When Emotional Abuse Makes You Feel Like Love Is Something You Have To Earn

Woman Alone
God & Man

“Do you think love is something you have to earn”?

I got asked that question and I sat there for a moment. Clearly, the answer was no. Love should be given freely, without expectations. Without rules or expectations. Without guilt. Without trying too hard.


But in every relationship I found myself in, I found myself trying really hard to win them over. Trying really hard to prove it was their love I deserved or rather their love I had to earn.

I’d go for people who didn’t have feelings for me and I thought I could change their mind. So I’d find myself hung up for long periods of time over people only to realize love isn’t something you’re supposed to convince someone of.

Someone else’s love shouldn’t have been something I set out to prove I deserved.

The recurring theme of going after these people who would treat me well one day then completely switch personalities the next, love me one moment then scream at me the next, treat me well only to use that as blackmail to ignore me or emotionally abuse me like I was their punching bag.

It wasn’t just dating games and fucking with my head, there was something much deeper here I struggled to find the root of.

“Someone taught you love is something they can give and take away when you mess up. As a result the effect it’s had on you is overcompensating to prove you deserve their love.”

I thought back to every extreme gesture I ever did for people. Was I doing it out of kindness or was I doing it out of desperation to try and win their love and prove I was worthy of it?

I looked back and these common themes hit me between the eyes. It wasn’t so much all guys but all the guys I was choosing as if winning over their love and proving I was worthy of it would come as an accomplishment in my life and validate my own self-worth.

I found myself fighting for people and fighting for relationships thinking I could change them if only I could convince them to love me.

Running in circles of almost relationships and falling for people who clearly didn’t care but I wanted them too, added fuel to a fire within me that derived from a lack of acceptance only to be validated in moments someone loved me.

It wasn’t a lack of self-love but rather a lack of understanding what love really meant that was the problem.

When someone is taught love is something they have to earn that gets engraved within them that at any moment it too can be taken away.

So people who have learned this the hard way tend to attract people who are wishy washy about their feelings. Someone who plays games and messes with their head. Someone who has all the power and chooses to hold it over them.

It’s just as important to be taught what love is as well as it’s important to know what’s it’s not.

Love isn’t saying sorry after you get yelled at.

Love isn’t derived from fear and power.

Love comes bearing no threats or manipulation or blackmail.

Love does not knock you down even if they build you back up.

Love does not belittle you to make them feel better.

Love and control don’t go together.

Love does not critic you just so they feel better about their own flaws.

Love does not blame you for their actions or outburst.

Love does not blame you for everything.

When someone thinks love is something they have to earn it’s often emotional abuse which is the fundamental ground level of what will be an unstable person filled with unstable relationships in the future.

Do not feel guilty for a recurring theme of what might have been bad relationships in your past. Understand sometimes the things we learn aren’t right. But we can use that to learn what is.

Do not feel foolish if you’ve gravitated towards relationships where you’ve always been the one fighting.

What you can do from here though is start fighting for yourself.

Recognize the pattern and learn to change it.

Not getting love you might have deserved in your life isn’t your fault but you do have the ability to choose who you love from here and I hope it’ll be someone who makes you realize what love actually is

Because love is unconditional.

Love is kind.

And the right love will meet you halfway teaching you everything you’ve ever had to give has always been enough, it’s just you always gave your best to the wrong people.
Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Writer living in Hoboken, NJ with my 2 dogs.

Keep up with Kirsten on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and kirstencorley.com

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