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Love is an emotion and an instinct for sure, but the ability to love is a skill that every young person should be taught, given how important relationships and love are to every aspect of our lives.

  • June 12th 2019

Katie Hood is CEO of the One Love Foundation, an organization that educates young people on the topic of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Prior to joining One Love in 2014, Hood was CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research for nine years. She is frequently quoted as an expert on dating violence and healthy relationships in national media outlets from ABC News to Teen Vogue. She spoke in the 2019 session Harnessing the Momentum of #MeToo.

We caught up with her about recognizing dangerous dating behaviors and fostering skills to have deeper, healthier relationships.

What is the goal of the One Love Foundation?

One Love’s goal is to make sure every young person has a clear understanding of the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. We believe this education cannot only help change the statistics around relationship abuse and domestic violence, but also help the whole next generation learn how to build more positive and healthy relationships, something we know impacts every aspect of our lives.

Why do you believe that love is a skill?

Love is an emotion and an instinct for sure, but the ability to love is a skill that we believe every young person should be taught, given how important relationships and love are to every aspect of our lives. Communication skills are one major component of learning to love better, as are conflict resolution skills. Mindfulness — both about your own feelings and the feelings of your partners — is also essential to loving well. By building and improving these skills, we improve our ability to not just feel love, but to love better.

When should you start talking to a young person about what a healthy relationship looks like?

The conversation about healthy and unhealthy relationships can start as young as elementary and middle school. Our programs, which focus primarily on healthy dating relationships, can be used as young as sixth grade. The truth is, though, the same healthy relationship behaviors we teach in the dating context are also true for friendships, work relationships, and family relationships.

What is one statistic about relationship abuse that everyone should know?

Relationship abuse is something that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience in their lifetimes. Second statistic made up by me, but based on common sense? 100 percent of us will be in unhealthy relationships and 100 percent of us will do unhealthy things. We all can learn to #lovebetter.

How has technology (smartphones, app dating, texting, etc) changed modern-day relationships?

Technology has changed everything about how we communicate and how we connect, and that matters. While we can connect with more people than ever, literally around the globe, we have sometimes traded connectedness for deep connection, and that is not an insignificant shift.

What are some of the signs of an unhealthy relationship?

If I had to pick one sign, I would say that unhealthy relationships tend to have high highs and low lows. Extreme affection, love, and passion can quickly shift into belittling, volatile, and jealous, accusatory behavior. I also think there is an element of isolation that happens in an unhealthy relationship that also deserves note. As you become increasingly tethered to your partner, you lose touch and important connection with others in your life who are sources of support for you. Many times this is something your partner insists on, although in a way that can be hard to see.

How do you combat unhealthy behaviors?

First is self-awareness. Understanding is the first step to improving. Learn how to practice healthy relationship behaviors like open communication, mutual respect, trust, and patience. A healthy relationship should include independence: two people who love being together but who also stay connected with the friends and activities they love to do on their own. Second is learn to have these conversations with your partner. Explain what you need, and see if they’re willing to work on it.

How does your work intersect with the fight for gun control?

Guns are a massive cause of domestic violence homicide. In many cases, if guns weren’t there, things wouldn’t become as deadly. The presence of guns or threat of guns is a clear, research-proven sign of danger. That being said, the work we’re really focused on at One Love is mainly preventative, and the link is less direct. We want people to recognize the signs way before a gun is in the picture, and these are mostly around emotional abuse and controlling behavior.

Tell us the best relationship advice you’ve been given.

#1: We must be our own before we can be another’s.

#2: The grass is not greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.

The views and opinions of the author are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.

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