Last month we explored moving and mundane vignettes of love. Sometimes (okay, that's an understatement) relationships are confusing. Does this person love me? Here are some examples that are definitely not love...
You can't remember an argument or disagreement you've had when they’ve apologized. "Now, now, honey, remember what we talked about? I was just following the guidelines we used last time. You do the dishes except when I'm home early from work and have had time to unwind. I just haven't had enough time; my favorite show is on! Thank you, honey. You know we talked about this."
When things are always somehow your fault: "You were interrupting me, so of course I needed to yell to get a word in!" “You are too sensitive!” “You are so jealous.” “You’re going to get all upset over something so small?”
When your perceptions are always wrong: "That's not how it happened.” “I wasn't that mad?” “I never raised my voice!” “Your memory is off.” “You shouldn't feel that way.” “You're too sensitive.” “That never happened.” “I didn't intimidate you at all!” “I wasn't glaring!” “I never said that.” “Your memory is so crappy. "
When the other person gaslights you (makes you feel crazy, that the thing you know happened never did): "I was home all night, I was just in the basement. Did you take that sleep med again? You always forget what happened when you're tired." “I never did that.” “You said that it was okay to use your credit card, don’t you remember?”
When they simply undermine or refuse to listen to your concern or complaint: “Why do you keep saying things like this?!” “I don’t want to hear this again.” “You are making stuff up!”
Just like the definition of love centered on respect and valuing the other person as you value yourself, the opposite is true of non-love. Your needs and feelings are only taken into account insofar as they benefit the other person. Sometimes this is obvious, in ways where the other person "uses" you and doesn't give to the relationship in a way that feels equal. But sometimes non-love is not so obvious. For example, what if your partner is depressed, too tired, or too emotionally overwhelmed to be present, to contribute to your lives together? That requires compassion and sacrifice on your part, right? Right - unless your partner refuses to recognize the impact these states have you, that they are problems at all, or refuses to try to heal. If they continue to say, "No nothing's wrong.” “Your perception is wrong. Everything's fine (even though you don't feel that it is).” “This is just how I am.” “I’m just expressive, not angry and mean.” “You must not love me if you expect me to make dinner/make love/help with the baby/pay attention to you when I’m this exhausted." That sounds a lot like disregarding your perceptions, feelings and needs. Not love.
Sometimes people twist events and reframe their actions or blame you for their behavior because they simply can't tolerate the idea that maybe they are in the wrong or have a problem. Their ego can't take it; so they throw you under the bus. Here's an example: "You stopped talking to me so I had to yell at you to get your attention!" Or, "If you had just done it right the first time, then none of this wouldn't have happened." Sometimes the other person says the last part of their blaming and shaming thought out loud: "You're dumb, selfish, lazy, fill-in-the-blank, and that's why this happened. I'm a reasonable person and have done nothing wrong. This is all your fault." Often, though, the shame and blame targeted at you is just implied. You FEEL it loud and clear, and the other person is playing the victim, but it's hard to call out because it's all an implication. This allows the other person to retain their cloak of blameless victim, instead of taking responsibility for their actions.
Perhaps that's another theme - real love can only exist in any given interaction between two people who are able to respect each other as different and as existing in their own right. When someone feels hurt, the other person cares. Even if they see the reasons for the hurt differently, they are willing to put themselves in the other's shoes and the two can move toward each other to heal the rift. This is a JOINT process. The other person doesn't simply deny your experience, dismiss or argue with your FEELINGS. They care when they have hurt you even if this means compromising something (their view of themselves, their ego, their pride) to repair the hurt. Of course you may need to compromise too, but BOTH person's needs and feelings are equally as important.
Non-love is insidious because in the forms we’re talking about, it is all subjective. But if you don’t feel heard, cared for, respected and question your own intuition, well – these are definite signs of NOT love.
I wish you love in your life - abundant, overflowing, and from many different people! And I hope that you can trust yourself to recognize non-love when it occurs, and gently move away, protecting yourself and the dignity and respect you inherently deserve.