How do I love someone who hates themselves?
June 28, 2018 12:00 AM   Subscribe

I am deeply in love with a woman, but she refuses to acknowledge or believe it. She has an intense need to be loved, but she also seems to be consumed with self-hate, and she is incapable of accepting love. Instead, she express distrust, doubt, guilt, and self-loathing. She is convinced all my expressions of love are utterly disingenuous and phony, and she beats herself up over every little perceived shortcoming. I find this incredible painful and frustrating. How do I get past this obstacle?

I recently entered into a romantic relationship with a woman whom I love deeply and passionately. She is the most amazing woman I’ve ever met, on many levels, and I’m hardly the only person who thinks that about her. I have an intense need to express my love for her, and I do so in every way possible, constantly and repeatedly: Through words, through physical affection, and through my conduct and actions towards her, which include all manner of acts of service, sacrifice, and so forth. That’s all quite wonderful, but...

The problem, as nearly as I can (I’m not a psychologist or therapist) is that she is consumed with self-hate. She refuses to believe I love her, no matter much I show it, and she seems constitutionally incapable of accepting my love. Instead of acknowledging or believing that I love her, she rejects any expression of love as disingenuous and phony, and instead she expresses an immense amount of distrust, doubt, shame, and guilt. She rejects every little compliment, no matter how gently I offer them, and she refuses to recognize what a beautiful, amazing person she is. Instead, she constantly beats herself up and blames herself for all kinds of perceived inadequacies and shortcomings, no matter how groundless they are.

Paradoxically, she is attracted to me precisely because she also has an intense need to be loved and appreciated, and she has even acknowledged that part explicitly. But she also seems to be in denial about the cause of her inability to accept my love for her.

How do I deal with this?? I very badly want and need for her to know how much I love her, and I find it extremely painful and frustrating that I cannot convey it to her. I’ve raised the self-hate issue, and I’ve tried to convince her to go to a therapist, but she refuses to do so, on the grounds that she does not need a therapist, and that no therapist could help her anyway. I feel helpless and stuck. Can anyone help me figure out how to approach this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's request -- restless_nomad

 
not a word in this about whether she loves you.

your description of her boils down to narcissism, basically, in the layperson's sense. but your whole concern being about the need for her to reflect and repeat your own feelings back to you, rather than express her own, leads me to doubt whether she's such a narcissist as all that.

I very badly want and need for her to know how much I love her, and I find it extremely painful and frustrating that I cannot convey it to her

stop thinking only about what a bad audience she is to your performance of love, and start paying attention to how she performs her own love of you. or doesn't.

you are wise to suggest she see a therapist, rather than trying to become that therapist. but a good therapist would respect and investigate her feelings of self-hatred without needing to silence or invalidate them. she might know more about herself and her faults than you do. your feelings about her don't define her.

you are describing someone who is very angry about something that probably has very little to do with you. if i were to generalize egregiously, I would say that men are often very bad at recognizing women's anger for what it is, or realizing its true object. telling angry people how wrong they are to admit how they feel usually makes them angrier. there must be something you can talk to her about that isn't your emotions or her reactions to your emotions, to give her some respite.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:22 AM on June 28, 2018 [35 favorites]


I find this incredible painful and frustrating. How do I get past this obstacle?

By working on yourself until you no longer conceive of expressing love for another person as an act that inherently requires reciprocation. And by committing to stick around and love her as the whole person she is, not as some broken thing that needs you to fix it, if that's a prospect that makes you happy.

The problem, as nearly as I can (I’m not a psychologist or therapist) is that she is consumed with self-hate.

And although that may well be "the problem", what you really really need to understand is that if it's a problem, it's her problem and not yours, and that any fixing of it is for her to choose to do or not, and not for you to prescribe. You can support her in any such endeavour, but it can't be your endeavour.

She is who she is. People are set menus, not pick-and-choose buffets. If you love her, as opposed to merely being smitten by some subset of her less troubling attributes, you will be able to relax and just let her be her.

It is, of course, completely possible (and sadly common) to love people who are absolutely not a good fit as a partner. The correct response to this is to go find somebody who is a good fit, not embark on some doomed quest to mould another person into a shape that suits you better.
posted by flabdablet at 12:51 AM on June 28, 2018 [14 favorites]


If you love her as much as all that, you have to accept her as she is- you're into "acts of service, sacrifice, and so forth"- these things can't be conditional on the recipient being sufficiently grateful.

Here's one thing that could be happening. You're giving her something. You want something in return (thanks, acknowledgment, whatever). But think of it from her point of view- you keep pouring on the gifts, and the more you do, the more it seems like you're trying to buy her approval. That could be why she sees them as phony. Are you sure all these things are what she wants?
posted by BungaDunga at 1:33 AM on June 28, 2018 [13 favorites]


Maybe step back a little? If you’re expressing your love “constantly and repeatedly” and she finds it incredibly uncomfortable to have you express your love to her, that doesn’t sound fun for anybody. Whether that means you need to step back so far that you’re out of the relationship, or just stop trying to batter her into agreeing with you with the sheer force of your love, I don’t know.
posted by penguin pie at 1:51 AM on June 28, 2018 [10 favorites]


The most spectacular people on the outside can be consumed with self-doubt and low self-esteem on the inside. It can be virtually impossible for anyone, regardless of how dedicated the effort, to overcome that. A lifetime of feeling "less than" for a million reasons can raise walls of self-denigration that are so high, nothing can break them down.

The person with such low self-esteem issues is fully expecting, at any turn, for you to "finally" see all these flaws she has internalized for herself. She can't accept your love and gifts and all that, because in her mind, she is inherently unlovable; you just haven't figured it out yet. Paradoxically, the thing she most desires is to be loved and accepted. I agree, it is a situation that could benefit from therapy. But you cannot solve it. And you cannot allow it to affect your behavior, if in fact you truly love her. But if you only love her if she reflects your love back to you in some performative way.... that's not love. if you add to the negative mix by projecting this frustration and anxiety over her ability to recognize your love in the way you want her to, that is a pressure and an expectation that speaks more to meeting YOUR needs than to meeting hers.

So I would first suggest- stop trying. Stop *actively* trying, and instead just.... love her. Be there for her, and stop imposing what seems to be a transactional element to your relationship. As someone who has struggled with this same thing, it can be very hard to overcome long-standing feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. Think of a mountain stream eventually turning jagged rocks into smooth pebbles. It's a long game, not a quick fix.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:25 AM on June 28, 2018 [11 favorites]


This reads like a romance novel. Everything is big ideals and faults and uses flowery language, but none of it feels like an authentic description of a relationship. It makes me think you see yourself as her savior, that she needs rescuing. And that you have placed her on a pedestal that no human can ever stay on. Maybe you love the idea of her, but it doesn't feel like authentic love. You have to accept people for who they are right now, and make your decisions based on that information, not on the pie-in-the-sky dreams you've imagined.
posted by Aranquis at 3:25 AM on June 28, 2018 [21 favorites]


I have an intense need to express my love for her, and I do so in every way possible, constantly and repeatedly: Through words, through physical affection, and through my conduct and actions towards her, which include all manner of acts of service, sacrifice, and so forth.

This sounds really intense. Are you sure that this is what she wants from a partner? There are people who don't struggle with 'intense self-hatred' who dislike this sort of performative affectionate display (like me for example; I like myself fine, but I would be extremely turned off by someone saying over and over again how amazing I am.) Are you sure she's rejecting your affection because she feels unworthy or is that just what you're telling yourself? Maybe she's rejecting it because it isn't her thing.

I understand that it can be frustrating dealing with someone who "beats herself up and blames herself for all kinds of perceived inadequacies" but you can't change that. Nothing about her is broken, she is who she is. I'm sure you are sincere when you say you love her. But you have to love her as she is, not try to get her to change; and part of that has to be, don't overwhelm her with gestures of love that she does not seem to like or want.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:29 AM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


Hoo boy I flinched reading this cause it sounds so much like me in one or two relationships when I was a fair bit younger, as in, I could really be the lady in question here.

There are a few things I want to tell you, putting myself back in that perspective (not fun though that is! that time in my life sucked!!)

Here is the big one. As a woman, there is an amount of pressure to accept the advances of a guy if he is "decent" and takes his time, and there are no red flags or whatever. A few times in my youth I'd find myself pursued by someone like you - lovely, attentive, devoted, attractive. For whatever reason, I didn't feel the same. But life was telling me "BUT OMG HE'S SUCH A GOOD GUY". And my brain was telling me "YOU SUCK, REMEMBER YOU'RE DEPRESSED, YOU JUST CAN'T ACCEPT LOVE, YOU'RE SO BROKEN", and between the two, I ended up letting these affairs drag on. I'd try to let the guy know I wasn't ready to be in a relationship with him (now or perhaps ever) in whatever way I could, but it often came out as self-hating language because I just sort of, didn't speak any others at that time?

Be aware that this may be happening here too. Whether or not it is, the right thing to do is to take a step waaaaaaay back. Give her space to figure out what is going on with her right now, let her know you are there if she needs you, but really do take a big step back. If she isn't up for therapy right now, respect that, and allow her to move through her life independently of you to find how to fix the things about her she perceives as "broken". And do not try to fix them for her - I can 100% assure you that it is not your job, and you will not be able to.
posted by greenish at 3:38 AM on June 28, 2018 [23 favorites]


In re-reading your question, I can't help but notice this is all about you. Dude, you are overstepping so much here it's not funny. If I were this woman, I wouldn't know which way to turn. You come on way too strong, refuse to see your love protestations are not wanted, then tell her she needs mental help so she can learn to accept your love. It's very aggressive and unnerving.

Deeply in love, recently entered into a romantic relationship, love deeply and passionately, the most amazing woman I’ve ever met, on many levels, an intense need to express my love for her, and I do so in every way possible, constantly and repeatedly: Through words, through physical affection, and through my conduct and actions towards her, which include all manner of acts of service, sacrifice, and so forth.

This would all be bad enough but you really overstep when you analyze her and then urge her to see someone because she refuses to accept your love.

The problem, as nearly as I can (I’m not a psychologist or therapist) is that she is consumed with self-hate. She refuses to believe I love her, no matter much I show it, and she seems constitutionally incapable of accepting my love.

That's not the problem. The problem is you're coming on too strong, poorly analyzing this person when they do not act the way you want, telling them they need therapy so they can accept your endless love, then ask repeatedly how to make this right for you.

I think the best thing you can do now is recognize people are allowed to act however they want and you're allowed to not like it. What's not okay is refusing to back off, over-analyzing the other person, then telling them they need therapy because they're not doing what you want.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:43 AM on June 28, 2018 [33 favorites]


Very astute comments here.

I can relate to several aspects of your description and others' responses here. For example, greenish's observation of her youthful confusion about her own desires. In being the object of adoration (to my thinking, your/ my former lovers' rather *smothering* attention) I didn't feel I knew how to reciprocate, or to have emotional space to just watch and feel my way to safety with someone. Looking back, I see that this kind of overt and constant declarations of love in the early phases was too much.
When you/I/one gets a lot of effusive care it's hard to know if reciprocating is what I want and often was deflected onto critiquing myself.
You're in early days, just be. You don't need, for people like me or your gf, to go big. Just be good and kind.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:05 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


As someone who has been down the road that I think you are currently standing at the beginning of, I urge you gently and lovingly to walk away. This person doesn't seem like a bad person, but I think she would probably be bad for you. In fact, I think you would probably be bad for each other. You simply cannot be someone else's sense of self-worth. They have to have that for themselves. If you continue down this path, you may find yourself before long trapped in a cycle of mutual codependence and loathing, from which the only means of escape will be quite painful indeed. Some people never escape.

I respect that you have strong feelings here, but I don't think this person is ready to be in a relationship right now. That's not an indictment of her character, just an observation based on my belief that a strong sense of self is necessary if one is to build a healthy relationship with another person. It also sounds to me like you are one of those people who has a tendency to fall for people who are unhappy, out of a feeling that you can help them and that they are an amazing person if only they can be shown that. I have that tendency too, but I've learned that following that impulse doesn't end well.

I don't expect you to take my advice, but I'd feel remiss if I didn't at least offer it. Good luck, whatever you do.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:07 AM on June 28, 2018 [16 favorites]


It super really very much sounds like you’re putting her on an enormous pedestal, and she’s getting vertigo as a result. She’s a real, breathing, sweating, occasionally farting person with flaws like everyone else and her own subjectivity and perspective. Stop suffocating/showering her with (not love that’s mutual and gives her a chance/the power to reciprocate in easy comfort but) objectifying Admiration and just hang out for god’s sake. Stop talking *about* her and be *with* her.

Maybe she’s had a bad time with others and had some issues as a result, as well... still, agree with YYISIWY, back off and chill out.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:23 AM on June 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


I strongly agree with this:

I respect that you have strong feelings here, but I don't think this person is ready to be in a relationship right now. That's not an indictment of her character,

Criticising oneself and self-hating eschewing demonstrations of love is a (probably developmentally acquired) tactic of unassertive people possibly. Reflecting on my life, it was being afraid to say 'I'm not ready for this yet' or 'I don't know how to say no' and -not saying this is true for you - in every relationship I've had that started this way (the other with grandiose and constant declarations and praise in the early stages) has involved elements of stalking when it ended. Confirming unfortunately the original fear that I had.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:30 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


She does not need to hate herself to question whether your platitudes of love are genuine, regardless of whether or not you believe they are. If you have recently entered a relationship and you are gushing as much as you say you are, she is right to wonder exactly what it is that is making you feel that way when you don't really know her at all. And from her perspective she really might be looking at this from the very reasonable stance that if you don't really know her, you can't really love her. My guess is that if she said anything like that to you, you would hardcore insist that oh, but you DO know her, you do, and you DO love her, without really listening to what she's trying to tell you. And she's very right to dismiss that if she knows that those platitudes are not really based on who she really is but on whatever you're projecting on her or want her to be.

Signed,
Someone who has had boyfriends who also insisted that any skepticism on my part of their dramatic declarations of love was rooted in my delicate, low self-esteem and self-hatred and couldn't possibly fathom that this wasn't the case or believe me about myself when I said it was not, and who also refused to listen to what I actually told them about myself and the relationship, and went right on living the whole thing out in their head until I left them.
posted by Polychrome at 4:46 AM on June 28, 2018 [37 favorites]


The problem, as nearly as I can (I’m not a psychologist or therapist) is that she is consumed with self-hate. She refuses to believe I love her, no matter much I show it, and she seems constitutionally incapable of accepting my love.

I just want to add that this is a deeply disturbing interpretation. Consumed with self hate and constitutionally incapable of love are psychologically powerful descriptors that, at best, should only be suggested by a trained clinician after a lot of therapy.

You’re wildly overstepping here and well off track by making these deep analyses of her behaviour.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:08 AM on June 28, 2018 [11 favorites]


I'm not totally satisfied with my answer above. Not because I think anything I said was wrong, but because it was incomplete. I am having a hard time articulating this aspect of the situation, but I want to say that the bad dynamic that I think is starting here is one that has at least as much to do with the intensity of your own feelings as it does with her supposed self-loathing. Other answerers have done a better job of getting at this than I think I can do right now, so I won't try to get into detail. I'll just say that I second the answers of yes I said yes I will Yes, Polychrome, and cotton dress sock, among others. Heed their answers carefully, and consider whether the way you are positioning yourself in this relationship is really about her, or if it's actually more about you. The cycle of toxic codependence that I mentioned earlier is very much a two-person dynamic.

If you stay, and if things progress in the way that I fear they will, you yourself will not be blameless. I urge you not to stay.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:00 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Very hard to tell what's going on here. As starting point, you should try reading up on types of co-dependent relationships because this description could fit the pattern of two people who are together in order to express their very worst, most unhealthy ways of being.

The "co-dependent" idea is controversial with therapists and social workers. That said, people - even coworkers - who feel like they click because their terrible behavior fits together perfectly is a thing.

From the question, you are clearly not engaged with this woman. I have no idea what's going on with her. Anything from a personality disorder to she thinks your okay but isn't that into you.

Are you really good looking? Maybe she just into that?

There's not much info about the woman in your question - nothing that couldn't be a dozen different things based on your way of telling the story.

What I can say is that when I've seen real-life people tell this story, they were being used or they were in a terrible relationship that - with or with intent on the part of their partner - enabled and reinforced their insecurities or tendencies to rage or feel self destructive. Or, they were in their first love affair.

Good luck.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:16 AM on June 28, 2018


I very badly want and need for her to know how much I love her, and I find it extremely painful and frustrating that I cannot convey it to her. I’ve raised the self-hate issue, and I’ve tried to convince her to go to a therapist, but she refuses to do so, on the grounds that she does not need a therapist, and that no therapist could help her anyway. I feel helpless and stuck.

Not only can you not be the source of someone else's self worth, you cannot fix their problems for them. That's something that they need to want to do for themselves (with help from others who are qualified to provide help and as appropriate, of course) but they need the space to find that desire for positive change within themselves. That's not something that anyone else can instill within them.

As painful as it is to witness someone you care about struggle and appear to have given up on themselves, the best thing to do is to lovingly back off unless they explicitly ask for your help. Anything other than that might be you trying to change them to be the person you want and need them to be. Even though that may be completely unintentional on your part, it's aggressive and not helping them. The expression "detach with love" is very appropriate here.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:19 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is all a bit overwrought, but this sounds at core like my experiences on several occasions dating women with serious mental health issues who--and this is key--were not personally interested in actually seeking proper treatment for their serious mental health issues. It is very, very tempting to get into the idea that you can rescue a person who is suffering, but this is Artax-in-the-Swamp-of-Sadness territory: if she will not help herself, she will take you down with her.

Assume that when you get together with someone that this is the best things will ever be. Are you okay with this being the best things ever are? Because your romantic feelings do not change that fact.

I know this is hard, and I think I understand the temptation to turn it into a grand romantic gesture instead of the swamp it actually is, to try to salvage it all to make it seem meaningful. I'm sorry.
posted by Sequence at 7:26 AM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think the theme that ties a lot of these answers together is that, fundamentally, every person is responsible for his or her own emotions, his or her own self-regard. Also, even in relationship, nobody is responsible for what someone else feels, and nobody is obligated to act in any particular way based on how anyone else feels.

So on your end: you have this intense feeling, and guess what? That's all you. Something about this gal is pressing your buttons really hard, both in positive and negative ways. It's not her; it's you, your psyche, your emotions, your libido. If you are overwhelmed, that's for you to manage. If you are feeling tangled up because of what she does or doesn't do in response to you expressing your feeling, that is also yours to manage. She may well be wonderful in lots of ways, and damaged in lots of ways--your assessment of her may well be 100% on the mark. It's still your brain, heart, libido, neurochemistry that is driving your response, so put the responsibility right where it belongs.

Then also: Her self-regard, whether or not she is willing or able to reciprocate your strong emotions? All that stuff? Not on you. All her. That's her own internal weather, her own internal process, and entirely her responsibility and under her care. Not for you to change. Sorry; just not your jurisdiction. And also,not a reflection on you, your value, your appeal, anything about you. If you're feeling hurt or angry about what she's doing (compared to sad or disappointed), then somewhere in there you are taking her lack of reciprocity to mean that you aren't good enough, or lovable enough, for her to get over her own stuff and love you back. Drop that line of thought for your mental healthy. She owns her stuff, you own yours.

Boundaries are a real thing, and good boundary skills are crucial to healthy relationships. I'd take this experience as a sign that you have some growing to do in this area. Most folks do.
posted by Sublimity at 7:41 AM on June 28, 2018 [7 favorites]


[This is a followup from the asker.]
Here’s some context in response to the answers:

When I say I “recently entered” into this romantic relationship, I mean that happened about several months ago, but we’ve known each other as friends for several years. I was always a bit infatuated with her, and then I fell in love with her over the course of the last year or so. Certain situational complications prevented/discouraged us from moving it into the romantic realm, but that has changed now.

There’s no doubt the feeling is mutual. I don’t know if she loves me quite as strongly as I love her--I’m not sure anyone else could ever feel that much love--but there’s no doubt she is into me in a big way. She frequently initiates our contacts and get-togethers, and she is the one who initiated the physical part of our relationship. We have an intense emotional connection, and we spend hours at a time just hanging out in each others’ arms and talking about everything under the sun. I hear what you guys are saying about “backing off” but that’s really not the issue here.

While I’m not a therapist, I’m intimately familiar with the self-hate problem. My father was an abusive alcoholic for whom nothing was ever good enough, and it for many years it shaped my own behavior in a similar fashion. The tip-off for me is how she receives (or fails to receive) a simple compliment. E.g., “Hey, that’s a really amazing thing you made/did there.” Response: Person looks away/down with a look of shame, and says something to the effect of, “Not really. It actually sucks, because I did X, Y, and Z wrong, and I suck at this stuff, and I’m really just a shitty person who can’t do anything right.” (Not that literally, but that’s the gist of it.)

I did that myself for many years, and when I finally realized why that was happening, it was a life-changing revelation. I understand that I can’t be her therapist, and maybe I just have to accept that I can’t solve this problem for her, but it sure is painful to witness...
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:55 AM on June 28, 2018


I appreciate you took the time to write an update, but it honestly only serves to reinforce my responses. You're looking for us to tell you that you're right, that she has the very serious issues that you've diagnosed, and that there simply MUST be a way that you can get her the help she needs.

What's really painful to witness is you're not accepting the relationship as is, not her as she is. What you see is who she is. She doesn't need you to diagnose her and suggest she need therapy and it is truly offensive that you've done this (again, I honestly don't think you see this).

She is literally showing you the way she rolls. Either accept her as is, or move on. Stop trying to make her something she's not.

I recognize this is not the advice you want to hear.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:16 AM on June 28, 2018 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I agree, after the update: Either things are okay as they currently are, either the good bits are so good that they're worth dealing with the bad bits, or they aren't. If she's not currently responding to encouragement to seek mental health care from the person she is this into, then like... you've already given it everything. It's not like you haven't tried, it's not like you haven't done enough, this isn't something you can take responsibility for.

The whole "could anybody else ever love as much as I love right now"... that kind of depth of emotion is not strictly a bad thing but is a sign that you might not yourself be in the most stable place and you need to take care of yourself.
Nobody else can make this call for you and clearly what you want is to keep going, but don't let her drown you. If it was just that she felt this way, I wouldn't say this! It's that she feels this way and she's refusing professional help. That's just... really not promising, and getting on her more to talk to someone is not going to fix it, it has to be a thing she decides on her own.

If you yourself aren't currently working with a therapist and a doctor about your own issues, I'd urge you to start doing that, even if you think you're currently doing okay, because this can be very destabilizing when you have your own tendencies in that direction.
posted by Sequence at 8:43 AM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


These responses might be hard to hear because you feel like you've tried very hard and love her and want her to be happy. Those are ok feelings.

But you cannot help her and I think you need to give her some space. Either this is overwhelming her and you need to back off, or she needs help in a way you can't offer, and that also requires backing off. The current situation, either way, isn't healthy for either if you.

I get struggling through abuse and finding help that changed your life and wanting others to get that gift. I really really do. But this:

I’m not sure anyone else could ever feel that much love

Is dangerous. If you really feel this way, re-read the feedback above very very carefully.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 8:49 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


What gets rewarded gets repeated.

If she expresses doubt, self-hate, distrust, guilt, and you respond with reassurance, hugs, positive statements, love, etc., that reinforces her expressions of that stuff (to some extent) because she is getting the love, attention, and affection she craves. In a very simple sense, give her that love, affirmation, attention, when she is not expressing all that disaster, and when she is in needy mode, I know you're feeling needy right now. I love you and I'm here for you. You know you deserve love and confidence.

She needs a very good therapist. She needs her own affirmations for the times when anxiety grabs her and spills over into all that desperate need for reassurance. I have lived with this, and when I was younger, I had a much milder version of it. I learned that anxiety is real and unpleasant and will pass. That no one can fill a black hole of need in another person. You cannot fix her or protect her from her need and feelings, and trying will wear you out.
posted by theora55 at 8:51 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don’t know if she loves me quite as strongly as I love her--I’m not sure anyone else could ever feel that much love

This is kind of messed up. Either you have some sort of heroic love powers ordinary mortals don't have, or she's oddly deficient and sub-normal. Neither one of those beliefs point to a healthy relationship between equals.

Not a whole lot of what you describe does sound like that, to be honest. A lot of what you are saying amounts to 'I know what's best for her' in a way that seems comfortable taking her agency away.

Relationships that are about fixing someone or being fixed -- those aren't healthy. We all fix each other in little ways as we work through our lives, but those are incidental, living-into-it type fixes, not 'to hell with it, let's scrap this thing to the scaffold' fixes.

I think you should take your foot off the gas pedal.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:52 AM on June 28, 2018 [10 favorites]


There’s no doubt the feeling is mutual. I don’t know if she loves me quite as strongly as I love her--I’m not sure anyone else could ever feel that much love--but there’s no doubt she is into me in a big way. She frequently initiates our contacts and get-togethers, and she is the one who initiated the physical part of our relationship. We have an intense emotional connection, and we spend hours at a time just hanging out in each others’ arms and talking about everything under the sun. I hear what you guys are saying about “backing off” but that’s really not the issue here.

Oh but it is the issue.

You are all high on your drunken* love feelings with a side stash of projecting about your past realizations. And you are pushing that drug on her. Feel good! Feel good about yourself! Feel my love! Feel good about my love!!

Dude, insisting that someone feel a certain way is as pushy as it gets.

This is what you can say: look, it upsets me when you say (negative thing) because it makes me feel (unheard/uncomfortable because my view is so different/unappreciated.) I want you to feel okay sharing your true feelings but if the negative talk is a reflex and really you are enjoying our time together, it would be nice to hear that too.

Then you let her have her feelings.

*I’m glad you get to feel that way but if your /brain/ is telling you you are /literally/ able to feel feelings other humans cannot, you may need a therapist.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:17 AM on June 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


I’m not sure anyone else could ever feel that much love

Do you read poetry at all? Because guys who believe this have been putting pen to paper to declaim their all-consuming, all-encompassing, grandest romantic loves for several hundreds of years at the minimum. I guarantee that you are mistaken here. People have been feeling grand, deep, and important feelings like this for a very long time. Petrarch wrote poetry dedicated to one (already married) woman, for 20 years. This is A Thing.

That doesn't mean it can't be destabilizing, and it seems to me that it might be destabilizing you, and I think maybe therapy would help put you onto a firmer footing with it. That doesn't mean it's not real! But when something starts to feel more intense than anyone else could ever feel, that's probably a bad sign, even if it isn't a negative feeling, you know?
posted by BungaDunga at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


Your follow up is along the lines of what I was planning to say, which is that it sounds like she had a hypercritical, impossible to please, and ultimately unloving parent that she was nevertheless able to maintain a relationship with by simultaneously being very very good and accepting as gospel all the awful things that parent said about her.

Then you come along, praising her to the skies, and that threatens to destroy not only the belief that she was a loved child, which she has sacrificed so much to preserve, but also her current and highly valued relationship with that parent.

She must like you a lot to still be hanging around, but I think she won't continue to unless you can stop demanding she accept your image of her.

Show her you love her and value her and eventually your real love will begin to displace the ersatz version she forces herself to settle for, but it will probably take years, and if that parent was her mother, will more than likely require the assistance of a good female therapist she can transfer her attachment to as she explores what really went on between her and her mother.
posted by jamjam at 10:11 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don’t know if she loves me quite as strongly as I love her--I’m not sure anyone else could ever feel that much love

Get over yourself.

She'll be healthier and happier once you have.
posted by flabdablet at 11:12 AM on June 28, 2018 [9 favorites]


I don't want to pathologise you as others have. However, something in your tone seems very off to me. You make this all about you and you want her to go to therapy so that you can benefit from it. That is very...odd...and doesn't really sound like what I consider to be love at all.

Really, I do think this reads as a man placing himself in the centre of the universe with the woman in his orbit. The condescending, in turns idealising and pathologising, way you speak of her is a huge red flag about your own behaviour. This woman is a complex human being, as we all are.
posted by thereader at 11:53 AM on June 28, 2018 [9 favorites]


Sorry, I just read your update and I want to say that your assertion that "I’m not sure anyone else could ever feel that much love" is a bit alarming. I hope you never verbalise this to her. Of course other people can love as much as you can. Someone could love her as much as you do. Your perception of this situation is not accurate. I note that you say you were infatuated with her before you got together. Consider that this might have something to do with your current issues.
posted by thereader at 12:13 PM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


The tip-off for me is how she receives (or fails to receive) a simple compliment. E.g., “Hey, that’s a really amazing thing you made/did there.” Response: Person looks away/down with a look of shame, and says something to the effect of, “Not really. It actually sucks, because I did X, Y, and Z wrong, and I suck at this stuff, and I’m really just a shitty person who can’t do anything right.” (Not that literally, but that’s the gist of it.)
I did that myself for many years, and when I finally realized why that was happening, it was a life-changing revelation. I understand that I can’t be her therapist, and maybe I just have to accept that I can’t solve this problem for her, but it sure is painful to witness...

You don't seem to realize that your heavy projections and analysis of her behaviours, thoughts and feelings, (which may not actually be acurate at all, has she actually directly told you that she's "consumed by self hate?") are likely actually doing the very thing to her that you're concerned about.
To elaborate: you give her a compliment, (or other expression of love) and she doesn't receive it and then respond to it in a way that you approve of or accept as being ok in any way. She literally cannot accept your love because you refuse to accept that she may in fact be doing just that unless she responds in a very specific way that you've predetermined as "good enough" reciprocally.
I can't even imagine the insane pressure and expectation she must feel each and every time you send "love" her way, to respond to it in a way you approve of, in order for you to both be able to acknowledge and enjoy the experience.
This type of love you're describing is conditional.
You don't actually know why she, for example, responds to compliments in this way. Perhaps she was taught modesty, perhaps she was shamed for displaying any self pride or confidence, perhaps she was only ever praised for what she did vs. who she is and you're reminding her of that, perhaps she is simply admitting that she slacked off on whatever she made and knows she could've done better...
Why, for any reason on earth, have you assumed the worst of her here: that she hates herself and your love, and insist that becsuse you once did something similar, you then know her better than she does herself.
Perhaps you don't really care, perhaps you see her as an extension of your self, perhaps you don't really love her as is and wish she was different, etc... It's as hard to guess why you feel you're The Expert on her and why you think she needs help fixing herself to better reflect You, as it is for you to to guess why she responds in the way she does.
But in any event, you rejecting how she receives any of it, is you actually Doing The Very Thing to her that you're acusing her of having going on internally...
Think about that for a bit.
posted by OnefortheLast at 2:43 PM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


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