What is love? The one question I’ve asked myself time and time again. Yet, as the big 5-0 approaches I recently felt even further from finding the answer to that question as a series of events have unfolded in my personal life.
You would think with all my life experience behind me I would know better by now. Sadly, this is not the case. I’ve known anything BUT real love. The kind of love that sets your soul on fire. The kind of love that you can’t wait to be in its presence. The kind of love that stays up all night talking and cuddling. The kind of love that can argue and disagree yet do it respectfully and in a healthy way. A love that doesn’t hold you in contempt all the time. Love that sees your true worth and protects it. A love that will be there for you when you breathe your last breathe or face the worst tragedy in your life.
The Paths of Childhood Trauma
Does love inherently exists in our hearts? I believe pure love can exist during the tender years of birth to age 6. However, if those years were highly reactive, neglectful, physically abusive or manipulative, chances are you do not experience the true meaning of love.
There comes a price later on in life to the child who grew up like this. It can often go one of two ways. It can either make a child crawl inward and hide behind a false self image in order to protect itself from harm and danger in the future OR it can create empathy for those around us leading us into all sorts of trauma, risk taking, burnout, resentment, excessive worrying, controlling and terrified of intimacy, all this in seeking the approval of others around us, leaving us deeply wounded.
The Kiss of the Empath & the Narcissist
It was like God handed him down from the clouds. There I was sitting in church running the children’s ministry when this talk dark and handsome man dressed all in black strutted into the sanctuary. He had that kind of look of “here I am!”. What I saw was the man I prayed for. I had literally wrote in my journal of what I wanted in a man. Someone told me once, to write down my desires for a husband in a journal and pray for him. So I did. I prayed for a Spanish man, tall(not sure why I picked that, very rare will you find a tall Latino), I wanted him to have long arms that would wrap around me to protect me, he had to have a heart after God, he had to go to church, he would be a hard worker, he had to be attractive (not to sound shallow but there has to be an attraction, am I right?), he had to want children, he had to be brave and he had to be strong. WAIT!!!!! I forgot something, he had to have a HEART that knew how to LOVE.
Of all the things I prayed for in a man, I forgot to pray for a heart that could love. Love! How could I have forgotten the most important part of any human relationship? Of a potential husband? If I wasn’t looking for love what was I looking for? I’ve learned over the last several months what I was looking for was someone to “fix”, someone in need of being loved and cared for, not a mutual partner. I was looking for someone to take care of and seek approval for my efforts. Just-like-my mother-daughter relationship. I didn’t see it coming. The man I said “I do” too, brought me down to a level I would never understand until seven months ago. .
The Price of Loving an Imposter
Imagine you wake up one day and everything you thought you had known and loved was suddenly shattered to the ground beneath you. You have had a revelation of the truth and it rips you to your core. You always felt there was something wrong but your determination to make the best of your life trumped any doubts or intuitions that kept knocking at your hearts door for years. You believed all the “well meaning” words family members or clergy spoke over you and into your life; “love him unconditionally”, “pray for him”, “forgive him so that you shall be forgiven”, “divorce is a sin”, “its not the will of God to leave”, “love him to Christ”, “be a good godly woman”, “my brother would be dead without you”, “he needs you”. Or the perhaps it was the hoovering and manipulative words spoken by him directly to you, “I love you”, “I will change I promise”, “I’ll get closer to God”, “I’ll never do it again”, “I’ll get help” or perhaps in their true character when you tell them your leaving they say things like, “your unstable”, “your evil”, “your not a godly woman”, “your crazy”, “your selfish”. “Your practicing witchcraft”.
Even through all this, you kept telling yourself you can DO this! You pray a little harder, you read a few more self help articles, you join a ladies group, you give him even more pleasure, you cook his favourite meals, you sacrifice your time with family and friends and even your own children at times just to show him your love and commitment. BUT, it’s never enough but some how you find the strength to keep pushing yourself and fighting through the uncertainty of his love for you. The sleepless nights, the endless tears, the depression, the anxiety, the busyness, the distractions, the fatigue, and the heartache finally turns to exhaustion and a mental breakdown.
The Shock to the Soul
When we are facing continual emotional trauma over days, months and years it will eventually catch up to us and our body will begin shutting down. It’s the bodies natural defence when under attack for a long period of time. My soul had been shocked and my heart was broken.
The soul is the mental abilities of a living being made up of reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking, etc. The bible says in Proverbs 23:7 “so a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. A man who thinks he is above reproach, a self sufficient being, the king of his castle, the best of the best, above others, grandiose, perfect, and a part of his own created false self image is a man of a prideful spirit and has no room in his heart for the things of God, mainly love. God is love. He created it and He gave it, unconditionally. It was these truths I’ve recently discovered through my own journey on the path with a narcissist.
The False Self Image
When we create our own image whether we “think” it’s good or bad, it conflicts with the image God created us in. If the image in our own minds does not line up with Gods image, it is a false identity and cannot be trusted. The sad part is some people who even profess to “know” God and to love Him, can so eloquently and convincingly have you believe that they are indeed a good person. It’s a trap and a highly manipulative game many people play. In fact many of them preach from the pulpits, lead the worship teams, and even spectate from the audience all while raising their hands and giving “sacrificial” praise to the God of heaven and earth.
It’s something that always puzzled me for many years, however, it’s something that man chooses for himself. He either surrenders his whole self to the heart of God OR he loves his life as a lie taking others down with him. It’s a path to a pit that is so isolating, cruel, cold, loveless, manipulative and evil. More than likely you are dealing with someone with NPD (narcissistic personality disorder). These are not people with narcissistic traits which most of us have to some degree or another, instead NPD is a very real and highly defective personality disorder that can destroy peoples lives.
As I find my way back to wholeness both from a destructive marriage and a traumatic childhood, I look to the One who has been the “lover of my soul” and who kept me through the flames of trauma and brokenness. Yeshua, lover of my soul.