So much talk these days about “leading with love” and “lets try loving our enemies!” Um. I’m not here for it. I’m not.
Ask a survivor of an abusive relationship if loving their abuser changed their situation.
Ask a survivor of an abusive situation if “leading with love” made all the difference when that man got angry or hurt or wounded or insecure.
Ask a survivor or an abusive partner, if loving him made it easier or harder to leave.
As a survivor, if you want to know about the power of love against hatreds that are rooted in power and entitlement and selfishness and desire.
I loved my rapist. He still fucking raped me. I loved him long before he raped me, and for too long afterwards. For a long time I thought of him as my one true love—and he was hurting me the entire time.
Because I loved him though, I learned a number of very valuable lessons about love when you give it to unworthy people:
1) you cannot simply love someone into being a different person.
2) just because you love them doesn’t mean that you are safe from their wrath, even if they love you back, if their basic programming is to use or take or manipulate, your love and theirs will always be a complicated addition to an already uneven situation.
3) love is not enough to set you free from someones hate when they have more resources, access or capital (monetary or social) than you. Love is not a resource an abusive or hateful person recognizes, and trying to use it appeals to their sense of conscience, and if they are absent of it or refuse to value you, it is a prayer to a dead god.
4) love can be weaponized into a mechanism for guilt, acceptance of bad behaviour, manipulation around an outcome that favours them, chain you to a situation that is not sustainable or fair, and most of all, it can be used by your own mind to convince you that if you do not love them any longer you have abandoned your heart, this person, their wellbeing and worst of all, who you are as someone who believes that love will win.
5) People who don’t want to change or do better or listen to you will cut your love back against you “weren’t you like obsessed with him?” “you were so good together” “weren’t you the one always saying how great he was? Which is it?” and it will discredit you more that you tried to love someone despite their abuse than hating them would have.
This is not to say that there is nothing love can do. It can transform and heal so many of our issues and our selves and our relationships. Love is powerful when it is respected and taken seriously. But I do not think it is fair to ask people of colour to love racists. I do not think it is fair for survivors to be asked to love and in turn forgive their abusers or the abusers of others. I do not think it is fair to ask women to love misogynists. Because I’ve loved two abusive men, and both of them abused me anyways, up until the moment where I decided I needed to love myself more—where I decided I needed to not love them if I wanted to ever be free. It was the most important decision of my life to un-love those men. And it was not wrong. Love is important. But place it wisely.
The opposite of love is not hate. It is selfishness. You can be loved by someone full of hate and they can still hurt you. You can love someone who is hurting you and never entirely get over those feelings, despite what they do to you. Love isn’t the antidote to hatred. And I would be really stoked if we could stop pretending that it is some magic no one has fucking tried. Women HAVE BEEN trying it. And the reality is, people don’t change because you were a better person to them than they were to you, more often they win because you refused to fight back.