“Why Can’t They Just Love Me Back?”

01 Aug 2018

“Why can’t they just love me back?” is the question that obsesses the partners of narcissists and emotional abusers. The same question, “Why can’t they just love me back?” also obsesses – and drives to the brink of despair and craziness – the children, and parents, of narcissists and emotional abusers. It’s incredibly hard to understand how people to whom you have given so much can not  love you back.  You would think it would be only human to return that love.  One of the things living with a narcissist teaches you is to distinguish being human from being humane.

“Self-sacrifice usually earns contempt.”

In the course of your relationship, you have done everything that you possibly can to give love and to be deserving of your partner’s love. Without it getting you anywhere good.
Personal development legend Jim Rohn observed,

“Self-sacrifice usually earns contempt.”

Sadly, he was not wrong.

Self-sacrifice does usually earn contempt. Especially when it is lavished on swine. To my mind, Narcissists and emotional abusers qualify as swine – greedy, brutal, destructive swine who work a scorched earth policy with the people who love them.

Not that I am telling you anything that you don’t already know. The problem is, nice, heart-centred, generous-spirited person that you are, you really struggle to take it on board. You know it. However, it is such a toxic, unsettling truth that you still struggle to truly believe it.

As a dear friend struggles to come to grips with the truth about her narcissistic husband – her handsome, brilliant, charming, calculating, cynical, destructive, self-obsessed husband – I can observe, from the side-lines, just how difficult the process is.

My friend is no less bright or attractive than her horrible husband. Unlike him, however, she is a delightful person – so delightful that she always made him look good. He positioned himself neatly in the light that she shone and, with a minimum of effort, came across as someone rather more admirable than he truly is.

Now my friend sees what a jerk her former beloved is. (So do we, his former friends, also.) But, still, she struggles to accept that he can’t and/or won’t choose to be better than the shabby person behind the Wonderful Man Mask

Don’t we all?

They may be human but they are certainly not humane

All that you were ever asking is for someone to behave like a humane being.

Even though my friend already knows – because her horrible husband has told her – that,

a) He dislikes being human. He considers himself as superior to the common mass of humanity.

B) He is not remotely humane. His rules of conduct include, “Always kick a girl when she is down, “Always kick a girl when I am down” and “Treat her mean, keep her subservient.” He does not see the point of being kind, considerate, understanding, good-natured or gentle. “Humane” is not his thing. But he hid it well for as long as he stood in her reflected humaneness.

So, there she is, struggling with two conflicting beliefs. On the one hand, she knows that her husband is a scumbag. On the other, she still thinks that, somewhere hidden under a mountain of Narcissism, indifference and callousness, there beats a loving heart.

Or, at least, there could beat a loving heart.

Because where there is life there is hope, right? Why can’t they just love you back?

Surely, surely, surely, he could still morph into the promises he once made and the much, much improved version of himself that she has always seen…

“Don’t they want to be better than that?”

My friend struggles to face the fact that he put time and thought into creating that fictitious, idealized version of himself. He created a minor work of art. That is why he has been able to brandish it around and use it to his advantage through the years of shabby treatment.

Like all of us, my friend got very good at responding appropriately to the Carrot-and-Stick-Treatment. She felt gratitude for the occasional Carrot and “appropriate” fear and self-blame whenever the stick came out.

Now, she struggles to believe that this man, who was so good at posturing on his pedestal, is thoroughly happy to be a contemptible human being. She still cannot accept his capacity to embrace the worst version of himself.

That is her issue – as it has been the issue of everyone on the destructive end of a narcissistic and emotionally abusive relationship. We just can’t believe who they will settle for being.
Of course, that brings us right back to that old, pointless question of whether or not they can change. (Or whether, if you decide that they are incapable of change, you should love them because they are “ill”.)

If you had the power to make them the – much improved – person that they should be, you would exercise it. In a heartbeat.

Now, you could well be right. The world would be a better place without their toxic behaviour. But, tempting as it is to play God, that awesome responsibility lies way above your pay-grade and mine.

Your role, and learning curve, in a toxic relationship is to see and accept the reality. Your preoccupation with the Can-he/Will-He-Change Question serves only to distract you from your next learning stage.

Why they can’t just love you back

The fact is, Narcissists and abusers are never going to love you back. What they do with the rest of their life is not your problem. Still, they leave you with two very important problems of your own to face.

1) Learning to feel lovable and valuable in spite of the brutal experience of living with a creep who made you feel worthless.

2) Learning to show up in the world as the precious, unique person that you truly are, complete with your own unique gifts and qualities. When you finally go narcissistic-abuser-free you have to find a way to shine your own light. Unapologetically. You no longer have the “comfortable” option of standing in the background and projecting that light onto a creep.

Your syllabus

I’m not saying that what you face is an easy “syllabus”. However, it is necessary. Plus, it is key to your quality of life. Besides, it beats most academic syllabi because at least you don’t have to learn a ton of new stuff. In reality, all it requires is a fair bit of unlearning . And this unlearning has to be possible. If I could do it – and I had a rare talent for playing the Tragic, Wronged, Loving, Invisible Wife – anybody can. (Drawing on your own experience, you probably would believe how good I was at playing that role, very, VERY quietly!)

In any case, you don’t have to do work through that syllabus alone.  Actually, it will go much faster if you don’t try to.  Although the rule of the game, at this point, is that you can’t enlist another partner to try and “disappear” the issue for you. You do have to work your way through it. But you can enlist the appropriate help. That will enable you to both get through the syllabus faster and graduate with flying colors.

Don’t fall for the old “Why can’t they just love me back?” question. It is guaranteed to catapult you into misery. They are going for their Certified Nasty Person Badge. They belong to an association you would never want to join – even if it would accept you. You are on another track entirely. They don’t, and they won’t, just love you back. Actually, they never did.  They only ever cared about leverage not love.  You are responsible for you. Don’t let that “Why can’t they just love me back?” question rob you of your life any longer.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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