The Love We Think We Deserve

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why does she stay? That’s a question I ask myself so often when I read stories of women who have been consistently abused by husbands, boyfriends, or other men in their lives. And I honestly don’t think there’s one answer that stands up to scrutiny any more than the others. Every woman is an individual, and she has her own reasons for staying, but I can’t help but pose the question inside my own head anyway.

I saw this quote a while ago, and it resonated with me, about accepting the love we think we deserve. On some level it struck me as being brutally honest, for several reasons, but on another level it was an attempt at answering the question that keeps haunting me. Why does she stay? It’s quite possible she stays because she’s accepting whatever she thinks is the love he offers her, that she believes this IS love, even when he hurts her both emotionally and physically.

And I use the term “she” with a caveat, with a disclaimer that not all victims are women, but I come into contact with more of these issues involving women than anyone else. So I use the term, but I understand it’s not all-encompassing as it is. Nothing could be, though in this society we try to make everything fit. Regardless, these emotional and physical scars are everywhere, and those who inflict them often get off scot-free when it comes to getting a proper comeuppance, living to torture their victims another day. To think that victims believe this is love is beyond me, but it happens all the time, and it has happened over and over again.

These patterns are honestly depressing to see, but there is no end in sight. “We accept the love we think we deserve,” says more about our own feelings of self-loathing and poor self-esteem than they say about the other person. These other people manipulate us because they know they can, because they see in us these signs of low self-esteem and they prey on that. Shame on them. They say they love us, but they don’t know what love is. They only know how to pretend well enough to reel us in, and then they lower the boom, in more ways than one. Once we are caught in the web, it’s so incredibly difficult to extricate ourselves from it, because we become believers.

At least that’s how I see it. I could be completely wrong, but it’s what I see from those of my friends and acquaintances who have stayed, who have put themselves secondary to someone who is literally not worth it. The quote, to me, means that we, as human beings, can’t quite wrap our brains around the fact that we’re worth so much more than a punching bag, either emotionally or physically. When we have been neglected and cast aside it becomes easier to accept that any sign of interest on the part of someone else might be the only interest we will ever get in our lives. It becomes easier to accept it all, despite the warning signs, and throughout the relationship, even when the hard times come.

Why does she stay? She stays because she thinks he will change, even though she knows he won’t. He says he will change. He sometimes gets emotional and cries on her shoulder, and she thinks that’s a sign things are looking up, not the manipulative move it really is. Or maybe he honestly thinks he will change, but when faced with a similar situation in the future he simply goes back to his previous ways because they are hardwired into his brain. She stays because she believes in the goodness in him, despite the fact that he often shows her his negative side. She stays because she thinks she cannot find anything better, and she believes what he is giving her is what love looks like.

This is the love she thinks she deserves, and it makes sense. But it also makes me so utterly sad for her, for me, and for mankind, that this is what we think we amount to in the grand scheme of things, that too often we are belittled and taught to think we aren’t worth very much. We deserve so much more, every single one of us out here just wanting to be loved, to be appreciated, to be seen for who we are and embraced for it in a way we haven’t been before. It’s never enough just to settle, to give up essential parts of ourselves for people who don’t care, who just want to control us in a way we wouldn’t accept if it was anyone but us. But we often have blind spots when it comes to those who we believe we love, when it comes to those who have already broken our will, our self-esteem, and our emotional capacity.

She stays because she thinks there’s nothing better for her in this wide world. And that’s an absolute travesty.


18 thoughts on “The Love We Think We Deserve

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  1. I think we stay because we remember the good and we still see that tiny essence of goodness in him and we hope we can help him. He left me and I was distraught at first but I’m happy now. But he didn’t abuse me physically. But the mental part was there. It’s so much nicer to be alone than to be alone and married.

      1. I agree with you, although I’d rather be married and not be alone…but that being said, someday I hope to find a partner who enjoys teamwork and the give and take of a relationship. Until then, I’m ok with being authentically me and being friends with everyone! 🙂

      2. Relationships are difficult, especially when there are so many codependent people out there who take and never give. Authentically being ourselves is the best thing we can do to weed out those we just don’t mesh with, and who take without giving.

  2. For some victims, the abusive attention is better than being ignored and believing you are worthless.

    For most of us this is a situation too impossible to contemplate, but for someone with low self-esteem, it is the better deal. Those of us who possess self-confidence would do well to try to empathise with the victims.

  3. Also, there are plenty of abusers who will target women who do have plenty of self-confidence and who are doing quite well in life by society’s standards of what “doing well” constitutes. There are men who get very angry at the existence of women who do love themselves and who either make more money than they or are better than them at *insert-pursuit-here*. For these men, victory and reassurance of their own worth comes from tearing strong women down and gaining a sense of control over them. Eventually, even strong women forget that there really, truly is better “love” out there waiting for them.

    1. Everybody wants love, whatever that means in individual cases, weak or strong. And being self-confident is a tight rope to walk where love is concerned. The most confident of people (male or female) can be laid low by certain people.

  4. (Also: I say “strong” here not to juxtapose that trait with abuse victims, because I would never call those individuals weak. I’m referring to the fact that male abusers are frequently very angered by women displaying strength and competence.)

  5. Lord. I don’t even know. He’d invited me to a family wedding three months away AND to spend Thanksgiving with his mother’s family like that first week. We were both pretty smitten. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since the actual date though. I was pretty nervous, but I did warn him I would be. Aaand I quit my full-time job (still coaching and doing my other stuff). So life is interesting right now, but as far as he goes, I decided to just back off and see what happens.

      1. Yeah, I would agree with that. And he’s an introvert whereas I am…well, NOT an introvert, lolol. Adderall does slow down my mile-a-minute speech, but I can still overwhelm people if I don’t channel it into my writing instead.

      2. Ah, the curse of the introvert. I’ve been around a few myself. I like the personality I’ve seen from you on here. Hope the Adderall doesn’t affect thst too much.

      3. Personality-wise, nah. It just keeps me from getting so overwhelmed by the racing thoughts, and I remember to wear both socks and I don’t drive away with the mail on top of my car. Or get lost driving absolutely everywhere. Or accidentally interrupt people. Or have a really important thought and stop in the middle of a tumbling pass…

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