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    Love Like That

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | February 19th, 2024

    Love Like That

    The American Psychological Association states that in the United States, up to 19 % of teens experience sexual or physical dating violence, and about half face stalking or harassment. As many as 65% report being psychologically abused. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). The theme this year is Love Like That. “That” is about having a conversation on the many ways love can be expressed. 

    When I think of this year’s theme, I think about the letter in Sincerely, Your Gynecologist addressed to Nikki. Teen dating violence does not discriminate, and we have to play an active role in talking with our youth. 

    Dear Nikki,

    This is a difficult letter to write, but I feel I have no choice. First, I want to say that I am genuinely sorry for your loss. I know that Cara was a good friend of yours. Her death was tragic, but we should use this time to pause and consider our current relationship.

    My sister has always said we have missed the point when talking to young people. We focus on sex, the use of condoms, and when to say no. We focus on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV infection. She says it is essential to have sex education, but it is equally important to talk about love education. WHAT DOES LOVE LOOK LIKE?

    Your friend Cara thought that she was in love and that her boyfriend loved her. She thought it was love because he did not want her to talk to anyone but him. Occasionally, she could hang out with her girlfriends but could not speak with any guy without his permission. He wanted to be her only one. Oh yes, he bought her a lot of things. I know she never lacked anything. I know he was always saying how much he loved her. If he could not have her, no one could. He wanted to be her sole provider. When she thought about going to college, he did not understand why. He was providing everything. He felt that there was nothing college could provide that he could not. He was her main man, and I believe she thought she was his main girl.

    Now look at what happened. When she tried to end the relationship, he went crazy. She tried to get a restraining order, and I believe she did, but that did not prevent him from shooting her and then killing himself. Two young lives were wasted. Nikki, what does love look like?

    I write because you have told me in the past that your boyfriend has hit you, but he really did not mean to hit you. He hit you because he was upset, and you just happened to be around. You tell me he loves you, but every time you ace your exam at school, he is never happy with your accomplishments. When you needed a car to travel to one of your chess tournaments, you could not find him, so you had to forfeit the game. You did not want to take a chance and get into another person’s car for fear that he would think that you were cheating on him. You rarely go out with your girlfriends. He even has you against your parents. Every night, he calls you and says he loves you, but is that really love?

    Nikki, I would rather have a man never say he loves me, but his actions speak in such a way that the whole world knows that he loves me. I would want someone who tries to make me the best person I could be and not feel threatened. I want someone who loves my family as much as he loves his family. I want someone who does not mind me getting compliments from people because he is confident and knows he has the best. I want someone who, when he is angry, does not use me as the punching bag but can resolve his issues without violence. I want someone who understands that we might grow apart for whatever reason, which is okay.

    I am your physician. I am not your parent. I probably need to focus on your physical health, but we both know there is a powerful connection between physical and emotional health. I want to be clear with you, I am not telling or asking you to break up with your boyfriend. I am asking you to use Cara’s death as a wake-up call. A call that is asking you the following question-What does love look like?

    It is important to ask our young people to define Love Like That. Let us find out how they define ‘That’ love. 

    For more information on teen dating violence and prevention:

    Dating Matters – Strategies to promote healthy teen relationships

    National Dating Abuse Helpline and Love is Respect: 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522

    National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

    National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

    National Sexual Violence Resource Center

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    Secure Your Copy of Sincerely, Your Gynecologist by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.

    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.

    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.

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