February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. Dating as a teenager can be exhilarating. Teenagers, for the first time, are exploring the development of romantic relationships with the opposite, or same, gender. These relationships are new, and, like most new activities, can be filled with mistakes. But, there is a big difference between “mistakes” made due to inexperience, and actions which are genuinely warning signs of danger. For example, forgetting to call, being late for a scheduled date, neglecting to “like” a social media post, buying the wrong gift, or missing someone’s sporting event, are all examples of mistakes that are often made due to inexperience. These mistakes can lead to hurt feelings, but when they are not purposeful, they reflect the teenager’s process of learning to meet his or her responsibilities in a dating relationship. Other actions, however, are often more malevolent in nature, and reflect early signs of unhealthy and/or abusive control. For instance, a girlfriend who checks her boyfriend’s phone, without his permission, is demonstrating a lack of respect for her boyfriend’s privacy. This boundary violation frequently has its roots in jealousy and insecurity, and this can lead to, or co-occur with, other disrespectful behavior, such as name-calling, false accusations, and attempts to isolate the dating partner from his friends and family. Early in a relationship, both dating partners often prefer to be alone, with each other, rather than with their group of friends. They are enjoying getting to know one another, and exploring their emotions and the beginnings of a physical relationship. However, this mutual feeling of attraction differs significantly from possessiveness, in which one member of the couple requires that his or her partner spend all of their free time with each other, often through ‘guilt trips’ or denigration of his or her partner’s desire to spend time with others. Possessiveness is not love. Telling others what they can and cannot do, or who they can and cannot spend time with is not love. Unfortunately, when efforts at verbal control are not effective, teenagers who are in unhealthy relationships may become involved in physical fights and violence. Teenagers need to know that it is never okay to inflict physical pain on others out of anger or to get their own way, and it is never a part of a healthy dating relationship. While February is a month that often celebrates loving relationships, it is important to recognize that relationships that repeatedly inflict verbal, emotional, or physical pain are not healthy. And, no, this is not love.