“I Love Him, I Love Him Not”

by Annie Kaszina on February 14, 2012

Emotionally abused women are a tender-hearted lot.  You could say we’re too tender-hearted for our own good.  When we fall in love we tend to treat our beloved too well, for too long.  Especially when he turns into a jerk. 

There’s nothing wrong with loving a man well and long.    However, these days I’m only prepared to love a man long and well if I’ve screened that man as thoroughly as possible first, and he’s proved himself worthy of that love:  He has to qualify for that love by being an all round good guy; consistently nice – to me, to small children, to furry animals (especially Basil Kaszina), to people in the service industry, to my Mother, even nice enough to other drivers on the road.  And that’s only some of it.

But that’s not what how it works in an abusive relationship.  We don’t evaluate an abusive partner carefully… Chances are, we probably don’t evaluate him, at all.  He showed up, he made the right kind of noises – we took them personally – the rosy mist of Love’s Young (or Not So Young) Dream descended, and we became pushovers.

Actually, we were always pushovers for the “L” word.

We love to hear it, and we get hooked on saying it.  And the more we tell ourselves how much we love him, the more deeply enmeshed we become in the relationship.

Why wouldn’t we?

The Power of Love (Lurv) is huge, in our society.

Which makes it curious that we only dedicate one day of the year to celebrate the Power of Love, and the fat little god of Love (who flashes his naked, diaper-free torso everywhere) and the magic power of those wretched, tacky, red hearts.

Valentine’s Day is not a good day for women who are suffering – or recovering – from emotional abuse.  So, before you get swept away by the ersatz emotional tsunami of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a step back and think:

How do you love an abusive partner? 

The short answer has to be: with great difficulty and huge dollops of auto-suggestion.

What do you love about him? 

I’ve yet to meet a single woman who loved an abusive partner unconditionally.  (Now, that would be insane.)   I’ve never heard a woman say: “I love the way his face contorts with fury.  I love the way he tells me I’m a waste of space, and I’m incredibly lucky to have him.  I feel so touched by the way he yells at me, and puts me down.  I’m just crazy about the way he intimidates me physically.  It warms the cockles of my heart when he stops speaking to me for days at a time, or stays out late and doesn’t tell me where he’s been, or gets himself drunk as a skunk.  I’m so moved by the way he calls me filthy names.  I love that he seems to hate my friends, and behave badly towards my family.  It makes my heart sing when he behaves one way with the world and then, in private, he treats me like dirt.”

Do you know, I’ve never heard a woman say any of that?

What they do say – what you and I have, doubtless, also said – is: “I love the role he was playing when I first fell in love with him. I love the man I think he could be – he’s not, you understand, but I can see into his heart, I can see beyond what is to what it might be one day – and I believe in the dream he could one day become…” 

He has no interest in making your dreams come true.  His relationship with you, to put it as simply as possibly is a “kick the cat” relationship.  Guess which role you play?  And he gets to do as much kicking as he feels like.

Not good, huh?

But let’s get back to our starting point: are you really willing to love this man exactly as he is?   Anger issues and all?  Distasteful habits and all?  Emotional cruelty and all?  Disloyalty and all?  Contempt and all? Breathtaking nastiness and all?

If the answer is a “No”, then the truth is you don’t love him.  You may be needy and co-dependent, right now.  You may be a hopium addict.  You may be frightened to walk away for fear of ending up with something worse. You may be obsessing.  But you don’t love him.  Not wholeheartedly.  

And that’s great news.

Because it means the problems you’re having can be… not “fixed” – who wants “fixing”, for Heaven’s sake?  Fixing simply means sticking broken bits back together again.  Instead, the problems you’re struggling with can be resolved.  Relegated to ancient history.  Done and dusted.  Once and for all.   Leaving you free to start over.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Make sure you spend it with someone you do love, whether that is a friend, a child, the family pet, or George Clooney on film.

What will you do today to show yourself that you matter?

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