1 in 3 women will be in an abusive relationship in their lifetime (as well as 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 trans or nonbinary people). Despite their prevalence, these kinds of toxic dynamics can be hard to spot, especially in a society that tends to teach us so many harmful lessons about love from a young age. For example, many of us have been taught that love is about the chase, that no doesn’t always mean no, and that the difference between good and evil is as easy to spot as an old witch with a crooked nose.
But unlike in Disney princess stories, recognizing unhealthy behaviors in the people we love isn’t as clear-cut. At the end of the day, Julie tells us, “it’s hard to imagine that somebody you care for could actually hurt you. There’s something in our DNA as humans that wires us to want to trust people.”
This is especially the case if the relationship started out positive and took a turn somewhere down the road. The thought process is: “We’ve seen how good it can be, so we want to believe that tomorrow will be better.” But as so many unsettling statistics show us, this isn’t always the case.
What signs should we be looking out for? One Love takes a deeper dive into the 10 biggest red flags on its website. The experts tell us the biggest warning sign is manipulation. Manipulation, Julie explains, is often founded in jealousy. “Jealousy is a natural feeling to experience in relationships, but it can turn into abuse if someone is using that jealousy to manipulate.”
This can look like making you feel guilty for spending time with your friends, asking you to change the way you dress, or pressuring you to focus all of your attention on your partner. Of course, these lines can be tricky to find — We all have to make some appropriate sacrifices in relationships, right? But if you end up changing so much of your daily life out of a desire to protect your partner from experiencing jealousy, you may be a victim of manipulation.
Julie’s key tip for growing our understanding of toxic relationships, however, may not be what you would think: “You have to know what a healthy relationship looks like to be able to recognize an unhealthy one.” Readers can find the 10 biggest signs of a healthy relationship on One Love’s website.
Best Approaches as a Concerned Friend or Loved One
Communicating your concerns over a family member or loved one’s unhealthy relationship, Julie tells us, is a lot easier said than done: “This can be a very tricky thing to do, because you don’t want to push them away.” If your loved one feels as if you are coming to them from a place of criticism or judgement, you could drive them even further into the arms of their abusive partner, and, ultimately, farther away from you. This is exactly what an abusive partner wants.
To avoid further isolating your loved one, you’ll need to “shift the focus away from the abuser.” Rather than addressing the abusive partner’s behavior (by saying something like “This guy is a piece of sh*t” or “I don’t like how he treats you”), the most effective strategy is honing in on how this behavior impacts your loved one.
“Ask them: ‘How does it make you feel when your partner does XYZ?” Julie recommends. “Come from a place of care rather than accusation or judgement. Let them know: ‘I’m concerned about you, I’m here for you, and I want you to know that I’m always available if you ever want to talk’.”
The more you’re able to establish this safe space of trust and concern, the higher the chances of a successful conversation. It’s important to note that, more often than not, it will take many attempts and many conversations before action is taken. In fact, Julie reminds us, “People in abusive relationships will break up and get back together approximately seven times before the decision is final.” That said, the more effectively you can plant the seed, the better.
Education Is the Solution
Toxic dating habits and abusive relationships are hot topics in mainstream media (cue popular streaming shows like “Sex Education,” “You,” and “Maid”), and one can’t help but wonder how society may be impacted. In other words: Is all of this new media making a difference? “Yes,” Julie says, “but it could be making a much bigger difference.”
What it essentially comes down to is education. As Julie explains, “My dream would be for all public and private schools to address relationship health first, before starting sex ed. Because you need to be in a relationship before you can get to the sex ed part, right?”
One Love’s experts operate under the idea that starting this kind of education early will result in the largest impact. “We really just need to reach kids,” Julie told us, “so obviously school is the best place to do that.”
This is only possible if school systems are able to get on board. As of 2023, only two states (California and New Jersey) have mandated relationship health curricula in their public schools. “The aim is to get as many other states as possible to follow suit,” Julie told us.
When primary teachers, PE/health teachers, and other school personnel are properly trained to hold these necessary workshops — and conversations — with students, the more they can paint a picture of what positive, healthy relationships look like before children mature. Plus, Julie posits, the power of healthy relationship skills extends far beyond just romantic contexts: “When this education can have a positive impact on so many other areas of life, that’s just kind of the added bonus to all of it.”
One Love Reminds Us “It Takes a Village”
As so many of us know, the complexities of relationships run deep. And the process of helping someone (or helping yourself) get out of an unhealthy one involves a lot more than just a single conversation, a single workshop, or a single article. Rather, it is often a collective effort from family, friends, educators, and so many more that sets positive changes in motion — as Julie tells us: “It takes a village.”
So stay strong, stay educated, and keep fighting the good fight for educational reform.
To learn more about how you can get involved with One Love and make a positive impact, head here.