It’s NOT Love

 

Here are two conversations from my real life—one that I had with my husband earlier today, and one that I had more than twenty-five years ago, with my ex-husband. I’d actually forgotten about the latter, long-ago conversation, but it was the current day one that jogged my memory. You’ll see why:

 

CONVERSATION TODAY:

Me:         (Texting Hubs from car) Going to be late. A tire’s gone flat. AAA says one hour, at least. So annoyed. Had so much to do today.

Hubs:    Where are you? I’ll come there.

Me:        No, it’s fine. I already called AAA.

Hubs:   You said you have a lot to do. I’ll come there and we’ll switch cars. I’ll wait for AAA and then go get a tire.
_________________________________

CONVERSATION OVER 25 YEARS AGO, with EX:

Him:   (coming home from work)   Can you believe it? My phone was stolen.

Me:     Oh, no. How did it happen?

Him:   I left it in the car on purpose. I knew you would call, and I wasn’t in the mood. So, it’s your fault it was stolen.

_________

Now, about that old conversation you might say, “He must have been joking.” But he wasn’t. He was really steamed that his phone was stolen. Took no responsibility for it having happened. Did not even blame the thief. He blamed me, because I would call him on his phone, you know, as a wife will sometimes do. He didn’t feel like talking to me, so instead of letting it go to voicemail, he left it in the car. It was a nonsensical thing to do, and he felt foolish about it, and so, let’s find an excuse for the foolishness.

And oddly enough, it worked. Even though I would say I called him at most four times a week, not four times a day, I felt as though I were somehow to blame. That is what low self-esteem does. I remember thinking to myself, “Do I call him too much?” “Maybe I should go buy him another phone as a present.”

And that was how I lived my life back then, not only with him, with almost everyone “close” to me. Anyone I really cared about, I expected (and got) that kind of treatment from.

The thing about low self-esteem is that to those who have the radar for it, it shines like a beacon from you. These potential friends or romantic partners–they see that beacon. They assess it, and you. If they determine that you’re vulnerable enough, malleable enough to be manipulated and used, they will embark on a relationship with you, because that’s the only kind of relationship they understand and are capable of—the kind where they take, and the other person gives. You’ll give your entire self and the other person will still make it seem as though you haven’t done enough, that you do not appreciate them, that you are a burden. And that’s how it will go forever, as long as you let it. This person will always make you feel as though they are doing you a huge favor by being in your life. They know how to do that, and it works on you because you’re vulnerable to it, as they figured out when you first met.

Who knows where and how this sort of thing starts? Maybe a parent manipulated you, or an older sibling, as you were growing up. Maybe it started with your first romantic relationship when you were young and naive. Whatever, you get used to it. You see relationships as you give, they take. And in exchange, you get to have them in your life, a fact that’s vitally important to you, for some reason that you might never figure out.

I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint what made me turn a corner in terms of how I felt about myself, and what kind of treatment I came to see as non-negotiable, not only from a partner, but from friends, family, work mates, and so on. But it took too long, and I missed opportunities because of what I allowed others to demand of me—people who said they “loved” me, when what they felt for me was as far from love as you could get. That’s the thing–that word–“love” gets used as a bargaining chip by some. It’s a powerful tool, because we all crave love, don’t we? But once you experience real love, the kind of love where you’re valued as a partner, or friend, or colleague, or family member, you’ll wonder how you ever saw the other kind of “love” as something you thought you needed.

I’m laying myself bare here, opening up and writing this for the person who needs to hear it most. (You know who you are, and I’m worried about you.) The way you’re feeling now? So lost, confused, and alone? It can change instantly, if you let it. Start by removing these types of relationships from your life, one by one.

Comments

  1. Yep, I wholeheartedly agree. Some cal it door-matting while others call it stepping stones, yet until you’re absolutely worn down and out, this lopsided “love affair” continues. And then you move on with more experience and don’t want to go back there and feel used again. It’s next to impossible to neutralize toxic people, so surround yourself with the ones who care about you with all your flaws and successes.

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