“Love is…”

by Annie Kaszina on April 21, 2007

Because abuse is a syndrome and not as most abused women
start by believing a ‘one off’, there are certain, more or less standard
queries that I receive. Let it be said,
first off, that this does not these queries make any less important or moving. 

This week I received one such; it said, approximately: “my
husband has been emotionally abusive, but we love each other. Can we make this relationship work?”

 

Now, “can we make this relationship work” is always a
question that sets alarm bells ringing for me. It suggests that two people will be ‘working together’ to clear up the
havoc that one person, the abuser, has created. 

Is there a problem with this? There certainly is in my book, first because the woman who has
experienced the abuse has her own issues to work through; second because the
husband is neatly avoiding accountability. Whether he argues that he ‘can’t do it on his own’, or that he ‘needs’
the wife he felt no need to show respect to until the crunch point came,
matters not at all. He is still dumping
his stuff on her.

But there is more: the ‘l’ word – love – sanctions
everything. ‘Love conquers everything’;
‘love means never having to say you’re sorry’; love gives rise to any number of
justifications, feeble excuses, lame hopes. I’ve certainly been there, done that and worn the T shirt. Then one day I got the point and burned the T
shirt.

Love is… a feeling you have for and about another
person. That other person may say that
they love you too. Does that mean that
your love is reciprocated?

Not necessarily. It depends on a number of things. These include the other person’s behaviour and what precisely they
understand by love. 

Does love mean caring about your well being, or saying
that they care about your well being? If
it means actually caring, does that mean caring about your well being all of
the time, most of the time or 15% of the time? Does that mean that he is allowed a holiday from caring if you burn the
dinner, fail to iron a shirt or can’t stop the children from behaving like high
spirited children once in a while? 

How long can his ‘holiday’ be? And how hurtful and threatening is he allowed to be towards
you? If he loves you, does that mean he
doesn’t need to take your feelings of rejection into consideration?

Is saying: “I love you” at the end of it enough to restore
the trust?

Maybe it is on his side – that is, if he still bothers to
say it.

Love is a feeling. It can also be used as leverage. Love is the trump card he might use when he realizes that he is really
pushing his luck. 

Love is, allegedly, the magic word that turns the Beast
into a prince… Allegedly. But why, oh why, do we need to stoop to
magical thinking? Why can’t we have the
prince who behaves like a prince, even if his looks are a bit below par. Why do we feel it is our role to clear the
dross from his personality and his life to reveal the gold that lies
beneath? How much dross is one woman
prepared to shovel in a relationship?

Love is, in the end whatever feelings you choose to imbue
the word with. 

I love my daughter, I love my dog, I love my friends, I
love several men with whom I would never wish to have a sexual and/or full on
emotional relationship. I love my
kitchen (I’ve not moved yet!). I feel a
different kind of love for each of them. 

The feeling of love I have for them, and the love they all
reciprocate (barring my kitchen, of course) enriches and sustains me. It doesn’t excuse bad behaviour. Rather it presupposes respectful,
considerate behaviour on their part, insofar as each in his or her own way is
capable of it. 

Love is how you relate to another person in the day to
day, not just mouthing the time honoured cliché every once in a while.

And let me add a definition of my own: love is never
feeling you need to shovel your partner’s dross for them.

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