One of the most frequent things partners of abusers say is, I love you, but..." This is a common theme in abusive relationship stories.
Partners in abusive relationships regularly use the "I love him, but..." reasoning. And it goes the same way for the opposite sex, "I love her, but..." However, stating our love isn't supposed to be followed by a "but" - because "but" contrasts or negates what it follows.
We all have things we wish were different about our partners and there's nothing wrong with that. These are typically things like: I wish he would put things away after he uses them, or clean-up after himself, or I don't like that she shops so much. We all can say I wish something was different about our partner. Yet in abusive relationship stories these personal preferences aren't the things we use to follow the "I love him, but..."
Here's post I wrote on social media describing what "I love you's" usually look like in relationships with abuse.
A lot of the stories of relationships with abuse, like Karyn's, don't have a short list of things that follow the statement of love, but aren't truly loving. Sadly, she is far from alone when she says, "I love him, but he . . . hurts me, uses me, cheats on me, doesn't care about me." Other things that can follow are: "he chooses porn over my feelings", "she wants to control everything I do", "he puts me down in front of our kids", or "she tells me I'm not a real man".
Liz has a little different abusive relationship story than Karyn. Her husband looks great from the outside. He's a good financial provider and has never cheated on her. From all outward appearances he looks like a great husband, but inside the family he's a different man. But she is a victim of verbal emotional abuse because he critiques, criticizes, and demeans almost everything she does. So she doesn't make phone calls around him so she won't have to hear afterward his critique of what she should have said differently; she regularly hears criticism of how she dresses and looks; she doesn't bring her friends around him because he'll call them "fat or lazy" or question why their husband doesn't have a better job. Last month he put down his teenage daughter by calling her a "twit" and later defended what he said by looking up the definition online and saying it meant something other than the negative connotation everyone knows it to mean.
When we hear relationship stories sometimes the abuse is very obvious -- the guy who hits his wife or the woman who berates her boyfriend in public. And sometime the abuse is harder to spot -- it's hidden in sarcastic humor or underlies subtle criticisms.
Regardless of how obvious the abuse is abused partners have to make right in their head what is really wrong. "I love you, but..." is one way to do that. Two mind games we play on ourselves to make sense of being and staying in an abusive relationship is rationalizing and justifying. Let's look at the definition of each:
- Rationalizing -- attempt to explain or justify (one's own or another's behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate.
- Justifying -- show or prove to be right or reasonable.
So how do abused partners stay in abusive relationships? They rationalize it -- making sense of something that doesn't make sense. After all, how else do you explain loving someone who doesn't treat you lovingly? Nobody loves to be unloved. They also justify it -- making right what is really wrong. "I love you, but..." is a way to rationalize and justify being with someone who doesn't love us the way we need or deserve.
When you hear relationship stories be sure to listen for the signs of abuse. The signs typically start with a rationalizing statement like, "I love him, but..." And if you say this, you may be in an abusive relationship yourself.
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