Because maybe it wasn’t really love
I definitely had real, true feelings for him. My feelings ran deep and I held them strongly within me. These feelings influenced my desire to keep him in my life. To allow him to treat me as he did. Yes, my brain was washed by his manipulation, but I was not as unaware of everything as I ever let on. I certainly knew that he was not the greatest man on Earth. I was actually quite familiar with what drove him to behave as he did. It’s quite possible that this familiarity is what authorized me to stay as long as I did and suffer through what I have.
I told myself on many occasions that “I can handle this.” I convinced myself that I was the only one who could handle it. Handle him and his issues. I knew that I was “strong enough” to take what he would inevitably dish out, because I knew that the amazing man I had been introduced to during the early portion of our courtship was going to return to me once more. Because of what I knew and understood about the mechanisms that caused his shitty treatment of me, I was sure that I could manage his issues because I was the only one who could love him the way he needed to be loved. I was the one who could show him that he is worthy of love and that he deserved the strength and purity of my love. When he told me early on that he was a Monster, my response was, “bring it on,” and I filed that statement under “depressed and moody,” as would anyone who’d suffered childhood trauma be.(The fact that he, personally, had warned me about himself on a couple of occasions is a story for another day.) I already knew that I was the only one who could handle everything that he brought to the table, and my feelings were already strong enough that I knew I had to see this through.
Because of my generally laid-back and chill nature, I just knew that I could offset his unstable moods and depressions. I knew that I could actually and truly be the yang to his yin, the light to his dark, the calm to his storm. (None of this means that I ever thought myself perfect or without my own issues, but just in how my person, my love, my being relates to him and his particular set of challenges.) To a surprisingly great extent, I was the very compliment to who he is. My calm, giving, empathetic and compassionate (and codependent) nature was an amazingly fitting compliment to his generally unsettled, stingy and selfish (and narcissistic) way of being. I never judged him for who he was and I always accepted him for the person he was at any given time, regardless of how that person had been treating me. I never carried any ideas about changing him or fixing him or saving him from himself, but when he told me that he needed to and intended to fix himself, I offered him my support and love while he did the work that he informed me that he needed to do. I felt as if it was somehow owed to me to get to see that man I knew at the beginning again. I was willing and able to relieve whatever burden that I could during his journey through himself, while not offering to take the journey or do the work for him. I offered encouragement in the form of books or articles that could help him or bring attention to the fact that he could actually be helped. I saw strength in his awareness and willingness to do what he needed to do for himself. He did seem bound and determined to do what needed to be done for the betterment of himself.
It wasn’t until I realized that he was literally unable to (also known as did not WANT to and never actually intended to) do the inner work he needed to do that my feelings shifted. His inner world was dark, deep and complicated and I understood his very legitimate fear of going in there and facing those demons. I saw how fragile he really was and easily he avoided and ran away from that which he needed to get done (not unlike my own avoidant behaviors). My compassion for him grew at this time, because I absolutely understood his aversion and anxiety at confronting his darkness — I would have felt the same were I facing what he needs to. But my feelings for him also changed, and I think that while I did not love him any less, a new sentiment began to grow at this time…. pity.