For many, many years, Intaglio would tell me that he loved me. He would tell me this many times in a day. If I didn't have an immediate, reciprocal response, he would pout and worry. When we were arguing or in conflict, the frequency of the expressions of adoration increased. If I became tired of responding, yet again, to those special three little words which are the ultimate expression of love, fidelity, and commitment, he would read deep into it and become anxious and depressed. It was usually easier to just reply back, in my happiest, singsong voice. He was my husband, after all, and I did love him. But it was exhausting. After years of this, those three words, and the word "love" in particular, began to mean nothing at all. It was an empty word, which became twisted, and it remains twisted. Now I can think of family love and friend love and humanity love now, but the idea of romantic love is very complicated. It is hard for me not to associate it with being trapped and contained and controlled by someone that I am supposed to love.
This is the hardest thing about the emotional abuse that I endured. He never told me I was ugly, useless, unsexy, stupid, or anything bad, honestly. He called me the opposite of all those things, in fact... beautiful, important, gorgeous, intelligent, creative... all the things that a woman wants to hear. He told me he loved me incessantly. When I would talk to friends, hinting there were problems, which I couldn't quite pinpoint, he seemed to be a perfect partner, never laying a finger on me, never insulting me, expressing his love all the time. So it was hard diagnose that as abusive, and it was especially hard for me to see it as abusive for many years. It is also common in mainstream society to see a devoted, even a jealous man who seems to be in touch with his feelings of "love" and put him on this pedestal of an ideal husband or boyfriend. But I see how those very words of devotion can also be used to control.
When I did start to realize it, he pointed out how good he was to me... didn't he say all the right things? The guilt and shame that I would feel from making an accusation of abuse was intense, and it fed right into the control. But I began to realize that even though he was telling me I was sexy and beautiful, he was also telling me that those were the reasons I should not be talking so closely to our male friends (or to strangers), because I was so amazing that they wouldn't be able to control themselves and I shouldn't lead them on or flirt in any way because that would be unethical. And he was telling me that he loved my innocence but that I was naive and clearly all the men wanted me, and if I respected our marriage (I did) I shouldn't encourage them. Oh also, why would I need to go work out or lose weight... I was beautiful the way I was and I didn't need any attention from men when I had him, and he loved me so much. This kind of gradually narrowed down my entire life, including almost all my relationships with family and friends and my career, until I was basically in a prison of our marriage. I was a prisoner of "love".
Fortunately, I broke out of that particular prison! And I am so much happier now. But now I have a new prison that I have created myself. I am left in the aftermath of this ruined word, and I am wanting to rediscover its meaning and its role in my life. This idea of romantic "love" is very complicated for me now, and yet I find myself feeling it again, which is a wonderful thing that is edged with pain and confusion. I struggled with it when I fell in love with Damascus and I am struggling with it again as it applies to new relationships. It fills me with panic and terror, and yet I want to express it with all of my being. I feel ridiculous, being a polyamorous person who is terrified by the concept of "love". I can understand its place in my life intellectually, and yet feeling it intensely makes me want to run away, and the thought of saying those three words fills me with fear and even despair.
I don't have a tidy end to this post. No encouraging words of hope or promises. I am often at a loss for words about this subject. Any words that you may have to guide me would be greatly appreciated...