What is Love?

By Jamey Sheesley

Dear Survivor,

I am writing to let you know about love. According to Psychology Today, love is a force of nature and it is bigger than what you are. You cannot command, demand, or take away love.

If love is so great, then why do you feel so betrayed? Why do you feel like love hurt you? I am here to let you know it was not love that betrayed and hurt you; it was the abuser who put you through hell. I want to show you what true love is. Love is not the abuse you suffered.

Love is the unconditional caring you gave your abuser that they did not deserve. The love you gave them is a reflection of you, not them. You loved them every time they made you cry and every time they hit you. You forgave them and showed them kindness; you cared for them and you did everything in your power to make them happy. You showed them true love, which means you understand love whether you realize it or not.

You may still feel down on yourself because you loved the wrong person. You may feel that love is tainted. Again love is not tainted, you just happened to love someone who is not awesome like you. This goes back to the statement in the first paragraph. You cannot command, demand, or take away love. Forgive yourself for loving the wrong person. That does not mean there is anything wrong with you, it just means you are human. You believed the person you loved was better than they turned out to be and that is okay.

You are not at fault because your abuser made you feel like love is an awful thing. Let us focus on you, instead, and your deep ability to love. First, you cared enough to try to make your abuser happy, despite what they put you through. That shows your love is strong and powerful. Do not ever cut yourself down for that. For a long time, you may have also refused to give up on that person. You tried to believe in them and hoped they were the person you first met. You also continued caring for them no matter what and that shows your ability to feel unconditional love, something your abuser will never understand.

So now what do you do? You loved the wrong person and they left your life in shambles. You may feel broken and like you are done with love. I want to change your perspective on this because you are so important to this world and you deserve true love. The unconditional love that you showed your abuser is the love that you need. I want you to start showing yourself that same unconditional love. You went through an awful relationship, so the first thing I want you to do is forgive yourself. This is crucial to your healing. Forgive yourself for showing your abuser the incredible love of yours. They took advantage of you, so let us put them in the past where they belong and focus on loving you.

I want you to go look in the mirror and tell yourself how much you love yourself because you went through hell and are still standing. That shows your strength. I want you to realize how beautiful you are inside and out. Tell yourself something you love about yourself, whether it is your eyes or how you always tell the same corny joke. Embrace everything you love about yourself with all your heart, and do not let it go.   

Is this demanding love? Yes, but you deserve to be loved and before you can move on to a healthy relationship you need to love yourself. Therefore, I think this is okay to demand self-love, that way you do not let an abuser hurt you again.

What if you still love your abuser? That is okay, just do your best to keep yourself safe and not go back. Love is a force of nature and you cannot command it away. A leftover love feeling that does not mean you are broken, it means you know how to love. I promise you once you start loving yourself more, the love for your abuser will fade away because you will realize you did not deserve any of what they did to you.

Another part of learning to love yourself is to be selfish. What makes you happy? Do you like spa days? Do you like going for hikes? I want to you to do what brings you joy for no one else but you. If you want to spend a day at the spa, go do it! This is your time. Go hike that favorite trail of yours. Do not feel guilty because you deserve this. It is okay to love yourself and to love what you do. As a society, we are taught to put others first, but I want you to change this. You are just as important as everyone else. Take time to spoil yourself and move yourself into a positive, healing direction.

When you start feeling down,  it is okay to cry it out, but afterwards, go back to that mirror and tell yourself how much you love yourself. Also, find new things to love about yourself. You have amazing love inside of you and you need that love more than anyone else does right now.

I want you to love yourself as a dog would love you. Dogs are unconditional lovers; even if you scold them, they are going to love you. Every time you get down on yourself, forgive yourself because you have been through some serious trauma and you are feeling a whirlwind of emotions. It is okay to be upset, you have every right to be, just do not let yourself be stuck there. Pamper yourself, do things for you that you did for that abuser. Take yourself out to dinner or stay in and cook for yourself. Have fun and learn what you like and do not like. Your abuser stripped you of any self-love so now is the perfect time to get it back in full force.

Once you heal, it is okay to go find another person to share your love with. However, if you find someone and they show any red flags I want you to get away from them as soon as possible. When you love yourself, it is easier to set boundaries and if anyone crosses those boundaries without remorse, let them go. Find someone who loves you as much as you love them.

Sincerely,

BTSADV Survivor

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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