I was with a man five years on and off. We lived together at one point. He lies to everyone about a drinking problem, which he’s in AA for. At the end, he spent less time with me. He could never have a conversation about our relationship.
I’m wondering if he did love me?
-Theresa (New York)
Dr. Wendy Walsh’s Answer:
Oh, Theresa, my stomach fell when I read your raw and honest question. “Did he love me?” This simple question begs a complicated answer. And before I can give my complicated answer, I must bring to light all the other questions that your first question holds inside.
They include (in no particular order of importance): Was I a fool to love him? Did this drunken liar even have the capacity to love? What is love anyway? Do men without words of love still feel love? Did my daddy love me? Will anyone love me again? Will that love feel this awful?
You can exhale. Yes, he loved you, but in the only way a drug-addicted, messed up brain can love: with inconsistent affection and frequent withdrawal. And I’ll bet rages were saved only for those he loved. And you stood by, taking it. Because you loved him.
Were you a fool? Exhale again. No. You were pure and innocent and attached and, most of all, hopeful. Now take a long slow inhale before I answer the next question.
Did my daddy love me? This is the tender question you’ve got to answer before you can move on to a love that feels safe instead of fragile and confusing. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he had his own demons to wrestle while you stood by bearing childhood witness to his horrors. Maybe he just wasn’t there, so you can’t know for sure.
But the thing is this, your question is not really about your boyfriend, or your father, or even your mother, who may have a horse in this race, too. Your question is about you. Can you love yourself enough? Are you lovable even after men have told you otherwise?
Exhale now, and believe this: You are loveable. You are a steamboat stocked with enough love to hold a man, a family and a world. But you just need to navigate a bit better. Don’t let your ship run aground again.
Five years is too much time to waste on a fool, sweet darling. When a man hurts you, you must talk it out. Of course, the talking should happen during a calm or tender moment, not in the heat of the moment. If he can’t negotiate and you feel worse afterward, then take your love elsewhere.
And always repeat the mantra, “I am loveable. I am loveable. I am loveable.” Because you are.
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