My parents were abusive. They were abusive in my ways, on may different levels, all of them destructive, demoralizing and debasing. I was something they owned and a thing to be used for whatever purposes served them at the time. I could never live up to their expectations, nor did I ever manage to earn the air I breathed while growing up in their house. I failed them time and time again.
My parents told me often that they loved me.
I generally tried not to think of these two opposing points because I could never allow the opposites to exist in my mind at the same time without feeling as if my head would explode.
When I couldn’t ignore the nagging thoughts any longer, I would ask them the most obvious question.
“Did you WANT to have children?”
Regardless of how many times I asked and they answered, their response always caused additional bafflement. And confusion. For they assured me with very convincing words that they had wanted a child with all of their heart and had been crushed when told it might not happen for them. Having a baby had been an answer to their prayers.
It was difficult to believe. They were abusing me and treating me as though I was a worthless mutt who ever lived to disappoint. They seriously wounded and treated me horribly, making it challenging to reconcile their actions with their explanations. Why would they abuse and discard me if they had wanted me?
My brain, frantically in search of a logical justification for the incongruent data supplied, settled upon the next plausible motive for their abuse and neglect.
“Did you want a boy?”
Their response never wavered. “Oh, no, we were hoping for a little girl.”
I couldn’t understand. For it was at this point they usually told me they loved me, their own little miracle, their first born.
Thus, I learned to ignore my “gut.” I learned to distrust my intuition. My feelings. I listened to their words. I came to the conclusion that they were telling me the truth and love was very painful indeed.
Being loved was like being mauled by a bear. Someone was going to get hurt and hurt badly. And the bear was going to amble away, living to maul another day.
If love is painful, if it’s a destructive force, one that demands, takes, uses and demolishes, it’s not actually something you can cozy up to. Walls have to be built and maintained. You have to protect yourself from that kind of a presence. You can never let down your guard. And if you don’t do exactly what is expected of you at any given moment, love will turn on you and rip you to pieces.
That’s the only conclusion I could settle on. Love took and never gave. You needed it, but the price you had to pay was astronomical. My parents wanted me. They loved me. And I wanted their love. So being loved was what caused the damage and abuse. It was so painful, it could barely be survived.
The problem, I finally realized, was found within my definition of love…what it really means to be loved. I was well over 40 before I realized the flaw to my logic.
I began to consider the facts once more and was startled to realize I had the equation all wrong. I had begun with the answer and built my case on it. But I had not started with the correct answer.
If my parents loved me and my parents used, neglected and abused me, then love, though necessary, though hungered for, was painful and wounding.
If parental love + parental abuse = “True Love”
- Then true love is nothing more than abuse, rejection, never-ending demands and disgust, among many other hurtful and appalling actions.
- Therefore, abuse, rejection, never-ending demands and disgust are what is deserved, because this is true love.
- I didn’t deserve anything beyond what they provided because I was asking for more than love. I was worthless, a failure who never met their expectations, an object (not even a person). I wanted and needed what I should not want and need.
- They were justified. They acted out of love so their actions were what I deserved.
I created a Boolean loop.
But, what if…
What if they didn’t actually love me?
What if the way they treated me wasn’t love? What if the things they did to me were indications of their lack of love for me? What if those hurtful actions revealed their true motives, their own selfish desires and their narcissism?
What if love is not a word? What if it is a force that comes from the heart and propels one to take actions or motivates certain behaviors that are totally, absolutely, conclusively not like those actions and behaviors I experienced with my parents?
If saying you love someone doesn’t equal love…?
This is when the world turned upside down . Or maybe, more accurately, it’s when it began to turn right-side up again.
I think they loved the IDEA of having a child. But loving the child was another thing altogether. That was the part they couldn’t do. And the lack of love for me was unmasked and evidenced by their acts and deeds.
I let myself be deceived. I believed their words, discarding my own observation, intuition and understanding. I thought I had to be wrong because they told me they loved me, proving my feelings and conclusions were inaccurate. But what if my observation, intuition, understanding, feelings and conclusions were dead on and their words expressing love for me contained the lie?
What if love is not a word? What if love is more…so very much more? What if it’s not a bear that mauls you, but a puppy that can’t stop kissing your nose because you are their whole wonderful world? What if being loved doesn’t = being abused? What if my parents lied so I would never look too closely at their actions or question their harsh demands and judgements too carefully?
I am still working at undoing all the faulty logic in my brain. All the thoughts that were derailed and discarded because I started with the wrong conclusion. I believed their words and not their deeds. But I think I am on the right path now. I think I knew in my heart that they didn’t really love me, which caused me to probe and question them repeatedly. In trying to fit WORDS OF LOVE and ACTIONS OF ABUSE together in a way that made sense and didn’t rip me to pieces, I allowed myself to believe their lie.
I’m finally starting to get it. Slowly. It’s beginning to take shape in my soul.
Love is not a word. I have never known love.