“Don’t throw your love away”

by Annie Kaszina on June 8, 2009

Talking to a client,  I was reminded of a song by a now forgotten English group, The Searchers: “Don’t throw your love away”.  It is a very old song indeed, and one that had slipped totally from my mind, until I listened to this lady talk about her relationship.

Like so many abused women, she was throwing good love after bad.  As her partner became increasingly unloving; she responded by lavishing more and more love on him.

Should it have worked?  In theory, yes.  I remember once hearing that it is almost impossible not to respond to the love that someone gives you.  Yet, you, and I, as abused women, know that this is not also always so.

What makes our attempts to love an abusive man so doomed to failure?

It would be so easy to foist blame onto our partner: we could argue that the problem lies with them, that they respond in a pathological way.

Let’s suppose for a moment that that is not true.  You see, whether or not it is true, it is certainly not helpful.  If we foist blame on them, we choose not to look at our own behaviour, and that leaves us free – or more probably, prequalified – to repeat the same, painful relationship with another abusive partner.

We fall in love with abusive men who exhibit a behaviour or two that we find attractive.

Thinking back to my own abusive partner, one thing that enchanted me at the time was how much nicer he was to me than to the rest of the world.  (Sadly, that is not an overstatement.)

Dim young thing that I was, I doubtless ascribed it to the ‘power of love’ in one form or another.  I thought his true character shone out with me.  Either that, or it was a sign of how marvellously good I was for him, that I could transform this man…  (Excuse me, while I throw up.)

Silly, silly me!  The way he was with the world at large (aggressive and angry, rather than pleasant) was the way he would become in time with me, but much, much more so.  Still, how was I to know that?

There is something charming about seeing someone on their very best behaviour around you, or so I thought at the time.  You can flatter yourself that being around you is enough to keep them, effortlessly, on their toes.  It made me feel important and… well, valuable, possibly even powerful.  (Those were not feelings I was getting elsewhere in my life.)

Long-term, it was never going to work out.  People revert to type.  He was dancing round on his toes not because I kept him on his toes, but because it was a proven wooing strategy.

Once the honeymoon period was over, my abusive ex – husband extended his unpleasant behaviours into the home, rather than extending his mellow behaviours out into the world. (I share this with you, secure in the knowledge that I am talking about a clone that you too know well.)

I am very aware that some abusive men can, and do, present as very charming in their social interactions.

For all that, there is, generally, a law of diminishing returns: the more prolonged and profound the contact they have with people, the less they can be bothered to maintain the façade.

But enough about them.

The more abusive men revert to type, the more love abusive women throw at them.

And, this is the thing: we love them not as they are – let’s face it, that would take a lot of doing – but they way we want them to be.  We are guilty of a very bad case of wishful thinking.

I have yet to speak to an abused woman who says: “I love my partner because he disregards my feelings, and treats me with contempt, and picks fights with me, and rejects me all the time, for no reason whatsoever.”

No, abused women always, always, tell you how they suffer with their partners’ bad behaviour.  But women always love an abuser for his potential – that is this sales pitch he once fed them.  (He made his sales pitch to you when he laid out his ‘wares’ about who he could be, what he could offer a prospective partner, and what made him better than all the other models around.)

Let’s face it, he sold himself to you (and me) pretty well.  But the after sales service was diabolical.

Generally, we don’t continue to make the same misguided investment in an unsatisfactory consumer durable.

Maybe you are scandalized that I can equate an abusive man with a bad purchase.

An abusive partner is just about the worst investment you will ever make in your life, in every sense.

You lose months, or years of your time.  Often your career suffers, your finances suffer, your health suffers, your emotional well-being suffers and yet…

You still continue to throw good love after bad; as if quantity alone will change the outcome:

I have given this man everything I have for the last X months/years, and it hasn’t worked.  So, I’m guessing that if I just chuck another shed-load or two more his way, suddenly we will reach the tipping point and he will turn into Prince Charming.”

(We’ve all read ‘Beauty and the Beast’, haven’t we?  Many of us are still paying the price, still believing that even though he looks mean, and acts mean, he might yet turn into the Man of Our Dreams.)

That was exactly where my client was this week; waiting for the Beast to transform, unaware that the petals falling relentlessly from the rose were the petals of her life, not his.

In her own mind, she was employing the one strategy that was bound to work, sooner or later: she was loving her man, to the best of her ability.  She was loving him over and above any love she had for herself.  And she was bleeding herself dry, but to no avail.

Like all of us in similar circumstances, she was off on a ‘love jag’.    The love that she felt for this man was it’s own justification.

It was then that the words of the Searchers’ old song came back to me:

“Don’t throw your love away, no, no, no, no
Don’t throw your love away
For you might need it some day

Don’t throw your dreams away, no, no, no, no
Keep them another day,
For you might need them some day”

Are you throwing your love, and your dreams, away right now?

How much longer can you afford to do so?

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