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What Love Is Not, Part 2

I recently read the book It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. If you intend to read it, you should probably skip this post for now because there are spoilers. The book tells a love story about Lily and Rile that initially seems like a fairy tale. Lily is young and beautiful and has a successful floral shop. Rile is a handsome neurosurgeon resident. They are madly in love. The one little snafu is that Rile is physically abusive. Not all the time. He is Prince Charming 98% of the time. But sometimes he becomes violent when he’s jealous. And he knows it’s a problem. He had a traumatic event for which he has sought therapy since he was a child but the episodes of rage persist.

Lily’s father had also been physically abusive, and she swore that if she were ever in a relationship with someone who hurt her she would leave right away. She would not be like her mom. But when it happened to her, she realized that it’s not so simple to walk away from the person you love because of the 15 seconds he was someone else. Rile was horrified the first time. He said it would never happen again. Shouldn’t she at least give him the benefit of the doubt, rather than throw the whole relationship away? After the second incident Lily found out about the trauma. Maybe she could help him control his anger. Help him walk away before things got too heated. After the third incident, they had just gotten married, moved into an expensive apartment. And while Lily was in the ER, she found out she was pregnant.

Lily hides the abuse from her mom initially because she assumes that her mom will take Rile’s side and tell her to stay in her marriage and make it work. Instead, her mom tells her that if Rile truly loves her, he wouldn’t let her come back. And ultimately that’s what Rile does when Lily asks him what advice he would give to their daughter if her boyfriend were abusive. So he must really love her.

Colleen Hoover wrote this story because her father had been abusive. And when she was 3 and her sister was 5, her mom left her father even though she didn’t have the financial independence that Lily had. They lived on beans and mac and cheese for a year. Her dad still claimed that her mom was the love of his life.

I’ve written a blog post about the famous love verse from the Bible. To paraphrase:

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil. It rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In that post I wanted to see how my love measured up to this standard. I got a low C. Which at the time I considered failing. So at least I have grown enough to accept being average. In rereading the post it was discouraging to see that my faults then are still my faults now. But like trauma, which cracks the foundation of your development, the scars of having my heart broken remain. So loving again is never a smooth path.

But I believe that God does not expect us to be perfect. That is the way I understand original sin. Even if this verse outlines the love that we are meant to strive for in giving to others and ourselves, we don’t have to score 100. So perhaps it’s not fair to say of people who hurt you that if they really loved you…. We are not perfect, so our love is not perfect.

I have wrestled with what this means in real life, rather than just philosophizing about love. If people can love you but hurt you, then even though the other person may love you, sometimes love is not enough.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

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