No doubt you'll have seen a zillion television shows and chick flicks where "they live happily ever after." Ditto with having been fed a diet of Cinderella Snow White knight in shining armour rubbish in your formative years.
Yes, that's right, it's rubbish.
And so is the notion that Love Conquers All. It bloody well does not. And thank heaven for that because sometimes it will kill you - in one way or another - if you don't get away from its abusive, addictive, cheating, manipulative clutches.
Recently I wrote about saving relationships, and how focusing on superficial symptoms or distracting yourself with something new or different will not fix what's wrong. The only way to do that is to address what the real problems are.
Does this mean that the relationship can always be saved? No. Does it mean that it always should be saved? Most definitely not.
What about wedding vows? Am I saying they mean nothing and should be abandoned when things get a little bumpy? No.
But I'm saying Love Does Not Conquer All. What about "For better or worse"? What about "Till death us do part"?
I've been down the aisle more times than I care to consider, and I've got an equal number of divorce papers. So who the hell am I to talk about relationships? Well, I'm happy to say I've learned an awful lot about the truth of them, both good and not-so-good, and how they impact our lives and decisions. I've learned what I do want and what I won't tolerate. And I've learned that I'd rather be alone and happy than with someone and miserable, tolerating disrespect, dishonesty, abuse, suffocation and betrayal.
I've learned that I should have been brave, listened to that wise little voice inside, and backed out of the weddings that felt completely wrong by the time they were imminent (which was almost all of them). I should not have allowed myself to be manipulated, pressured or conned - yes, conned, in two cases - into being married, but I was far too trusting. Plus I did not know how to stand up for myself. Or I did not dare.
I've also learned that "For better or worse" should be interpreted as the normal ups and downs of life - job losses, kid issues, financial struggle etc. - but it should not include any of the aforementioned miseries of abuse, deception and so on. How can you promise to love, honour and cherish someone in one breath, and then in the next, spew emotional blackmail, selfishness and lies at that person? There's not a chance in hell that that's love.
I have loved many people in different ways - friend, parents, husband, family - and many of those relationships involved being on the receiving end of abuse, betrayal, lies and more. How could I love those people when they treated me that way? Well, I kept telling myself that no one is all bad. Or I felt trapped. Or I did not believe I deserved anything better and clung to the good moments, praying for more of them someday.
Over the years, I chipped away at healing the damage from a toxic childhood that led me to make many unhealthy choices, relationships. I have loved fiercely and fought hard to make those relationships work because I saw the good in those people and I loved them for it, and I thought they loved me too.
So I loved and forgave and loved and understood and loved and kept tolerating, desperate to believe that if I just kept loving them, they would magically stop being abusive or manipulative or dishonest.
But it didn't work that way. No matter how much I loved those people, the relationships were doomed to fail - as they should have done. No amount of love in the world was going to make them be respectful, truly loving people. They didn't understand love. They knew only fear, control and power. You can't get real love out of any of those.
Thank heaven for healing and finding my way to becoming empowered. If "Love Conquers All" is supposed to mean that you just keep putting up with hateful, toxic behaviour until you get used to it, then I'd rather never love again.
Are these the ravings of a bitter woman? Nope, not at all. I still believe in love and in the possibility of finding a mutually respectful, supportive and emotionally intimate relationship. Maybe I'll find that sometime; maybe not.
But at least I know that I will never settle for anything less than that again because no matter how many fresh ingredients you throw into a batter that is made with rancid butter and rotten eggs, the foundation will always be toxic and nothing will make it okay.
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