Love is never having to say you’re sorry.

We all know that iconic line from the 1970 film “Love Story.”

It’s a great line. Too bad it is wrong.

Love is having to say you’re sorry, a lot. Because let’s face it, nobody’s perfect. Everybody screws up in the course of a relationship. Everybody makes mistakes. We all have reason to apologize.

Actually, love is never having to say you’re sorry for punching your spouse, partner, child, parent or significant other. Or for slapping them, or twisting their arm and knocking them to the floor, for that matter.

Because if that is taking place in a relationship there is no love, there is something else entirely.

We live in a state all too familiar with the scourge of domestic violence. In 2020, Oklahoma saw a record number of domestic abuse cases reported to law enforcement agencies, 27,089 in all. Those cases included murder, sex crimes, threats and assaults. That is the highest number of domestic abuse reports in 20 years in our state.

The pandemic is getting some of the blame for the increase, as people spent more time at home with their families in 2020 because of school and workplace closures. Couple that with financial hardships many suffered because of the pandemic, as well as general isolation, fear and anxiety, and it proved a recipe for abuse.

There is no excuse for domestic violence, no justification, no valid reason, no matter how dire or stressful a family’s circumstances. Domestic violence takes whatever love may still exist in a relationship and grinds it under its heel.

There are times in every relationship when tempers flare, when the rhetoric gets heated, when we say things we don’t mean. But physical violence takes the situation to another level altogether. It is hard enough to take back an unkind word, much less a slap or a punch.

The perpetrator is usually repentant in the wake of an abusive incident. They’re sorry, they don’t know what got into them, it will never happen again, they promise. And they probably mean it, too, at least in the short term. But you know the violence will be repeated and, in their heart of hearts, so do they.

Domestic violence is about power and control. Often the abuser feels powerless in other aspects of their life, at work or in social situations. But it is at home they seek control, which can lead to abuse, both verbal and physical.

Verbal abuse can be as damaging, if not more so, than the physical variety. Constant insults and put-downs destroy the victim’s sense of self-worth and erodes their confidence to the point of non-existence. Mental abuse leaves bruises on the victim’s psyche, just as surely as a slap or a punch leaves contusions on flesh.

We are coming up on October, which has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are no easy solutions to the problem of domestic violence, but there are places to seek help. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a website, ncadv.org, which has suggestions and resources for victims. Then there is the National Domestic Violence Hotline, (800) 799-7233 (SAFE).

Don’t stay with your abuser, victims are told. But that is often far easier said than done. There are many reasons victims remain with their abusers, fear and finances being among them. If you find yourself in this situation, reach out. Locally the Enid YWCA has its own 24-hour crisis hotline, (800) 966-7644.

If you find yourself the victim of abuse, don’t blame yourself. No matter what you did, short of getting violent yourself, you didn’t cause the abuse.

And if you get so mad at your spouse, family member or significant other that you just want to punch somebody, take a walk, find a punching bag and bang on it awhile, go to Enid Axe and fling sharp tools at targets, anything but lashing out physically or verbally at someone you profess to love.

The world is a violent place, but there is no place for violence in a loving home.

Love doesn’t mean you never get mad, never argue, never disagree, but there is no reason for violence.

True love means you would do anything to protect your spouse, family member or significant other. You need to be the one who strives to shelter them from pain, not the one that causes it.

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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at janjeff2002@yahoo.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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