One of the most profound realizations I made, during my sessions with my counselor, was that there was an absence of authentic love in my relationship. It took me a long time to see that my abuser’s actions were not based on love, but his distorted idea of love. For years, I tried to convince myself that he really did love me because I desperately wanted to believe the security he claimed to offer me. I found it difficult to accept that the man I trusted could treat me so horribly; how could I choose to be with someone who repeatedly hurt me? I felt ashamed and stupid (which was attributed to the dialogue he put in my head).
As I became more empowered, more educated, the dynamics of my relationship became less blurry. It was almost as if I’d put on a special pair of glasses which highlighted all the red flag incidents. I felt astounded by how much I had tolerated. Our relationship was the polar opposite of “healthy”; my reactions, behavior, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, restlessness, fear were all a product of a situation in which there was no love, trust, comfort, security, intimacy, affection, support, praise, acceptance, understanding, positivity, motivation, inspiration or respect.
When he left the house, I relaxed, and, when it was time for him to come home, I felt my anxiety building. The terror I felt, when I heard his footsteps on the stairs, is still very real; even today, even knowing that he’s not here anymore, I experience the physical symptoms of my terror. I couldn’t relax around him, always feeling “on edge” and jumpy. That I was sleep deprived only exacerbated my feelings of anxiety. There were times when he chased me because he didn’t respect my need for space.
My counselor helped me to realize that my abuser was incapable of the healthy sort of love that belongs in a relationship and, more importantly, that it didn’t mean I wasn’t worthy of being loved, despite all the horrible things my abuser told me about myself. His insults, ridicule, criticism were all lies, designed to make me doubt my value to anyone else but him.
Love is not feeling dread when your partner comes home from work because you don’t know what might happen while he’s home. Love is not feeling anxious when your partner is in the room with you because you’re afraid of an argument starting over something trivial. Love is not about being afraid to do anything in a relationship for fear of repercussions or punishment. Love is not having to be mindful of what you say for fear of provoking anger.
Authentic love is feeling happy anticipation at the thought of seeing your partner after being apart all day. It’s about feeling secure around your partner, without any fear of what “might” happen, as a result of your actions or words. Additionally, a true, loving relationship is uplifting in all aspects. One should never feel reluctant to discuss issues and find resolutions together, without feeling compromised or violated. Any behavior that makes one feel threatened, insulted, criticized, worthless, insecure, violated, depressed, unsafe, defensive, defenseless, vulnerable does not signify genuine love.
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Happy New Year!