Rihanna, You Make Me Feel . . .

Rihanna, 20-year-old music star, was beaten by her famous boyfriend Chris Brown. Evidently, it’s happened 4 times before and Rihanna asked the judge NOT order Chris Brown to stay away from her. Since the beating, its been said – and I heard this on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show so it might be true – that Rihanna and Chris Brown were in a studio yesterday recording a duet.

Oprah had this to say to Rihanna and other battered girls and women, Love doesn’t hurt. If he hit you once he will hit you again.

True that. But, what do we tell our kids? Kids who might actually look up to the singer and her boyfriend? Who previously fantasized in their bedrooms at night, “If only I could find a true love like Rihanna and Chris Brown.” Yeah, those kids are out there. Bad enough that he beat her. Worse that she’s staying.

First it’s important to understand why Rihanna would participate in this type of insanity.

Yes. She’s participating. Yes. It’s insanity.

She believes, as nearly all battered women and girlfriends do, that she has caused Chris Brown’s feelings. When Chris Brown feels in love and passionately lovey dovey and head-over-heels for her she believes it’s because she was good enough, pretty enough, nice enough, lovable enough, wonderful enough. That’s her goal. To make Chris Brown love her.

Our Love Culture teaches girls that they can change and control the feelings of men. We often believe we can make them love us.

How many times have we heard or said the phrase, You make me feel?

Belle ultimately changes the Beast by being beautiful and wonderful  and clever enough to make him feel love. The whole fairy tale centers around the idea that Belle can change, and therefore control, the Beast’s feelings if she’s just good enough, pretty enough, loving enough, and wonderful enough.

The same distorted thinking is in the wildly popular Twilight Series. Bella the teenage protagonist of the books is so stunningly beautiful, clever and all-around wonderful that she makes vampire  boyfriend Edward Cullin resist his natural temptation to destroy her, kill her and take her life. Throughout the books we’re transfixed, and even turned on and aroused by, imagery of Edward Cullin’s overwhelming desire to crush her fragile and delicate hot body, which is why the couple doesn’t cave into sex.

Which is all well and good. Except that we have a Love Culture where around 30% of teenage girls and adult women are being battered by their love interest.

The sane thing to do when a girl or woman gets hit is to say, F#$& You! on your way out the door, never, ever to return.

Instead the mental Love Distortion of Rihanna and nearly all other battered women and girls says, If I didn’t make him angry he wouldn’t hit me. If I did what he wanted me to do when he wanted me to do it, he wouldn’t hit me. If I just try harder I can change him from a beast into the loving boyfriend I imagine. If I’m just good enough, nice enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, then he’ll resist his entirely natural male urge to destroy, kill or berate me. I’ll just try harder and give him another chance.

Chris Brown agrees. Nearly all abusive men and boys agree with their beaten-up girlfriends and wives, she’s causing the violence because she’s making me angry.

The fundamental problem with Rihanna’s thinking is that women do not and can not control men’s feelings.

We never could.

We never can.


Feelings originate with the person feeling them. They do not come from outside of us.

The only person who can control one’s violently angry feelings is the person feeling  the violently angry feelings. For a batterer to stop beating his girlfriend or wife, he has to take responsibility for and learn to control his own feelings.  For a battered woman or girl to leave her abuser she has to hold him responsible for his feelings and stop trying to change or control his feelings with her behavior.

This almost never happens while a couple stays together. Not never. But, almost never. In fact, what generally happens is that she becomes worse and worse at controlling his violently angry feelings and sometimes he kills her.


They both believe it’s her fault. They both believe she’s causing it. They would have to both agree that its his fault and hold him accountable for it to change. How often do two insane people reach a clarity of thinking at the same time, in the same relationship,when its already gotten to the point of physical violence? Almost never.

Which is why in many progressive and right-thinking states the court  refuses to give battered women an option of not prosecuting or of having immediate contact with their abuser. They realize that the victim’s thinking is as distorted as that abuser.

There is not a lot we can do about Rihanna. She’s deep in Love Distortion, a form of insanity clinically referred to as Battered Woman Syndrome or Co-dependence. Hopefully, she’ll find her inner Tina Turner or Madonna and kick Chris Brown to the curb. (Ike who? Congratulations on your new Oscar Sean Penn.)

As parents, counselors, educators we do have a lot of power to teach both our daughters and our sons these fundamental lessons for prevention:

You are responsible for your feelings.

You are responsible for how you behave.

You can not control other people or their feelings. 

Other people can not make you feel anything. 

We can also use Rihanna and Chris Brown as a teachable moment by repeating Oprah’s advice to our girls – just in case they fall for the wrong guy: Love doesn’t hurt. If he hits you once he will hit you again.

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