This was the most difficult question I struggled with after I left my partner. Why couldn’t he love me? What was so awful about me?
It took a long time for me to understand and accept the answer -- He couldn’t love me because he doesn’t love anyone, not even himself. There was nothing I could do to change that.
Does the remark about him not loving himself raise sympathy in you for the abuser? Can you see through his bravado facade that he really has low self-esteem? Does it make you think-- if someone loved him enough, he would change? Yeah, I thought that, too. I wanted to be his savior. Standing beside him, healing his wounded heart. Then he would love me for ever and ever. Being loved that way was my goal. I believed you had to earn someone’s love. By caring for his every need, I thought, in return, he would care for mine.
That’s not how it works. Our partners tell us how they were misunderstood, mis-treated and wounded in their lives. Our nurturing hearts kick in and we are willing to sacrifice ourselves to save them. This is a hook abusers use to draw us into the relationship and cause us to focus on their needs, letting go of our own. It’s a game for them. A way to make us believe we could earn their love. In truth, love is given freely -- no catches, conditions, or jumping through hoops required.
If I ask myself, “What’s so awful about me that he couldn’t love me?” I’m making myself the problem (easy to believe because he told me everything was my fault.) However, If I am the problem, then I think I have some control. I can fix things. If I fix things he will love me forever and ever. Once again I am trying to earn his love. As you and I know, we will never earn our partner’s love. That’s part of the game. Holding the carrot out in front of us and moving it every time we think we are within reaching distance.
Our partners’ inability to love us is not about us at all, it’s about them. I always felt that there were pieces of the puzzle missing in my partner -- compassion, empathy, genuine concern for others. These weren’t there. Being overly empathic myself (to the point that I was willing to be anyone’s doormat, and suffer for another’s happiness to be loved - how unhealthy is that?) it was hard to fathom that others didn’t feel the same. Loving, caring, trusting came so easily to me that I couldn’t imagine that some people don’t reciprocate. They don’t. Really. I wouldn’t kid you on this.
As far as feeling that our partners don’t love themselves, let me say this, they may lack self-love but they do believe that they are entitled to have a woman in their life who takes care of them - all their needs, wants and wishes. Reciprocity is not on their radar screen. It never crosses their mind that we have needs and wants of our own, dreams we’d like to fulfill. Even if they claim to support us in our self-development, they usually find a way to sabotage our efforts. Making it too difficult to pursue our passion. Telling us that we failed because we are stupid and should give up.
I was raised with the adage, “You can draw more flies with honey than vinegar.” When you think about it, it’s a no-brainer. Yelling at someone makes them feel bad. It also makes them not like you very much. Constant yelling or physical abuse is not going to make anyone happily love and care for you. It will only breed resentment and hatred. How can abusers not get that? Maybe because they have no intention of giving. We know that in the cycle of abuse, when they have to say they are sorry and won’t [hit, yell, destroy our things] again, they eventually make us pay for having to “grovel” so we won’t leave them. Maintaing power to them means they withhold from us that which we desire most. They may give us “things,” but we will never get their love and devotion. So if they don’t choose to build a relationship based on kindness and genuine love and concern, all they have left is to build one based on power and violence. Love never enters the picture.
Isn’t that sad. They could have had everything they wanted: a partner who loved and cherished them, willing to go the extra mile for them, and sexually turned on. Instead, they chose to be a dictator. I’ll never understand why some people make that choice.
So, now that we are out of our relationships, let’s not concentrate on why they couldn't love us, but how grateful we are for those in our lives that do.