How long will you keep trying? How long will you keep giving? How long will it take to reciprocate that love? How long will you keep pouring from an empty cup? How long is too long?
These are the very same questions I asked myself once upon a time.
This just hit home and we haven’t even gotten started yet. Falling in love is easy-peasy because the honeymoon phase is ever so sweet, staying in love requires resilience and strive, and falling out of love is seemingly the most painful elusive realization. What is love? What defines love? Does love come with a manual? What makes love so magical?
I want to take you back to a time when love didn’t love me back, a time when motherhood overwhelmed me and “union-hood” underwhelmed me.
There was a time when I shared my deepest secrets and opened up my heart (if that’s humanly possible but let’s go with it) to a man who threw my pain right back at me in many disagreements but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time I was pregnant, five months into the pregnancy in 2007 as the membranes ruptured. It was a rough pregnancy, my first pregnancy and he wanted nothing to do with it, he had even convinced friends to talk me into an abortion. Insulted me endlessly and kept me locked up because of the shame my pregnancy brought him as a grown man. I recall waking up in the hospital countless times as I passed out due to panic attacks having discovered his cheating ways and mistreatment. My mother and granddad wanted me out of that house, to deliver our son and to send me overseas to pursue my undergraduate degree and masters but I was trauma-bond by his ill-treatment that I suffered a miscarriage, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when he told me I was unattractive because I gained weight after having our beautiful daughter, he couldn’t stand the sight of me, always looked at me in disgust and found every excuse to be out of town. This disgust extended to the bedroom, he couldn’t each touch me and moved out of our bedroom because my size took over the bed, and that’s how we lived for 7 years. He always left the master bedroom to me as he occupied the guestroom, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when he made me feel unworthy of affection and intimacy, dragged me through a sexless marriage for more than 6 years as he proudly split the sheets with women and rubbed his promiscuity in my face. The times I confronted him he called me a psycho and told me to stay out of his business but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when I did everything humanly possible to make him see and feel my pain, he never held me in his arms, neither did he reassure me that everything was going to be alright. He couldn’t see the human in me, the very same woman who sacrificed her womanity for him, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when he made me re-live the colonial era with racial remarks to the point he told me (and her) that our daughter was a “mzungu” (white person), she wasn’t black or mixed, she was white and he didn’t want her mingling with Africans. So where did that leave her ‘negro’ genealogy if not in her kinky hair and African features? but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when I considered suicide because, at that point, life wasn’t worth living. I was made to feel so uncomfortable, as he welcomed women into our own home. I had no say in the home and it was his way or the highway. I recall the many times he’d turn off the TV as I was watching, locked me out of the house, and the countless times he threatened me. Or the endless message notifications from women as the nude photos slid in, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when he thought degrading me behind closed doors wasn’t enough so he had me sitting on the offender’s bench at the local police station. Claiming money had gone missing in the home just after hiring a new worker, he had reported the matter to the police and convinced me to make a statement only to be interrogated like a criminal as he left the premises and went about his business. This left the officers baffled as his claims didn’t match what I told them. The amount of money he reported missing wasn’t the same amount he told me, the maid, officers neither the chief officer. There was no case at the end of the day and this kind of continuous shame became a way of life as I suffered in silence, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when he kidnapped our daughter for three months and threatened to keep her longer if I didn’t withdraw the divorce court case. I recall I was studying my masters at the time and unemployed, as he up and left me with rent and utilities pending. As if that wasn’t enough he continued the harassment online as I spent sleepless nights awake, hungry and house hunting with my car fuel on a budget. I used the little resources I had to report him at the consulate offices in two separate countries and the local police as I fought for my daughter’s return, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when the silent treatment became a way of life. We would go weeks without talking under the same roof, as you put on a show for everyone else in public. I was pushed out of the way many times as we brushed shoulders. I couldn’t share any successes with him in fear of irritating the demons within, so I held my excitement within and put on a brave face, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when he had serious financial problems and offered to accommodate him to cut costs. That act of kindness, alongside many others, went unnoticed, he never moved out! Started controlling and insulting me in front of our daughter, brainwashed her and that toxicity left me seeking mental refuge in friends homes on most days and nights. I recall our daughter telling teachers at school that daddy was always shouting and mommy was always crying, she was only 4 years old at the time and that shattered me. I also recall him buying his own food as we watched him eat but that didn’t stop me from providing for the whole family and that family included him, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when he made me question my sanity as I slipped into a state depression, I was gas-lit, I became his emotional slave, I had no right to speak up, defend nor support myself. I was walking on eggshells because I didn’t want to trigger him. I lived through a decade of emotional abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, and discriminative abuse, but that didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
There was a time when I felt lonely, I had so much love to give, so much joy to share and I had such an appreciation for life. I just wanted him to see the world through my eyes but he was too blinded with hate towards me. I suffered in silence, ridiculed by his family and unsupported by mine as he put on the facade as a loving husband and father. I shut down, stopped fighting for what would never be and rediverted that love, but that still didn’t stop me from loving a man who didn’t love me back.
So what about the questions I asked myself? Yes, I stopped trying, I stopped giving, I gave up on reciprocating that love, stopped pouring from an empty cup because that longing to be loved back was never going to happen and I accepted it.
What was love?
Then, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I thought perseverance was love, I thought suffering was love, I thought slavery was love, I thought this abuse was love because no one gave me the manual of love.
What changed my outlook though? Love did! I didn’t know or understand the life I was living because I thought that was something normal in relationships. I thought it was the woman’s job to fight for the family, fight for love and be unloved. I thought it was ok for a woman to stick it through. When I told my story to friends and those closest to me, they wept and wept, I didn’t understand why. Until I wept at the realization that I was living in a “hell” I created because I allowed it to continue. This had to change!
What is love?
After opening yet another nutritious can of worms (my life story) I came to the realization that I was love. I had bottled up my love, built a defence system stronger than the walls of Babylon to avoid getting trampled on again. But why was I preserving this love for another man instead of filling my own cup first? Why did I hate myself as much, why did I feel undeserving of the love I gave to everyone else but myself?
I had to redefine love…
Love is kind because it takes a kind soul to know one. Love is unconditional because no matter what people throw at you, you always choose understanding over malice. Love is compassionate because, without compassion, wisdom dies a miserable death. Love is peace because inner peace is self-realization, the greatest gift to mankind. Love is me because, without this body, my soul wouldn’t have reawakened to this knowing. Love is something you give without demanding anything in return, love is a feeling but an illusion at the same time. Love is basically what you make it.
I choose love above all else, and in all honesty, I choose not to define it but to see it, smell it, touch it, feel it and just be in its presence for love lives within me. I am a ticking love bomb, and the day I cross paths with another enlightened being will be magical.
Does love come with a manual?
I believe that we transcribe our own manuals through different life experiences. I know what I deserve so I have no intention of settling for less. I know what love is now, I have lived it and I know I am worthy of someone who understands kindness, compassion, peace. mindfulness and life.
I know that I can no longer pour from an empty cup, so I have grown to love-self fiercely and unapologetically. Remember, “If you don’t love yourself, no one else will”. Now that’s my love manual.
What makes love so magical?
Awareness, acceptance, trial and error, faith, hope, God, the Universe, mother nature, anything and everything that makes you feel whole and complete. A significant other comes in as an accessory of these magical truths.
How do you love someone who doesn’t love you back?
You need to come from a compassionate and evolved point of view, put your ego aside and appreciate what stands before you. It can be really hard loving someone who hurt you so bad but remember we are human after all, and ‘perfection’ isn’t in the Heal with Sheila vocabulary. In the midst of the chaos I lived by these three realizations:
1. I saw him as a soul
As a soul having a human experience I had to let go of the pain, zen out and face the reality that these circumstances were part of my soul journey, not a death sentence. Before I realized I was a healer or classified as one, I didn’t know that God had sent me my first patient. This man was lacking the aura of love and I had to give it in abundance. It was rather unfortunate that I suffered through it, but I also knew that karma was at play and there was no way I was planning on reliving the same life with the same person in another lifetime. It had to end here with all the love and tolerance I had left in me.
2. I saw him as a traumatized man
You heard the saying, “hurt people, hurt people”? His hurt wasn’t directed at me but through me towards his bitter childhood, growing up in a toxic environment with an emotionally unavailable father and a mother who survived emotional abuse too. All he knew was the repeated cycle of abuse and that was how he defined love.
He defined love as being the sole provider, he defined love the way his father defined love through promiscuity, he defined love through merely existing. But what he didn’t realize was that he was walking in the same shoes as his father, he often convinced himself, “I am not like my father”, “he used to throw everything in sight and yell”, “he was a bad man”. Then he would commend his father, “I am like my dad, he never had children out of wedlock”. So what exactly did he mean? That I was lucky enough he chose me to mother his offspring? That it was ok he moved to the guest bedroom and left me the master bedroom, unlike his father who took the master bedroom? or that I should accept his cheating ways because he did me a favour? It could have meant anything but it wasn’t my place to draw up such conclusions but to understand his dimension of thought. It did put a lot of things into perspective and I knew that I had a job to do, to break the generational curses and energy of hurt, hate, resentment, fear, insecurity, unworthiness and ignorance.
I redefined love, redefined the family network and redefined life, unfortunately, his soul wasn’t ready for this knowledge but I am very glad I did my part and planted the seeds of power, knowledge and healing.
3. I saw him as a classification
I went high and low trying to understand this personality because I didn’t understand his mannerisms. The same way a doctor examines a patient giving the prognosis, diagnosis then eventually a prescription.
I knew the prognosis was a wounded inner child, the diagnosis was a narcissistic personality disorder and his prescription was self-healing. I had put a name to the problem and that helped me understand his psychopathic condition better. That didn’t excuse his behaviour in any way because he was very much aware of his actions, hence the manipulative personality. So I started researching, joined support groups and shared my stories online as a survivor of narcissistic abuse.
These three realizations helped me through the years, I chose to give love as a sister in spirit, not intimate love because with “intimate love” comes expectations, and expectations lead to unfulfillment and eventually heartbreak. I sincerely hope they will do the same in your life. Healing from such toxicity isn’t easy, so don’t expect it to happen overnight.
Do you believe in love? I do! because I still chose to love someone who didn’t love me. Their hate had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. I gave love as my dharma and whatever he chose to do with it became his karma. There’s nothing more beautiful than truth, knowing that you gave it your best, knowing that you did your best and knowing that it was time to change course. I am forever grateful for my life experiences because without them I wouldn’t have had a story to tell and people to heal. I thank God for rewarding me with this power, knowledge and strength!