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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

But “I still love him…” Puh-leeze!

July 15, 2009

I know what love is. And I know what it sure as hell isn’t. No one’s born knowing. In my case, I only got it after many tedious attempts at misplaced affection. (Thankfully, my suffering yielded a few not too shabby souvenir poems and songs, so there’s that.)

Understanding this stuff is essential. I mean, really, if you don’t know how to love and how to get what you need from your partner, how are you ever going to create and maintain a healthy relationship? You’re not! Which brings me to this email from yesterday:

Hey Annie,

I have been with this guy for 2 years. We were engaged and living together. He left me  two months ago and I can’t figure out exactly why he won’t even say I love you anymore. I had caught him before on chat lines giving other women his number talking very very dirty. Even talking to his ex and well, I left him. After a couple months I went back because he proposed to me and swore it was me he wanted. He said he was gonna change and he wanted to make me  happy. That lasted about 5 months. I found out this time when we broke up he was still talking to his ex. He even told me he met a girl at a bar for a one night bj but swears that’s all that happened. Now he said he wanted to be “f__  friends” with me and that’s all or nothing. I don’t know what to do anymore. I love him still so much after all that’s happened and I can’t understand why. I just wish he loved me. I don’t think he ever has. Please help me I’m seriously depressed…

Lost and Confused

Dear L & C,

You say that you “still love him” and that you wish he would “just love” you. I’m not sure what kind of love you’re talking about, but it isn’t enough to make this work. What the guy did was flat-out wrong, disrespectful and low. But let’s be fair… you didn’t show the greatest judgment either.  Part of your current situation is a direct result of taking him back after he betrayed you. I’m guessing that you really didn’t trust him. You still don’t! Yet you allowed yourself to believe he’d get his act together. (Based on what? “LOVE”?) It also sounds like you two never addressed the hurt caused by the first betrayal. Never discussed why he thought it was OK to cheat on you. And because you never dealt with it, it came back to bite you… hard. The fact that now all he wants from you is to be one of his “f__ friends” really says it all, doesn’t it? And the reason you “still love” this self-centered disrespectful individual “so much” is… why?

What you need to move forward is more self-respect. When you develop that you won’t need me or anyone else to tell you that this isn’t love. If you need help sorting out your feelings and working on self-esteem, then I strongly suggest that you find a counselor or a therapist to talk with.

In friendship,
Annie

Most parents I talk with say they absolutely want their teen daughters and sons to grow up to be “a good partner in a healthy committed relationship.” If we’re going to walk the walk, we really need to be teaching our kids that love isn’t enough.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , , — Annie @ 11:32 am
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4 Comments »

  1. Well, I think love comes in many varieties, shapes and sizes. Some love is based on what I got as a child growing up. That love may not be necessarily good for me or even healthy. But it is love nonetheless, a love that feels familiar and a part of my ‘survival code’.

    For instance, I grew up with a mother who was mentally ill and quite abusive. When I was in my 20s and even early 30s I seemed to attract and ‘fall in love with’ people who were similar to my mother. Beautiful, creative, passionate yet mentally unstable and even abusive. I can tell you that this was still love for me – as much as I loved my mother unconditionally, even if she was not a kind of love that was healthy for me.

    So, I encourage you to not judge love that someone feels as ‘not love’. It may be love, a very real love, for them, even if it is unhealthy.

    I actually realized in my mid-30s that the kind of people I was attracting were very unhealthy for me. They were not like me at all, they were like my mentally ill mother. I decided that this was a very unhealthy pattern that I had to break. I could not break it on my own so I found a counselor to help me.

    I signed up for group therapy with others who had abusive and severely disfunctional families that they grew up in. Some had alcoholic parents, others had parents who were Holocaust survivors, others had parents that were mentally ill and others had parents who were drug addicts.

    The counselor led us in a series of activities, all relating to our famly ‘legacies’. These legacies were actually handed down generationally. If a person had an alcoholic parent they tended to attract and fall in love with alcoholic partners. If they had mentally ill parents they tended to attract and fall in love with mentally ill partners. It was still LOVE. We learned how to ‘break’ those attraction patterns. It was an amazing experience.

    This group lasted six months. After it ended I met the most wonderful partner. We’ve been together 20 years this year. It’s been a fabulous relationship.

    So, with that, I encourage you to look inside and see what you attract and if it is familiar to you in some way to your family. If so, then perhaps a counselor can help you ‘rewire’ who you are attracted to and what kind of people you fall in love with.

    Comment by Randee — July 15, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  2. I certainly respect what you have to say, Randee. And you’re right, of course… what is “love” to someone may not be loving or lovely in someone else’s eyes. In my response to “Lost and Confused” I hoped only to wake her up to the possibility that when she uses “love” as a reason to accept unacceptable behavior then she shortchanges herself in the love department. I don’t believe that you can fully love and understand a partner when you don’t love and understand yourself.

    Comment by Annie — July 15, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

  3. I agree with you there Annie…and most of your post. However understanding myself fully for me is truly a lifetime process. There are layers and layers of me to understand and uncover and I hope to continue this process my entire life. If I waited to fully understand myself to find and love a partner I’d be very old. It takes courage to let go, jump in and love someone. Each person I have loved along the way before finding the perfect partner was a ‘rung on the ladder’, one step closer to ‘the one’. Jumping in and falling in love, even if the person is or was not my lifetime partner, in my view, in hindsight was exactly what I needed to do. The pain and sometimes suffering of loving the ‘wrong’ person taught me how to find the right person.

    Comment by Randee — July 15, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

  4. Absolutely true.. understanding oneself is a lifelong process and it’s filled with the promise of enriching your life’s experience and your ability to love. It’s also undeniable that there is so much to be learned from every relationship (healthy or otherwise). Not everyone chooses to use those learning opportunities, but they are always there.

    Comment by Annie — July 16, 2009 @ 8:50 am

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