If It Hurts, Is it Love? An Opinion Test

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2013 Nancy Virden

(1) He calls her. She hesitates to pick up the phone because she knows what will come out at her if she does. Her unemployed status has disappointed him. He has not seemed to notice that her volunteerism efforts have produced joy for children, in fact he has had no response at all when she attempts to share this, her greatest joy.

This phone call will be no different. She will withhold her emotions, and he will assume the position of one in charge by informing her exactly how she is failing.

Does he love her?

(2) He ducks every time he walks through that door.  His mother used to hide behind it and swat him when he returned from school. Now that he is an adult and independent, it surprises him that he still feels apprehension whenever he crosses that old threshold.

She passed away last year, and the duty of cleaning up her estate fell to him. Even after several months of coming to that house and not being swatted, he continued to feel the need to tense for a sprint at the sight of that door.  His reaction is as if he were still a child.

Did she ever love him?

(3) Her children are the joy of her heart. She would do anything for them. Memories of their childhood generally make her laugh as she compares the youngsters to the adults they have become.

She made mistakes as a parent, but had always been ready to listen to their points of view. She learned what they needed, tried to respond in kindness and firmness when necessary, and had apologized when she had been truly wrong.  No one had been swatted from behind doors, or insulted for mistakes. She grins as she recalls all the spilled milk, water, Kool-Aid,  and whatever. No one had been made to feel a fool.

Does she love them?

The opinion: According to a recent conversation, the first two stories are examples of people loving the best they know how. I disagree. Story three matches that description better.

I am not willing to call abuse love at all. While no one loves perfectly, love is not selfish. Damaging behavior committed in a reckless and thoughtless manner is selfish. Not considering another person’s pain (or joys) is selfish. Ignoring a person’s plea to stop treating them a certain way because it hurts them,  is definitely selfish.

What do you think? Does real love hurt?


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

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