When Love Doesn’t Conquer All


In the movies, love always wins out, altogether ignoring the messy reality that opposing values, faith, or priorities can often put a serious strain on relationships. But what the movies don’t tell you is that sometimes there are things that love just can’t overcome, and in those instances we have to do the really hard work of today’s anonymous poster, by taking care of ourselves and walking away. Even if that means letting go of the fairy tale. 

—Maddie

When Love Doesnt Conquer All | A Practical WeddingHe wasn’t attractive.

Well, I guess he sort of was in the old photos he used on the dating website. But those photos must’ve been really old, because they didn’t seem to match this gaunt, sunken eyed man. Not unless I squinted. And I did. I spent a lot of time squinting. But, it’s the inside that counts, right?

He had a sordid history. Unwanted by mom, abused by dad, abandoned by friends, and addicted to heavy drugs—stories of the past popped up in conversation and solidified my resolve to stick around, to prove that he was valuable, to show him that he could be loved. I planned to fix him.

I knew that those same stories were the reason he treated me terribly. The explosions of rage over silly, trivial issues—like the time that the phone cut out, and when I called back, he called me my least favorite word for a woman’s anatomy. Or, when I was a “whore” for choosing to skip a night out in favor of working on my thesis.

That’s the thing that gets me. I’m not a stupid girl. I’m smart and self-confident. I wasn’t with this guy because he made me feel great about myself, or because I mistakenly thought I “deserved” this treatment, or because I was desperate for companionship. I genuinely, ardently believed I could just love all that stuff away—the foul words, the creeping hand that touched me when I asked him not to, the outbursts of anger. I felt like he’d been through all of this tragedy, and he just needed someone to prove to him that he was worthwhile. I thought love would conquer all.

Spoiler: it didn’t. And, you know, it shouldn’t have. For starters, being a pushover isn’t exactly the same thing as love, now is it? To quote my gal Ru Paul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Sacrificial love has a place, but it takes a little choosiness in determining exactly what gets sacrificed (note: probably not “emotional health,” or “self-respect,” or “well-being”). That same sacrificial love is only worthwhile if it’s being reciprocated. Someone who calls you a c*nt for a dropped call probably isn’t loving you back. For all of my smarts, I didn’t realize that what I was calling “love” was actually just doormattishness, because it was one-sided. And the other thing—love only holds power to those who recognize its value. Though I was caring and investing and (in my way) loving the shit out of this guy, it didn’t make a difference in his life at all, simply because he didn’t value any of it. He didn’t value me.

I wish I could say I realized all of this before he cheated on me, before he threatened to hit me, before friends stopped coming around because they couldn’t stand to witness the emotional abuse any more. Regardless, things eventually—thankfully—dissolved between us. I don’t know where he is now, or if he ever reformed his ways. But I do know that I’m better for learning that there are things love can’t fix.

Photo by Gabriel Harber (APW Sponsor)

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  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    All I can say is I am glad you are safe now. And thanks for sharing this. We can not talk enough about stories of emotional (or physical) abuse, the traps that we can easily all fall into. Awareness is of crucial importance to prevent these things from happening.

  • Steph

    Thank you for this post! I too am glad you are safe. While I’ve never experienced a relationship like this myself, your words hit a nerve with me for several personal reasons, and it’s a story that definitely needs to shared more often

  • C R

    Thank you for the post — sounds familiar to me in many ways, and I’m glad you’re in a better situation. It took me a long time for me to see that, ultimately, people have to “fix” or “save” themselves….you simply can’t do it for them if they don’t want to make a change. It’s not an easy realization to come to. It’s also difficult to know when you should stay to work out problems versus leaving to start a new path, particularly when you’re in an emotionally abusive situation where you are conditioned to think you’re in the wrong. Good for you for leaving the doormat behind – take care of yourself!

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    Thank you for sharing this. It can be hard to leave someone who you love but who doesn’t treat you with respect and dignity. Especially when you know that they’ve been left and abandoned before and you want to help them work through all that and get to a better place. Taking care of your own self is important though (the most important thing, really).

    When someone’s in a rough place there’s only so much you can do unless they want to work on getting somewhere better. After awhile it’s their choice between working however haphazardly to move away from the past or just continuing the same trends.

  • Amy

    Oof. Right in the gut. I have been in a very similar place, thank you for writing about it so eloquently.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

    I could have written this very post!

    It was creepy hearing you describe exactly the relationship that I had a few years ago. I was engaged to exactly such a man. Addicted to drugs, suffering the emotional scars of his family. I thought I could make it all better, make him feel loved.

    Instead he screamed at me, treated me like dirt, made me feel like nothing.

    I, the girl with an MA degree from a good family, was living a Lifetime movie. It was surreal.

    My love could not fix him. He was too far gone. Maybe someday he will learn to love himself enough to not be cruel to everyone who tries to get near him, but I doubt it.

    • anon

      I will second the “I could have written this very post” comment.
      Reading this felt very surreal for me. It is so helpful to know that other people have gone through this too.

      I felt a lot of shame talking about it with friends and family because I am a smart girl, I know I don’t deserve to be treated like this, but some how I still held on to the belief that he would change.
      I still felt guilty for “giving up” on the relationship even when I’d moved on.

      It took me a long time to realize that it take two to tango, and that by allowing myself to be treated in this way I wasn’t making either one of us better for it, in fact I was encouraging his behavior by showing him that he could get away with it.

      We run in some of the same social circles so I run into him occasionally, and it still breaks my heart to see him continuing on in this way, but what breaks my heart more is that there is a constant stream of women that are willing to put up with it and believe in him in the same way I did.

      This is why these stories are so important to tell because it is hard to see it when your in the middle of it.

      Thank you so much for sharing this.

      • Anon

        I still have the fear that my abusive ex has found another vulnerable, insecure woman to use. And I’ve seen him once out of a car window since I picked up my stuff 5 years ago. I can’t imagine how bad it would be if I had to see him socially.

      • Allie

        I second your comment about the guilt from “giving up” when you’ve moved on. Worst feeling.

  • Granola

    I’m really glad you’re OK and you’ve moved on from this relationship. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope you find happiness.

  • http://mommacollett.blogspot.com Jessica

    a big ol’ “exactly” to this entire post. I’ve loved enough with no return that now that I’m given true love – I can appreciate it and not take it for granted. I know love because I feel it – not because I hope for it. I know love because to receive it feels as glorious as the love you have to give in return.

  • radiantly

    Amen, girl. Similar story in my past… a 9 year relationship and we were married for 6.5 of them… before I met a romance-novel knight on horseback and had a dreamy, passionate affair for the final 5 months… it was the only way my subconscious could shake up my world enough to get OUT of the abuse. The strange thing is that I didn’t realize I was trapped in an abusive cycle. And I am smart, I have a masters degree! It has nothing to do with smarts. He was an alcoholic, I wanted to fix him, we were co-dependent. It wasn’t until the final fight, when he slammed me against a wall and I got whiplash, and then asked him to massage my neck a couple days later – during which it all hit me and I basically felt my true SELF LOVE rise up and I realized WTF am I doing? I need to get out! And I left with a backpack never to return except to collect stuff he put in the hallway for me. I lost a lot of belongings but it had to be a clean break. We ran a business together and so by leaving the relationship I also left my job and my home. Then we went through divorce. Which is HORRIBLE. It started off as us mutually being friendly and agreeing we wouldn’t use lawyers. Then he discovered I’d had an affair and blamed everything on that. In reality I wasn’t “leaving for another man” – it was the catalyst that showed me what it felt like to be treated well, to fall in love as an adult. Fast forward 2 years of extremely difficult self-work, coming to terms with what having an affair means to me, to my friends and family, to strangers, I hurt so many people including breaking my ex’s heart. Much much healing and therapy etc.

    THEN 3 years ago today – I had been single for Valentine’s Day and decided to join OK Cupid. I had done tons of manifestation work to prepare for who I wanted to meet. I threw out (emotionally and spiritually) the pattern of man that I had attracted all my life. Over and over. And then! Then – the third online date I met him. My fiance. We got engaged last year and at 35 and 39 are so happy, so healthy. He is a real man and shares the housework, he is just incredible. And our wedding is this July. It’s funny – my first marriage doesn’t feel like it happened. It was mostly for visa reasons (I was living overseas) but we were in love and wanted it to work out. But we planned a party in 2 weeks and it was all his friends and his family. Now this time I find myself wanting a wedding that involves Pinterest and a florist. This time it feels truly a declaration of love and partnership that I am proud of.

  • http://Brokensaucer.blogspot.com Sera

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My situatuion was different but yours resonates so deeply. I’m not so sure I was smart and I felt unlovable and he made me feel unlovable by anyone else. I didn’t think I could fix him, but I thought it was my duty to stay, to try to be attracted to him. I’m so glad I didn’t. And I’m so glad I never married him. Otherwise I wouldn’t be with the love of my life now, married three years and so happy.
    I’m not sure what it is that is broken to not recognize things in ourselves when it seems like others can see them. I don’t know why it sometimes takes so long to get out.
    But, I’m so glad that I did, and you did. I wish you true love and happiness!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

    It sounds like you can feel gratitude for the painful things you’ve gone through because they’ve taught you a lot. Not everyone can do that. I’m so glad you can.

  • Holly

    I married a guy similar to this one you describe. I also didn’t think he was attractive, and he seemed sweet enough when we got together. I wasn’t in a good place mentally, and was too young and naive to know better. It is never a good sign when you just want to run away just before walking down the aisle. He became worse our wedding night and things just took a nose dive. 3 years later we started our divorce. 5 years after that (and constant court battles which cost both of us a fortune!) we got divorced. Early on in the divorce process I had to let go of a lot of little girl dreams because of the choices I had made to be with this man.

    I was really angry with him for a really long time. We have a child together – which was the best gift from the whole mess. My ex still gets under my skin occasionally, and I still curse him when he acts out (usually something to do with our kid). I hate to admit it, but he can still ruin a good day, or at least a good afternoon – but I’ve worked on that a lot.

    From this relationship, I gained a lot of other things. I believe in myself and realize I’m more resilient than I originally thought. Family doesn’t live nearby and I have few friends, so I more than proved to myself that I can do it alone. I realized I am worth more than I originally let other people tell me and where I draw the line. I also realized that I am not perfect or a complete victim; I acted out at him too and instigated rather than allowing him to set the timeline of abuse. I had to forgive myself too. I’ve worked with my son so he doesn’t repeat the pattern. Things I wanted but never thought I could accomplish, such as purchasing a house, have happened. I hate(d) my past, but I am a better person today. Getting remarried (later this year) has been scary and exciting all at once.

    I look at it this way – I had to go there, to get here.

  • Moe

    I was involved with a slacker guy on and off for about 5 years before I came to the realization that I could not fix him, motivate him, or turn him into the man I wanted him to be.

    I had a string of shorter relationships with guys who had various problems. Some flaky, one who forgot to mention he was still married, and one guy who was a master at emotional abuse.

    Ultimately I had a come-to-Jesus moment where I learned that first I need to become whole. I needed time to think about the choices I had made and why. Then I needed to be clear about what I was loking for and how to make better decisions about who I would get involved. Having some honest discussion with mentor-type women in my life and therapy were so beneficial to me.

    I have come to believe that there is a certain kind of safety in choosing someone broken to love. There’s a payoff. You are needed. You are the fixer of things and never do you have to ask for help, let yourself be loved or show weakness. There is some validation of sorts. But to enter into a relationship with someone who has their sh*t together takes an extraordinary amount of courage and vulnerablity that I didn’t have.

    I stopped dating completely for a while. No, Mr. Right didn’t spotaneously show up at that moment either like they do in movies. I was alone for a good two years before I met my husband and even then I had to battle some cynicism and allow him into my life.

    My heart goes out to women everywhere who are stuck in this battle, may you find courage to choose differently for yourself.

    • Cleo

      I, thank goodness, have never been in an abusive relationship (especially because I have some tendencies that I think would make it easy for me to fall into one), but this paragraph resonated deeply with me:

      “I have come to believe that there is a certain kind of safety in choosing someone broken to love. There’s a payoff. You are needed. You are the fixer of things and never do you have to ask for help, let yourself be loved or show weakness. There is some validation of sorts. But to enter into a relationship with someone who has their sh*t together takes an extraordinary amount of courage and vulnerablity that I didn’t have.”

      I am currently in a relationship with a wonderful man who is much more emotionally together and aware than I am. He doesn’t need fixing. He doesn’t need assistance in figuring out the best way to handle something. He prefers to process his problems internally before discussing them, and usually then, there’s no asking for help/advice — just wanting a listening ear. The sum of this is that I am with someone who is/can be self-sufficient.

      More often than I would like to admit, I am sitting on our bed wondering why he needs me, why he wants me. Couldn’t he find someone prettier, smarter, cooler, more interesting, tidier, more prompt, etc? I don’t think he’d find it that difficult to find that girl. In my more anxiety-ridden moments, the only reason I can think of that he needs me is because I do all the cooking for us (because I love cooking). He once asked me to teach him how to prepare his favorite dish and I had to punch the inner voice that told me, once I taught him, he’d kick me to the curb to find someone more attractive and interesting. Because clearly, being a personal chef is all I have to offer.

      The few times I’ve brought this up to him, he’s looked at me like I’m crazy and told me not to be ridiculous, that he loves me and that I need to stop going into a paranoid spiral over little things and accept that everything is okay.

      This obviously has to do more with self-love than with my relationship, and sorry for the rambling comment, but any suggestions about how to get comfortable with the vulnerability and feel okay with not being needed, and instead, being chosen/wanted?

      • Liz

        I guess I’m left wondering: Why do you want him?

        Do you NEED him? What are you getting from him that you couldn’t get elsewhere?

        There are probably more attractive or more interesting people out there. But that’s not why you’re sticking around, right? It’s not about what he offers or what he can do. It’s because you love him, fit with him, enjoy being around him.

        It’s probably the same for him, too.

        • Cleo

          Thank you! These are really useful questions. Looking at the situation from the reverse seems like it could be a great tool for me. :)

      • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

        I sometimes have those feelings when I’m particularly depressed (hello, winter) or when I’m down in the dumps over failure or finances.

        What has helped me is to turn the tables, and consider- would I love him less if he were the one needing emotional support? What if he was the one crying on the couch? Would I resent that? And of course I wouldn’t. Early on in our relationship, I did a lot of self-reflection to figure out what loving my partner really meant to me, and I found that it defies my definitions- it’s a gut feeling I have about him in particular. Of course there are many other individuals with personalities/characteristics I’d be compatible with. But THIS is the guy that my gut pulls me toward like an internal magnet.

        Whenever I have the “Why does he put up with this?” thought, I think wait- would I “put up with it” in him? I would, and I wouldn’t consider it “putting up with” anything.

        I hope this is helpful. This is something that’s hard to put in words. In terms of vulnerability, though, I recommend reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown- I can’t say enough good things about it. Hugs and good luck!

        • Cleo

          I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has these weird thoughts. It makes me feel less alone. Thanks for the advice and the book suggestion!

      • Moe

        Have you considered the possibilty that you are just that wonderful to be with?

        It’s entirely possible that you Cleo, in all of your quirks, insecurities, flaws and shortcomings are just that kick-ass to be in relationship with.

        “any suggestions about how to get comfortable with the vulnerability and feel okay with not being needed, and instead, being chosen/wanted?” Hmmmm the only suggestion that comes to mind (and maybe this is more about me than anything) is that when you are in those uncomfortable moments of feeling chosen and wanted, Do Not Run. Do Not Resist. Embrace it for all of it’s unsettling discomfort.

        • Cleo

          Thank you! I might have to adopt “I am kick-ass” as a mantra, in all seriousness. I wouldn’t be surprised if that would help me power through the discomfort, which, I think you’re right, I really have to just sit through and embrace/enjoy(?).

  • ALEXIS C.

    “I genuinely, ardently believed I could just love all that stuff away….”

    From experience, I believe the hardest, trickiest part of situations like these where we’re hoping that “love conquers all,” is that somewhere inside of us we feel a truth in those words.

    But, what takes wisdom – often earned by time and heartache – is for us to learn the truth we feel is really, “Love Conquers Most”… and, in situations where we most desperately hope for love to fix a broken person, it cannot be OUR love that does the fixing, it must be THEIR love that fixes themselves. And, boy. Learning to love one’s self can be damn hard thing.

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      Yes. So much yes.

  • Class of 1980

    Holy major personality disorder, Batman!

    Yeah, my dad used to call my mother disgusting names when he got mad. By the end of their 20-something year marriage, when he would get started on a rant, she started listing all the names for him in a sarcastic voice.

    I don’t know why, but “fixing” people is a major stumbling block for a lot of women. Maybe it’s our compassion, but we have got to be more self-protective.

    I think it feels like there is a major unfairness in mental health problems. You get a child who is abused through no fault of their own, and then they grow up to become the abuser. Inevitably, you have to leave them, and it feels like they are being punished all over again.

    It feels unfair, yet if you stick around, there are going to be two people in mental distress instead of only one. If you have children involved, then you are risking their emotional development too.

    I wish more women would look at the person they’re considering marrying and consider what impact they will have on future children. It’s really the first decision you will ever make for your child. You can give them a leg-up or create obstacles in their life just by your decision about who you marry.

    Staying with someone who is abusive make you a lot less physically and emotionally healthy yourself. There’s lots of research on the health effects and it isn’t pretty.

    Ultimately, it’s up to the sick person to recognize they have a problem and get help. Most of us are not trained therapists and can’t begin to help these damaged people.

    • ALEXIS C.

      Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

  • MM

    Oh man, did this strike a chord. I spent 5 years in an emotionally abusive relationship because I was convinced I could fix it and that I wasn’t deserving of much else. I am so glad I did not marry him and have a child with him (even though I really, really wanted to at the time). The only reason I didn’t was because he wouldn’t marry me unless I lost weight (which I rationalized, instead of recognizing that for what it was). It ended in a moment of clarity for me, where he was demanding that I choose between him and my family, and I made the right decision. For reasons I don’t understand (but that I’m fairly certain include guilt and manipulation), I remained “friends” with him, and after I lost a lot of weight and had met someone, he was trying to convince me to get back together. I told him no, that I thought I had something with this person. His last ditch attempt? “You better end up marrying him, if you’re turning down what I’m offering you.” Well, I am, and I’m pretty sure I’m a lot better off. I sometimes wonder if I had to go through that experience to be able to appreciate what I have. If so, I think it was worth it in the long run.

  • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

    Chiming in that I’m also really, really glad to see you’re okay and moving on.

    Also, I’m terribly sorry. Mostly because through several relationships, I was that person. A broken home, a sordid history. Not so much the drug problems, but it still resonates. I clung to my boyfriends, leeching self esteem and good intentions as if that might help “fix” me. It did not. I truly loved them, but I think it was an addict’s kind of love, where I loved that they made me feel semi-okay, even though they got nothing in return. So reading this, I still feel guilty. I was the “bad guy” of the story. The person people tried to fix. I am the bullet that I know some of my exes are relieved that they dodged. I think the idea that people can be “fixed” is something that’s hurtful to male ideas of relationships as much as women – the whole knight in shining armor thing.

    I’ve always balked at the “love yourself before you love another” advice. I understand the sentiment, but it still feels more like something relegated to the movie screen. I have certainly improved myself through the years. I have gotten help and worked through my past issues, and I’m much more emotionally/mentally healthy. Do I love myself? I don’t really know what that’s supposed to even mean. I have a lot of respect for myself, and I like the person I’m working to be…

    But if I waited to pursue relationships, I would never have met my husband, who was a huge help in my healing process, for a whole host of reasons I don’t really want to put here. I think that it’s important to be pushing yourself towards mental/emotional/physical health before you pursue deep relationships, but I think the APW sentiment of not necessarily requiring all your ducks to be in a row is also relevant here.

    • OP

      I think for me, “loving yourself” (trite, though it sounds) is about knowing how to establish parameters that protect yourself, and being willing to enforce them. I don’t “love” myself in the sense that I think I’m terrific (not always, anyway) or feel squishy feelings about myself, or whatever. But I do think that there are some ways that I do not deserve to be treated, and that I’m worth the effort of ensuring that people don’t treat me that way.

      When I think about it that way, it makes sense, because it’s the same way that I show love for my now-husband and kids.

      • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

        Yea, this is kind of how I’ve approached the idea as well.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

      I definitely had to conquer a little bit of the self esteem and self worth issues before I could work well in any relationship, but I wholeheartedly agree with you. My husband and our relationship has done as much if not more for me than the years of therapy I’ve had. For some of us, we don’t even know what love is, let alone how to love ourselves. I knew I wasn’t so screwed up I was going to damage my husband with our relationship and wanting to be good enough for him, pushed me to work through some tough stuff faster. My hope is by the time we have a kid I’ve gotten that much healthier but to unlearn all the terrible lessons I got as a kid before I would be worthy of a relationship – well that seems like another bad lesson to me.

    • Class of 1980

      Did you get help before you met your husband or after?

      Do you feel your marriage would have been successful without therapy?

      Just curious. We don’t hear enough from the people who have these issues what has worked for them.

      • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

        I had been in therapy for several years before I met my husband. I continue to go to individual therapy and we also go as a couple. My husband had gone to therapy a few times before we met so he was comfortable enough and familiar with the concepts so working through stuff hasn’t been too terrible.

        I think my LIFE wouldn’t be successful without therapy so for sure I think it is at least partly responsible for my relationship doing well.

      • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

        For me personally, going to college and getting physically away from the unhealthy/abusive environment I was in is what prompted the thought that my mental/emotional state was not only unhealthy/undeserved, but toxic to some of my relationships with other people.

        I was lucky in that the college I attended offered a certain amount of free sessions with a psychiatrist per semester. I used all of them through college, but was intensely fearful/embarrassed to seek additional help even though it would be covered by insurance. The stigma involved and the possibility that my family would find out was limiting in that regard. So I had been getting help in that way for about a year and a half or so before I met my husband.

        I don’t know that I can say whether our relationship would have been successful without therapy. I think that depends mostly on my husband. Bryan did not approach me and my neuroticism hoping to fix or save me, which I think was the defining reason why we were able to connect on other, deeper levels. That and he didn’t try to be my only support. I think it’s just as important to know when someone needs more help than you can offer and push them to get it, rather than trying to shoulder the entire burden yourself. He was/is quite good at that. There are plenty of times where I, feeling like I was reverting to some previous self, attempted to jump ship and he refused to let me. I’m really, truly happy he didn’t.

        I also totally agree that we don’t hear enough from people with these sorts of issues, and I’ve definitely written enough privately on the subject to fill out many a blog post. Still, it’s a bit hard to condense down because you’re never really finished dealing with it (in my experience), and there’s this pervasive idea that you publish your story once you’re healed and whole and all better, and I’m not really there so it seems wrong to do so, in my head. Just at the beginning of this year, I am still looking into different options and paths for generalized anxiety disorder, following a few different doctor visits and reading this post by Wil Wheaton: http://wilwheaton.net/2012/09/depression-lies/

        So there’s that. If someone else here is feeling some of these things or even a different variety of things and feeling trapped in your own head, I really encourage seeking professional help or at the very least writing everything down in the moment. So much can be gained by understanding that you are not irreversibly broken.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

          Yes! I am so feeling everything you’ve written here. I wish folks would start looking at therapy like they look at religion. Because in a lot of ways, they are very similar. Like religion, unless you go super far extreme, it only improves your life and helps you. I’m barely on a religious spectrum in my beliefs. But I know how beneficial those beliefs are to people as humans. I think of therapy in the same way and I don’t know why more folks don’t. If we can as a society accept the normalcy of religious beliefs what’s so crazy about believing in the healing power of therapy? I am an extremely private person. Extremely. But I never shy away from mentioning I am in therapy or talking about its benefits or even suggesting others consider it as an option when they’re struggling. Therapy saved my life. I’ll never be afraid to say that because I believe it can save a lot of other people too.

        • S

          I appreciate your authenticity in talking/writing about your mental health journey.

          For me, I self-diagnosed my symptoms as Seasonal Affected Disorder, so even though, like you, I’ve written a bunch about it personally, I often feel like I’m not “bad enough” or “legitimately” (ie, professionally diagnosed) ill to write about it.

        • Class of 1980

          Thanks YouLoveLucy and Kristen for your stories.

          There should be only ADMIRATION for seeking help; never a stigma.

  • http://www.ashtreecreations.etsy.com Ashley

    “Sacrificial love has a place, but it takes a little choosiness in determining exactly what gets sacrificed (note: probably not “emotional health,” or “self-respect,” or “well-being”). That same sacrificial love is only worthwhile if it’s being reciprocated.”

    What an amazing story – thanks so much for sharing: I witnessed a friend go through the same sort of relationship. What’s interesting to me here was the quote above on “sacrificial love” – you stated it so eloquently. I would add that in addition to being a little choosy, that a love “sacrifice” should take place after a solid relationship foundation has been put into place. Not so much length of relationship – more like substance. Though you didn’t go into how things were in the beginning or how / why you fell in love with him, the way he treated you doesn’t strike me as having you as a high priority or a valuable part of his life. I’m so happy you valued yourself enough to get out of such an emotionally abusive situation.

  • Delynn

    Been there. Thank you for sharing. I am planning my second wedding right now (after my first marriage dissolved due to emotional abuse and cheating), and have found APW to be such a refreshing resource. It’s posts like this that make me feel at home here. Thank you for bravely and eloquently describing what it means to walk away from a person you love, who does not love you back.

  • SD

    Exactly times a million.
    I spent 3 years with someone who was two people. One of whom was intelligent, interesting, active and adored me, the other of whom had anger issues, held grudges and *hated* me (the feeling was mutual). In addition to the emotional abuse a few times there were “accidental” injuries which I explained away as, well, accidents.
    I’m intelligent, confident, independent, the last person you’d expect to put up with that BS. But, you know, he’d had it *tough*. He just needed love. And understanding. I was going to FIX him.When we had a fight that culminated in him trying to physically drag me out of the house I got out.
    The thing that I am still kicking myself about was that I waited until it got really, *obviously* physical before I got out. Somehow the emotional abuse wasn’t a reason enough and that frightens me. The emotional abuse was way worse because it was harder to pin down, more subtle, easier to internalize. Maybe I *deserved* it. Maybe I *was* being thoughtless/selfish/bitchy. Constantly. In the end I got out, for which I am grateful, but I still shudder at the thought of how much longer it could have dragged on if things hadn’t gone down the way they did.
    I bought too heavily into the myth that love would magically transform him into someone that he wasn’t. That somehow, by loving him, he would grow to deserve that love. Hollywood has it wrong, unconditional love is a load of BS. Love SHOULD have conditions – like, for example, “love me back” and “treat me with respect”.

    • anon

      “Love SHOULD have conditions – like, for example, “love me back” and “treat me with respect”
      Yes yes yes yes a million times yes!

  • Deb

    OMG this is the relationship I just left! not the exact same circumstances, there were good weeks out of the 5 years we were together, but good lawd if I didn’t think “if I just love him enough he will change”, and he came from a wonderful home with a privileged upbringing…I was the one from the emotional train wreck of a childhood with an abusive father a submissive mother who spaced out completely when her marriage ended…I thought I was the one who should have been abusive, instead I just picked the ahole to do the work for me.

    and after all the loving and trying, when he finally ran out of insults and names to call me, all he could say was, “well you never loved me”…we have 2 kids together and I can only hope he gets his act together to be a positive role model for them. We need to talk out about this more, and help more woman understand what the abuse is, that it’s not their fault or job to fix somebody, and to celebrate the strength we have within us to leave and make a better life for ourselves.

    thank you for sharing!

  • savychacha

    This post has come at a good time for me. My relationship with my husband is wonderful, and I am grateful that he treats me the way I deserve to be treated. He is my partner in every sense of the word.

    However, this is the relationship I have had with my father. He grew up in an abusive family, his father was an alcoholic, and his mother pretended that nothing was ever wrong. My brother and I had a great childhood though. He was a great dad when we were young, however he did have some anger issues. Right around middle school is when things started falling apart.

    He was mentally abusive, and verbally cruel. Selectively though. He could be the most charming charismatic man in the room if he wanted to be, but when he was mad, you knew it all to soon. The little digs at how you looked, or how you talked, or the way you ate. The way my mother couldn’t leave the house without accounting for every minute that she was gone. The way that he treated my brother as if he were less than a human being. It was awful, but it was day to day life. And we never really thought about how bad it was, because we lived it every day. Not only that, but our house was the safe haven for all our friends! Their parents were all divorced, or disinterested and my parents made our house a home mostly. It was when there was no one else around that he would lash out the most.

    I’ve kept up spotty contact with him over the years. He turned to drugs, really hard drugs for a while, and I kept my distance. When he moved out of state to start a new life and clean up I supported him. But no matter how supportive I was, he was always the same person that would turn on you in a second.

    Last year he was in a motorcycle accident that almost killed him. He almost died three or four times at the hospital in the course of a month. We were told he would have severe brain damage, but they wouldn’t know the extent of it until he woke up. My brother and I joked that maybe he would come out on the other side “normal”. While he was in the hospital, when my brother and I thought he might pass, we drove the 17 hours straight down to TN to see him, and say our goodbyes, and make arrangements. He ended up pulling through. And just when we thought we had mourned all we could, we got the call that he was out of the hospital and going home.

    My brother has spoken with him, but I haven’t. I’ve made the decision to let him go. I realize that he is never going to be the father that I need. He isn’t even a good person. And while I have guilt over the letting go, and feel like I am abandoning him, I have to preserve myself and my sanity for my own family. I have mourned the man that was my father growing up, and I have hated the man that he turned into. Now it is time for me to move past the negative, and appreciate the goodness in myself that he has given to me. I don’t want to give the negativity any more time than I already have. And while I may have moments of sadness, or guilt, ultimately I feel overwhelmingly right in my decision. He can’t hurt me if I don’t let him. So now will be my time to take care of myself. Because I deserve it.

    Thank you.

    • Class of 1980

      I hear you.

      I could have written parts of this word-for-word. They call it a “pattern” for a reason.

  • Hila

    OMG girl, you are so brave and honest. So brave. And so honest.

  • Allie

    I feel like this was written about what just happened to me. I too “thought love would conquer all” I thought I could love the addictions, the anger, and the cheating out of him. It took me four years to realize I couldn’t. It’s not easy and sometimes I feel like I gave up on us but then I realize no amount of abuse, whether emotional, physical or financial is worth putting up with.

    Also, this is the first time I’ve read a post like this and didn’t start bawling. Not because it’s not an emotional story, but because it’s finally not me anymore.

    Thank you for being brave enough to tell your story. It is yours and others on this site that give me the strength to move on with my life.

  • Michele

    I am so happy someone shared this on pinterest. I’m in the middle of a breakup with a man I’ve tried to fix for 3.5 years. Until reading this story I never really looked at why I dealt with all the emotional abuse, mental abuse, cheating, alcoholism. I thought all my love and loyalty would be enough to change him for the better. But giving him so much I am now realizing how much I lost of myself. Who am I? What do I want? Like she said I’m smart enough to know I deserve better and want the butterflies but I think my loyalty always got in the way. We still live together but are seperated for the time being. We have a 21 month old daughter together. Making the situation even harder. Hes good with her and I won’t let my relationship with him, ruin theirs. I’ve realized how much hes depended on me because now I’m left with me time. Thinking time, space. I know it sounds weird but that its self will take some getting use to.