What if Your Love Language is Abuse?

“I am amazed by how many individuals mess up every new day with yesterday.” ― Gary Chapman

If you’re over thirteen years old, you’ve probably heard about Gary Chapman and his book, “The Five Love Languages” in which he states that we all give and receive love in specific ways.

Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch are the five ways in which we either give love or desire to receive love by our loved ones, but typically our spouses and romantic partners.

As revolutionary a concept as this has been, it’s incomplete, and based on the title you already know what I’m about to say: People give and desire love by giving and desiring abuse.

I’m not talking about BDSM type of stuff. I’m talking about people who when they are abandoned, physically hurt, lied to and hurt in any other emotional way, they deem this to be love. I’m talking about people who do this to illustrate that they love someone.

I’m talking about a complete flip in what people consider to be actually loving. And what’s interesting about this is that most people who subscribe to giving and receiving this kind of love are completely unaware of it.

They would choose among the five love languages listed above, but lurking in the shadows is also the desire to get hurt physically or emotionally mangled or to do it to someone else.

What would cause someone to want and/or give abuse as a token of love?

The model of love that one had growing up is the model of love that one will perpetuate, whether it was a healthy model or a sick one. This model of love can be learnt in two ways:

1. How did your parents/caregivers treat you?

2. How did your parents/caregivers treat each other or their romantic partners?

For example, if you were given gifts growing up by your parents as a token of love, it is likely that you will express love this way or want to be loved this way. Perhaps even both.

If your parents gave each other gifts just to show love, you are learning how to show love from the closest romantic relationship you have in your life and you will likely give or want gifts as a token of love.

(On a lesser note, you might’ve seen others being given gifts growing up and longed to get gifts yourself but never or rarely did. It’s possible that you could want to express love or give love in this way.)

If you were abused, or you witnessed abuse, even if you hated what you saw, even if you vowed to never become that, it may very well happen that you will either physically/emotionally abuse your partner or be abused yourself.

As family counsellor Dr. Dorothy Law Nolte famously wrote all the way back in 1954, “Children live what they learn.” Abusers may not be inherently bad people and people who go from relationship to relationship are not consciously wanting to be abused, but if the model one has for love is abuse, this is the model one will unfortunately perpetuate.

Sexual attraction is already intense as it is. Mixing a toxic model of abuse with sexual attraction is an extremely dangerous cocktail.

With regards to addressing this issue, we can look at (1) if you are in such a relationship and (2) if someone you know is in such a relationship.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, whether as the abuser or the abused, thanks for reading this far. You’re aware of the issue and you know that your current situation is less than ideal to say the least.

Attending couples counselling is perhaps not something you haven’t thought of, but don’t wait anymore. Just go and talk to someone. You need new models of love and romantic relationships because I can guarantee that there are things you can bet are loving but are definitely not loving.

If you think you can do this on your own, consider this. Do you think a fourth grader can teach himself calculus? Probably not, right? Why is that? Because s/he doesn’t have the foundational skills to be able to figure it out. He has some very elementary stuff and even those might not be properly cemented in this young mind.

Similarly, even though you have some skills that are showing you that your relationship isn’t healthy, you still lack the skills to understand why certain things you do are detrimental and why you constantly choose the same dysfunctional people to be with.

The only way through this is to get someone who understands, has healthy love relationships in their life and can communicate how you can have a healthy relationship yourself. They are the compass you need out of the destruction.

If you are someone who wants to give help to someone you know or suspect is in an abusive relationship, this might be challenging.

For starters, they may not want your help. If this is the case, do not force them. This will only cause them to cling more to their relationship. Remember, humans aren’t that fond of change, even when it benefits them.

Talk to them about the relationship. If they express that they’re trapped, suggest they get a counsellor. They need a new model of what love is and how relationships work.

If they say everything’s fine, but you still suspect that’s a lie, ask if you can leave a number for a counsellor with them. If yes, give it. If no, don’t. It’s not fun to see people suffer but we can’t help everyone at any given time. A sad reality, but the reality nonetheless.

With that said, if you see yourself in this post, it’s not the end of the world. Ultimately, there was something you learnt that wasn’t serving you, but you unconsciously keep looking for because that’s all you knew. Life isn’t playing games with you. You just need a new model of love and relationships to replace this old one.

Healthy models exist, as people are living them right now. Some of these people had to unlearn old models or certain aspects of old models that kept them in a cycle of hurt. But there are opportunities to get relationships that actually work. All you have to do to begin that journey is the decision to have a new model of what love is.

Written by

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

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