What Real Love Actually Looks Like, Because It’s Not About Being An Emotional Punching Bag

God & Man

Too many people are confused about the nature of true love and compassion. They assume love means putting up with incessant bullshit. They assume compassion means being an emotional punching bag and singing kumbaya with the people who oppress and abuse them. They measure their capacity to love by the amount of stress they can tolerate on a daily basis. It’s wonderful to embrace each other’s flaws in a relationship, but there’s a difference between tolerating inevitable differences and tolerating toxicity. The former can strengthen an existing bond, while the latter leads to self-destruction.

Real love and compassion isn’t about forgiving and forgetting your way through numerous transgressions, violations and betrayals. It’s about being able to let go of the person who would subject you to those in the first place. It’s about knowing you can practice compassion from a distance. The most compassionate thing you can do for toxic individuals is to actually hold them accountable for changing their behavior. And the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself is to take yourself out of the equation if they do not.

Real love and compassion isn’t about being unhappy most of the time while pretending to be happy all of the time. It’s not about overlooking red flags or living an existence where you’re forced to rationalize your partner’s hurtful behavior just for the sake of holding onto the relationship. Real love will make you want to live in the moment rather than constantly fabricate the image of a happy relationship on social media. You’ll be too busy relishing the reality rather than feeding into an illusion.

Real love won’t make you responsible for educating a grown ass person on how to be a decent human being. It’ll demand some level of compromise, but it won’t ask you to compromise your values or integrity.

Real love isn’t about withstanding any form of emotional, verbal or physical abuse. It’s not about swallowing back your sobs or silencing your outrage as you cling to that coveted relationship status. It’s about cutting ties with any abusive people who are harming you more than they are helping you. It’s about letting it be known that you are worthy of being treated well. Real love won’t make you feel like you’re living a lie; it’ll be about living your truth.

Real love isn’t about shrinking so that your partner won’t feel small due to your larger-than-life light. Someone who truly loves you will admire you and will encourage you to pursue your dreams, just as you do for theirs. They won’t try to stifle your success because it threatens them – they’ll find ways to help it to flourish. Your victories will be their victories. You will be each other’s biggest fans.

Real love isn’t about being brought to your knees or feeling defeated as your boundaries are violated time and time again. It’s not about pleasing your partner to the brink of self-harm.  It’s not about being addicted to a cycle of hot and cold behavior. It’s about raising each other up and feeling the consistent, natural high that comes from mutual respect.

Real love isn’t about settling so much that you can’t even identify why you’re with the person that you’re with. It won’t make you ask yourself constantly if you can do better or if there’s someone else out there who can satisfy you on the level of mind, body and soul. No one person can fulfill all of your needs, of course, but real love won’t make you feel like you’re starving or settling for crumbs.

Real love is worth waiting for, because when it comes, it’ll be with a person you have a magnetic, insatiable desire for – someone who both excites and comforts you. Someone you can’t wait to see again, not someone you’re afraid of coming home to.

Real love will fulfill and nourish you. It will validate you on a deeper level – perhaps on a deeper level than you’ve ever known. It’ll be with a person who isn’t afraid to address conflicts constructively. Real love will challenge you to grow, but it’ll challenge you to grow in healthy ways.

Instead of a power play, real love is a partnership. It will give you the ability to be compassionate towards yourself and your partner – at the same time.

Don’t settle for a love that detracts from who you are or who you could become. Real love leaves room for you to say “no.” Real love gives you the space for healthy boundaries. Real love will bring out the best side of who you are. Real love will help you rise above adversity – it won’t create more of it. It’ll help you fight your battles – it won’t force you to survive a war zone.

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is the author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and the poetry book She Who Destroys the Light. She is a staff writer at Thought Catalog.

A Book For Those Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse…

Remember— highly manipulative people don’t respond to empathy or compassion. They respond to consequences.

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