Am I in love with him or who he pretended to be?
I've worked with a lot of women who are in a codependent and abusive relationship, or with a narcissist. And these types of relationships are intense! The ups and downs that accompany these types of relationships are extreme and are part of the reason why women stay.
It creates a trauma bond that can feel a whole lot, like love.
It also creates a lot of confusion. You are regularly given lip service with no follow through. You're consistently blamed for things that aren't your fault. You're accused of things you didn't do (i.e., cheating when he's the one cheating). But then you occasionally experience what I like to call "throwing the bait."
Your partner will plan an elaborate dinner and praise you for being such a wonderful person. He'll tear you down for a specific characteristic about you and then celebrate you for that very same thing the next day.
Just as you start to realize who this person's real character is, he'll "throw you the bait" of approval. Making you question your reality. And distrust your thoughts, wondering if he's that bad after all. Maybe he is changing.
And regardless of how long this goes on, and how much the person never changes, I generally hear the same thing.
I put up with this abuse because I'm in love him or her.
And you know what? I believe she means it when she tells me this.
But what I've come to see over time is that there are dynamics at play that can feel a whole lot like love but isn't genuinely healthy and true love.
Dana Morningstar puts it well in her book "Out of the Fog" when she says, "Love is based on honesty and trust and involves a person being treated with dignity and respect. Love is a feeling of safety and security. Love is knowing where you stand and knowing that the other person is on the same team as you.
If these elements aren't present; then it's not love.
It's "love addiction," and this unhinged neediness is often created by the instability of an abusive person and is part of the trauma bonds manufactured by the highs and lows of an emotional manipulator who is giving you what you need, and then pulling it away (or having it pulled away when you realize what they've been up to) when you least expect it." (p. 202).
Part of the confusion of what true love is that we often "fall in love" with who the person pretended to be rather than who they are.
If they had treated us with such contempt from the beginning, we likely wouldn't have gone on a second date.
But what I hear over and over again is women wanting to "go back to how it used to be." It's like they are desperately clinging to who this person used to be when in reality, that's never who they were.
The abuser is showing you his/her true colors during the abuse.
Who they pretended to be at the beginning of the relationship was a manipulation tactic to try and trap you.
The best thing you can do is to take a step back and allow yourself time to process what you've experienced at a distance. This will enable you to see the relationship for what it is, rather than what you want it to be.
"And once we reframe and redefine our understanding of the intense way we feel, it will also help our brain to process what's going on - because it causes a person a lot of mental anguish to think that they are still in love with a person who treats them so poorly.
Loving who you thought they were, or hoped they could be, makes a ton more sense, and it helps your brain get out of that loop of trying to make sense of how you could love someone who causes you so much pain. Because odds are who you hoped they could be (or who they pretended to be) was probably a pretty likable person that you had a lot of good times with. And odds are most people would like the charming, likable, vulnerable side of them too (and that's what they are relying on.)
So if you find yourself missing them, gently remind yourself that you love who you thought they were or who you thought they could become. Shifting your wording will help to relieve a lot of the mental anguish, shame, and anger that can come from thinking you miss or love them." (Out of the Fog, Dana Morningstar, p. 204).