I am recently divorced with three children, two from a previous marriage, and one from the last.
I have a real problem with love and relationships. I have been deeply in love before, but the men never loved me in return. Actually, I was so in love with my first husband, I couldn't stand it, but the strangest thing happened as soon as he professed his love to me. I started feeling trapped -- part of it was his behavior. I was definitely the one in the relationship who did all the work. He contributed very little of himself to me or our children, he was physically abusive to me for five years and I was very dependent (I come from an abusive family).
After I left my first husband, I remained divorced for 10 years. I was in three relationships where I gave and he took, but I always felt "used" and never loved. It seems the minute I feel love for somebody, their feelings change too, but in the opposite direction. I really wasn't "in love" with my last husband but did love him for a short while. He was constantly trying to act superior to me, treat my children badly, argue, and not be fair financially or sexually. He never wanted to do things together and complained if we did.
We went to marriage counseling but my mind was pretty much made up by that time. I had him kicked out of the house for sexual abuse. I divorced him and have dated very little for one and a half years because I just hate men now, even though I realize they can't all be terrible. I very much want to be in a love relationship, but cannot even seem to get going dating. I don't like anyone I meet, feel bored, or the "signals" come out that there is something wrong with him. I don't need a man and will probably never marry again, but do want something long-term that enhances my life.
My question is, is there really such a thing as "love"? Am I looking for something that is just not realistic? My friends tell me I don't give anyone a chance but I just don't want to waste their time or mine when I feel like I will dump them later anyhow. I want to feel attracted to the man I date, but I haven't met anyone I find attractive who isn't a player and that is not the kind of man I want. What do you think?
Kerri (40 year-old woman)
Thanks for sending a great question.
You have been "looking for something" and not finding it, and that makes you question the possibility of it's existence. That makes sense. The best answer I can give you is that "love" makes a better, more effective verb for most folks than it does a noun.
Love. Loved. Have loved, had loved. To love. Loving. How do you love?
I mean, what are the actions which indicate the verb "love" in your life? How do you love? With your children, for instance, how do you love? I'm suggesting that the actions which indicate love to your children are very much a part of your life every day. So, you do love. You show love. You have love in your life.
The way you love your children is probably very natural, graceful, and intuitive. It might even be so easy to love your own kids that there is no effort involved. Certainly there is no "looking for" love with your children. You do not have to search for love with them. The love began and has grown as the actions you have taken in response to them. Your actions and your behaviors are the love.
You have had some very disappointing and abusive relationships and experiences with men, so that you "just hate men now". And yet you say, "I very much want to be in a love relationship" with a man.
What do you make of your expectations of yourself? Apparently, you expect yourself to be able to love - through actions and behaviors - a person you "hate". Does this make sense to you?
My recommendation to you, Kerri, is that you get into therapy and/or group counseling to work on and process the disappointment, pain, anger, loss, hurt, rejection and abandonment feelings you have towards men. I'd encourage you, too, to consider examining the other losses and disappointments throughout your life and childhood which may still color your hopes, dreams and self-expectations.
When you are free of the pain of your past, you will be able to love (a man). In fact, that love will be as natural, graceful and easy as loving your kids is. That does not mean the relationship will be problem-free, but you will at least be able to know that your loving behaviors and actions make sense. That conflict (inside you) will be gone.
For now, please remember that since you "just hate men now," this is not a good time to try to show the actions and behaviors of love towards any man. (Your unconscious mind is so aware of this, by the way, that it is apparently not allowing you to find any likely love partners anyway.)
Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT