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#357710 - 03/26/11 06:32 AM Conditional Love
Julia Offline

Registered: 11/05/08
Posts: 76
My boyfriend told me about his childhood sexual abuse 3 months into our relationship. 3-4 years later he started to have flashbacks and his issues went into full swing. So, I read Mike Lew's book, I found this website and I think I may have read every single post here. I made a decision to stick by him and I formulated a plan.... I was going to love him unconditionally. After all, isn't that what you do for someone who has been hurt? You offer him love?

I want to state how much I respect the men and women who have stuck with their survivor and together have made it work. It truly takes a special kind of person with an inherent sense of balance, compassion and fairness... an inherent sense of right and wrong. Part of the plan was to become this person, I wanted to be like one of the many women who post on this very website.

My boyfriend lied. He cheated and then he cheated again. I would be devastated and then he would apologize. He would ask, beg, plead for me to forgive him. After all, I told him I would love him unconditonally, I told him I would stand beside him and see him through therapy. He'd been hurt and needed love and compassion. This happened in the span of two years... lying and cheating twice, along with a few internet incidents. Starting therapy, stopping therapy. Eventually, I started to see a therapist. WalkingSouth gave me the best advice... he told me to stop obsessing about my boyfriends issues and focus on myself. He told me to find out why I would be so attracted to a man so badly broken. He also gently told me that my survivor friend probably held me quite dear but maybe not in the same way I held him. In a nutshell, many of these men were wounded by someone who claimed to love them, someone they loved and trusted. Until they have years of therapy, how could they possibly know what love is?

In order for me to be any kind of help, I had to also be healthy. There had to be conditions for him to receive my love. I wanted a man who wouldn't cheat, I deserved that. I did not want to be lied to again. I told him over and over that what he thought or felt didn't have to make sense but he had to tell the truth. I would never judge him and I would always tell him the truth. I told him he could trust me. I told him he deserved to be treated with respect too.

When he lied and cheated again, I was out. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. He pleaded and begged. He promised me it would never happen again that he was honest to God trying. Wanting to fix him (but not seeing that at the time), wanting him to love me like I loved him was so important that I couldn't see how I was keeping us both unhealthy. That was the broken in me. I wasn't helping him by loving him unconditionally.

I read in one of the posts where a survivor had said that he was told that he was hurt in relationship but that it would be in a relationship that he would find healing. I wasn't keeping my word by staying with him when his behavior was unacceptable... when he was acting out and doing relationship deal breakers. You have to say what you mean and do what you say. You have to show them by example that people have a right to be treated with respect. That leaving an unhealthy relationship is not selfish, it is self love. And when he said if I loved him, I wouldn't leave him I told him how could I stay in love with someone who lies and cheats, who sees me cry and hurt and does it again? I told him if you want to be truly loved there are things you cannot do... you don't get to lie, or minipulate to get what you want. You don't get to use people for sex or hurt them. I told him his uncle didn't deserve his love when he was a child... he didn't have a right to lie and minipulate him, to molest and rape him. I told my friend, you were too good for him and you are too good of a man to go through life without your word meaning anything. I won't be a part of your failing.

That was almost two years ago. He is in therapy now and from time to time I will hear from him. We were childhood friends and there is safety in that for the both of us. He is slowly gaining insight and has a better understanding to why his past relationships have failed. And I am seeing why after therapy some of the men on this website decide not to stay with their significant others, sometimes they heal but the spouse/girlfriend refuses or simply can't see her/his part in the unhealthy relationship. Some survivors get healthy and realize that they have grown while their significant other has not.

On my last birthday he called and told me that someday when he was confident that he could be the man I deserved, he was going to ask me if I'd marry him. He told me that I was the bestfriend he has ever had and then he said, "I deserve to be loved by someone like you". And I realized (in my case) by leaving my boyfriend..... I am a bit closer to being like some of the women I was so inspired by. The women here who sat boundaries down and balanced the no horseshit rule with gentleness and love.

After reading many posts here, I felt I wanted to remind the significant others that might find themselves wrapped up in the notion of unconditional love that they forget to look after themselves and that sometimes unconditonal love isn't always the answer for men who have no real sense of what an intimate healthy love is.

Good luck to you all.

#357717 - 03/26/11 01:46 PM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: Julia]
Still Offline

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 7011
Loc: FEMA Region 1
R U open to a survivor's perspective?

#357722 - 03/26/11 03:06 PM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: Still]
sally123 Offline

Registered: 11/29/10
Posts: 54
Julia, your post is so honest, wise, and heartfeLt(tears) ... Thank you for your wisdom, and inspiration. wishing you the best!

#357737 - 03/26/11 06:28 PM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: sally123]
head&heart Offline
New Here

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 17
Loc: Chose the hard place--left the...
Many thanks to Julia for her beautiful post regarding love and its boundaries and conditions. I am the wife of a survivor. We have been together for 27 years. I have pondered the nature of love and its limits and boundaries for many years. Here are my thoughts.

I have experienced unconditional love and have realized it exists in only one form of relationship…as mother of my three children. As parents we do not expect children to reciprocate emotionally nor do we expect children to fulfill our needs. The two year old who missed his afternoon nap and throws a tantrum while at the grocery store is not thinking of the fact that his mother was up all night with a colicky sibling. Nor should we expect him to do so. The job of the parent is to guide the growing child to eventually appreciate and internalize the social, cultural and interpersonal norms of a mature adult relationship. This means that the child must learn his own boundaries or he runs the risk of being abused by others. It also means that the child must learn to respect the boundaries of others or he risks becoming an abuser himself. I believe that most parents would agree that this process takes at least a couple of decades.

Secure, healthy, loving adult relationships require these boundaries. Love between adults is always conditional. I think we all agree that physical abuse is a boundary that must never be crossed, once crossed the most elemental conditions of love have been violated. Sexual abuse, emotional abuse and psychological abuse belong in this same category. They are boundary violations. The sexual abuse of a child is among the most severe of these boundary violations. It confuses love, sexuality and trust with betrayal, pain, and fear. The consequences of this particular egregious violation are why we are all here on MS.

However, loving adult partnerships are also about the loosening of boundaries between two individuals. This is the very nature of true sexual and emotional intimacy. That is why it is so special and reserved for the very few. Intimacy absolutely requires that two individuals trust one another. We must trust that one another’s elemental personal boundaries will not be violated before it is possible to achieve the intimate heart and soul connection we all crave. The adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse have problems with defining boundaries both for themselves and understanding the boundaries of ones they love. Sometimes they attempt to recreate the unconditional love between parent and child that they failed to receive. Sometimes they fall into a pattern of boundary testing, cycling between the extremes of trust and betrayal.

It is incumbent on all of us, partners and survivors, to closely examine our personal intimate relationships and ourselves. What are my boundaries? What are the boundaries of my partner? How do I define those boundary violations that constitute the conditions of love? For me, after 27 years, it is still a work in progress.


#357745 - 03/26/11 08:32 PM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: head&heart]
Lost Spark Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/04/04
Posts: 73
Loc: Chicago, IL
My love is unconditional... but, Julia, you have really hit something deeper into my soul than I think I ever wanted to realize.

I lost myself unfortunately. I became a lost and weak woman who took on my husband's buried emotions (sadness, betrayal from his brother, the pain and the anger (he expresses no anger towards to his perp. Contrary, he defends him because HE was abused by their older brother). I took it all on and just drowned. Emotional and mentally wrecked. When he came out to me as now believing he is gay, I was devastated. I thought, "what?!?! But I've been here all along...I've loved you unconditionally! Been here and now you want to go off with a man! You said you need MORE?!?!" There it was. I lost myself. No identity. No self-esteem. I begged. I pleaded. I denied that he was... I think it's turned him away.

He now rejects me. Completely. Even taking his friendship away too. So, after 15 years, I'm left with nothing to show. No husband. No friend. Nothing. He rejects me and tells me it's best for ME. That he not be here anymore...

I felt abandoned. but, with help from my therapist. I realized, I deserve more. He won't get better if I am here I guess. He'll always lean on me and continue to cheat, act out, lie and reject me. I am not a punching bag. I am not someone to rely on to always cheat out of happiness. If he doesn't love himself, how can he really love me?

Right now, i'm picking up the pieces. He's on his Weekend of Recovery and I keep having visions of him meeting someone during that time (I know there's one survivor there who just came out, getting divorced and living on his own... will my husband be influenced and swayed? Will he fall in 'love' with someone like him because he is going through the same...?) The thought just haunts me right now.

Or is he with someone already and that's why he spiraled, acted out continuously with no stopping for the past 6 months SINCE he started therapy..? He sprung everything on me within one month. A month ago he said we were working on us as well. AS ourselves also. But, that went out the window quickly...

How can I still have unconditional love? That's my battle right now.. It's a whole tirade and painful question...

I always thought I had unconditional love. Always.. But, now I'm being tested. Even being cruelly rejected.

Thank you Julia for the thoughts

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life." - John Lennon

#357747 - 03/26/11 08:48 PM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: Lost Spark]
hopeandtry Offline

Registered: 07/29/10
Posts: 476
Wow, Julia. That really helps me. I have been pondering how can I "unconditionally" love a man yet also expect him to treat me a certain way. I still think love itself can be unconditional...we can always love the PERSON...but we do not have to love the actions that hurt us and we can set boundaries.

I'm still working this out in my brain. I think I will always love my ex as a person unconditionally, but I will not allow myself to be treated badly, especially when he is not seeking help. I agree that there is a healthy balance between compassion/love and boundary setting. I am learning the boundary part now. I have walked away for the time being...forever maybe? It is not my job to convince him he needs help. It is not my job to convince him I care or love him. He knows I do. It is HIS job to get help if he wants to heal. It is HIS job to come to the realization that I was a loving partner and friend and that we could have been happy. He may realize it too late.

Like Lost Spark said, I lost myself. I took on his feelings. I put him first even when it meant abusing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Somehow I had the strength to walk away a few days ago.

@Robbie, I would like to hear what you and other survivors have to say. You can PM me if you like, until Julia responds to your question.

#357761 - 03/27/11 12:33 AM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: hopeandtry]
Julia Offline

Registered: 11/05/08
Posts: 76
I am open to anything you want to share.

Sally and H&H,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You both are still in your relationships so you must have gotten the balancing thing right! Wishing you the very best of everything!

There are so many degrees of love. You can have many people in your life and love them all differntly. My boyfreind told me many years ago that he didn't think he ever loved anyone. How does one go about trying to explain that concept to a person who feels/thinks not only that he's never felt love but that he's incapable of love. Funny, I blew that off at the time and steam rolled straight ahead with the relationship.... Hell, we were going to eventually get married and stuff, why sweat the small things??? DAH!!!

It does help knowing your not alone, that there are people who understand and who are willing to unselfishly share.... thank you for sharing.

Lost Spark,
I am so sorry that your hurting. I have read some of your posts and I can relate to so much of what you must be feeling. Of course you are married to your survivor where I was not... I imagine it makes it all the more devastating.

I also got lost in the relationship, I was reduced to a person I hardly recognized. My boyfriend's issues became all important and everything revolved around him and finding a way to get him to act right. If he was angry, I was anxious and nervous. If he cheated, I was anxious and nervous he'd do it again. If he was obsessing over sex, porn, the internet and/or another one night stand, I was anxious, nervous and obsessing about him. What I came to realize is that my boyfriend and I were two pieces of the same thing. We completed and enabled a perfectly dysfunctional relationship. It wasn't always that way between us, but when he took to spinning, I spun right along with him.

Like your husband, my friend turned very cold after I found a woman's number he'd had. He told me that he liked her a lot and that he didn't love me anymore. He was cold and robotic... he made up his mind and it was, what it was. In fact, he had known for a long time that he didn't love me but wasn't sure he wanted me gone for good. After loving him as much as I did, after growing up with him and being friends he no longer wanted my friendship. I didn't know who he was any longer. He had changed numbing tactics on me. This silence was worse than the rages. I felt that it was done. That was one of many breakups we had. He came back later and told me that he didn't know why he did that to me. That he loved me more than anything, blah blah blah.... I accepted the apology because I guess I plain hadn't hurt enough to want more for myself or him.

I don't know if your husband is homosexual or not. He probably doesn't know for sure. He is probably confused and overwhelmed with it all so he's going to shut out feeling anything your handing him. Same as my friend, he could feel for this woman he had just met but nothing for someone who has loved him since he was 15 years old.

I'm not sure if you are in therapy but it will only help you if you are. We don't know what will happen with your husband, most importantly he doesn't know. He has no idea who he is, he isn't even sure of his own sexuality. In all this mess there is a positive... he took away your option to try and work on your relationship, that leaves you the luxury of working on only you. In doing that, you will refocus all your attention on yourself and worry less and less with what he is doing. You will become healthier and stronger. If he comes back, your problem won't be so much about if he'll slip up again or if he'll stay dedicated to healing but more about you and what makes you happy.

I use to be afraid of letting go, of loosing him because for my entire adult life.... to different degrees.... I have loved my friend. I was afraid that I put all this time into him and if he ever stayed in therapy and continued to improve, what if some other woman got to enjoy what I should have coming to me?! I didn't want him to love anyone else, I didn't think I could love anyone else. Lost Spark, I wish that I could take my head off and put it on your neck so you'd know that I'm not feeding you a line.... it doesn't have to always be this way. You will get through this and be all the better for it. I know you know this, sometimes it helps hearing it from someone else.

We are all vulnerable souls making our way through life but we are also, powerful spiritual beings who are resilient and brave. Believe in yourself enough to let go and what is meant to be, will.

Love to all,

#357762 - 03/27/11 12:44 AM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: Julia]
Still Offline

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 7011
Loc: FEMA Region 1
I've got to keep it short as i'm in bad shape tonight.

I basically agree with you position on this. I do not think any acting out can't be avoided. Self control has got to be a priority with him. I just hate to see you sacrificing too much time and energy. You'll always be his frnd, but is this something you really want to get involved in for the long term (as in marriage)?

I will never re-marry nor have another relationship as I'm poison to others (don't tell me 'no' either). I think CSA truly ruins some of us beyond healthy relationships.

#357763 - 03/27/11 12:47 AM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: Julia]
worldscentre Offline

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 36
Loc: Ireland
Robbie, I'm open to a survivors perspective..

#357765 - 03/27/11 12:57 AM Re: Conditonal Love [Re: worldscentre]
worldscentre Offline

Registered: 02/09/11
Posts: 36
Loc: Ireland
Never got to finish..
So thanks for answering. I know in my soul what I need but in my heart what I want, there's the conflict!
Julia, I have those feelings. What if he moves to someone fresh, someone who isn't a reminder? But I suppose we have to be confident in us, who we are and how strong we are. I think we loose that, but we are strong. We stood by those we love but how about we stand by us? How about we say, now I will stand by me. It's terrifying and as I say it I weaken. I love him and always will but I need him to be strong and stand by me. Can he do that? Not yet, but I hope he will. I'm sorry if I'm rambling. I just need to keep sharing. And I find understanding and support in people I've never met so perhaps someday I'll find that in him.

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