Why Do I Still Love Him?
True intimacy and love do not involve fear, unending anxiety, and addiction. Don’t confuse abuse, addiction, and love. They are not the same. A toxic entanglement with an abuser can feel like love. It is more like an incredibly unhealthy addiction. Don’t confuse the two. When you keep asking yourself, “Why Do I Still Love Him (Her)? Consider this.
It is so difficult to reconcile within ourselves the utter fear we feel towards our abusers (narcissistic or not) and what we think is love. Consider addiction for a minute. Folks who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, porn (pick your poison) know that these addictions are causing harm. They know these addictions are killing them, but they continue to seek them out and go towards the insidious enemy.
A relationship with an abuser can be the same. Separation at the beginning feels like an intense withdrawal, a grief, a devastating death that is difficult to describe to folks who have not experienced it. It is physically painful.
This was my thinking. Even though my ex was unpredictable and punishing, I still wanted to be with him. I thought I loved him. I wanted to return to that calm cycle. You know, the love bombing, the adoring phase, before a return to a hatred and punishing that leaves you begging for forgiveness. We keep repeating and participating in this toxic pattern because we are expecting a different result. We are hoping for relief and a return to the “better” days. It feels like love.
The brain is so conditioned through the unpredictability, the punishment and the rewards that you actually blame yourself and may think, I need to act better, do better, be better. For myself, I thought I needed to “do better” even after my ex-husband threw me out of car miles from my house in the middle of the night on a busy road because he didn’t like the fact that I had lowered the volume on the radio.
Now with distance from the toxic one think about this! We are not seeing life as it truly is. We are not making a realistic assessment of our situation. Having the mindset to be in a healthy, truly intimate relationship takes work and requires new habits, new ways of thinking, and new ways of regarding ourselves. When we stay in a toxic relationship, we have a lot of unhealthy patterns that have been repeated over and over again.
You may still “feel sorry” for him or “guilty” -which of course does not serve your recovery and is not true. He may try all sort of lies to keep you hooked. You must resist. You will need folks to support you when you feel weak. A supportive, trusting group of loved ones and professionals is key. No contact with the toxic other.
For myself, I had to do a lot of justifying, denying, hiding, and pretending to actually remain there. Stuck. If we didn’t justify and deny, we would have to admit to ourselves that we are staying in an abusive relationship because we would rather be abused – emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically. All this justifying that we do is a huge betrayal to our true selves. This pattern of betraying, denying, and pretending contradicts reality and creates an unbelievably unhealthy cycle in the brain.
What does this look like? He has apologized. He won’t do it again. He didn’t mean it. He is a wonderful father? REALLY. He is so stressed from work. I am too needy. I am a nag. I caused this fight – I got him angry.
Your natural instincts to protect yourself from the “drug” that is literally destroying you are warped. Your habit and addiction to the abuser have developed with an intensity in the brain just like an addiction to heroin. You know it is harming you, but you continue seeking and pursuing with a relentless passion. The betrayal damages your self-esteem. You lose sight of the core of who you are.
The idea of discernment and the ability to see clearly the reality of a situation is a skill that can be cultivated. Having the ability to be able to decide with peace, clarity and awareness what is serving us and what patterns, habits of thinking and stories need to be left behind will move us forward. All of this is possible. This is not magic.
Question yourself when your need to please overrides your intuition. Question yourself when your habit of helping and fixing appears. What is my responsibility in all of this? What actually did happen? Try to do this without adding on a story and an embellishment. How can I bring more clarity and balance to this situation? How do noticing and labeling this support me in making a shift in my choices and in my behavior? What is required of me to climb on the first rung of a different ladder?