Is it love?

Love is such a funny, overused word isn’t it? The problem with the word is that it fits everything, it means everything. However, said at the wrong time – it could spell trouble. If it’s not said when it is expected – it can cause anguish.

I love watching Game of Thrones. I love the seaside. I love being by the sea. I love hugs and cuddles at bedtime with my girls. I love being in my pjs, after a day at work, snuggling on my sofa and relaxing. All wonderful, acceptable uses of the word ‘love’.

If I came up to you, after only knowing you for a short time and told you that ‘I love you’ – how would that make you feel? Uncomfortable, I imagine? Uneasy? Creeped out? I know I would feel that way.

So – it’s a throw away, overused word, that can be used in any context. However, it can also be extremely powerful – and evoke quite positive or negative thoughts and responses too.

Lots of acts are committed in the name of love. Lots of unholy, unhinged acts – all in the name of love.

On the spectrum of love, you have the positive sides – someone surprises you with a gift that you have wanted for a long time, or someone takes you out to dinner, or jets you away on holiday, or is an ear that listens when you are in distress. These are what we expect and enjoy about being in love. Moderate love. Extreme acts of love could be self-sacrificing – we haven’t got enough food to eat, so you give away your portion, your loved one needs a kidney – you give them yours – this is not ordinary – this is extraordinary love.

Of course, then you have the other polar end of the spectrum. Love supposedly brings out the best in you, but it could equally bring out the worst in you. So you start off mildly negative – checking your partner’s phone messages and emails. You monitor who they are calling, who are they interacting with apart from you, who are they interacting with on social media? You start discovering things that you don’t like. You start building stories in your head. And then comes the next step – control. You set conditions and ultimatums – you can’t see that person anymore. I don’t want you to communicate with that person anymore. If you don’t listen, then there will be consequences.

Perhaps you ‘love’ someone from afar? Perhaps you haven’t got the nerve to talk or interact with them in real life? Perhaps the love is unrequited? So, you start taking an unhealthy interest in everything they do. Their likes become your likes. Your thoughts, every aspect of your life, revolves around everything they do. Then comes the next step – control. For whatever reason, you cannot be a part of that person’s life – either it won’t happen organically, or they don’t want you around. So – you start to try and shoehorn yourself in. You go where they go. You do what they do. Whether they like it or not – you are there. Control.

Those examples of negativity seem quite mild, don’t they? After all, it’s not physical violence, it’s not sexual assault. So, it’s ok. It’s not that bad.

Is it?

Survivors of physical violence and sexual abuse know something. The violence and abuse did not start straight away. The perpetrators are smarter than that. If someone you have just met, is violent or abusive, would you meet with them again? No – of course not. No. These people mask their behaviour. They present themselves in the best light possible. They take time to get to know you, make you laugh. Know what makes you tick. And then, when they have gained your trust – that’s when it starts. Of course, there are the apologies later. They never meant it. You drove them to it. It will never happen again. They have a back story that makes you ‘understand’ their behaviour…but it happens again and again. And each time, a chunk of you is torn away – which was their intention all along. Control.

Love is not about control. You do not control the people that you love. You show respect. Everyone deserves respect. You expect your partner to love and respect you. For example – when entering into a relationship with someone, you create some rules that the both of you decide to live by. Perhaps you decide – we’re going to be mutually exclusive, we won’t be with anyone else. You decide how often you will see each other. What you will do on special occasions. And there are unspoken rules – I won’t cheat on you; I won’t discuss our private moments between us with other people; I won’t text or flirt with other people in a way that is disrespectful to you. If you feel that the other person is breaking those rules – then instead of trying to modify and put conditions on their behaviour – surely you should think – is this love? Confronting them and hearing them lie and calling you crazy – that’s not love. Lying awake and wondering where they are and what they’re doing – that’s not love. Seeing them talking and laughing with an attractive person and wondering what might happen next – that’s not love. Knowing that they have strayed before and you have to put sanctions in place. That’s not love.

Being suspected constantly when you have done nothing wrong – that’s not love. Being told who you can and can’t speak to – that’s not love. Being ordered to get home daily by a certain time and knowing that your every move is being analysed. That’s not love.

Controlling someone or being in control – this is not love.

Love is easy. Love is respectful. Love is letting people grow. Love, sometimes, is letting people go.

If you are with someone you do not trust – let them go. They don’t make you feel good about yourself. You deserve better.

If you are with someone who doesn’t trust you – walk away. You deserve better.

If you are with someone who controls you – walk away and don’t look back. Get advice on how to walk away so that you are safe. But don’t stay and be controlled – no one deserves that.

And if you are a person who feels the need to control others – get some professional, medical help. Controlling others, hurting others, it doesn’t make you happy – get help.

The point of love is – it should make you feel alive. It should make you feel invincible. You should feel free and elated. You should feel that anything in the world is possible. You should feel that you could tell them anything and you should feel that you would gladly do anything for them.

If you’re with someone and you don’t feel that way – is it love…?

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