Pain is Not a Measure of Love

Few concepts are as damaging.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Many judge the depths of love by how much pain someone is willing to endure on their behalf. By how much they are willing to suffer and the shenanigans they tolerate.

We sometimes measure the love of others and allow our own love to be measured by this unfair, abusive, self-harming standard. To set the bar for how much a person cares alongside how much they’ll allow you to hurt them is cruel and demeaning. It’s ultimately judging the level of someone’s love for you by how little they love themselves.

In the name of love, we’re expected to withstand heartbreak after heartbreak and one transgression after another. We think that if we truly love someone, we do not leave them. We’re always supposed to stay and “work it out.” But there is a thin line between forgiveness and foolishness.

Who taught us that love hurts?

We allow ourselves to be convinced that love and pain go hand-in-hand. Tears streaming down our face tell us that it must, or we wouldn’t care so deeply. The longing, the angst. The staring at a phone that should have rung a long time ago tells us that they matter. Sitting by the door, waiting with a lump in our throat for someone to finally decide to come home, hoping that they will, reinforces our desire for them to be near. We’ll hold on to a supposedly exclusive partner who is repeatedly unfaithful because we can’t bear the idea of them actually developing feelings for another. The anguish, the emotions, and the out-of-character behavior to which we are driven tell us that this is love.

So, we take it. We suffer in an effort to prove ourselves. To prove our love. And we make ourselves believe that if we just keep loving them, long enough, hard enough, things will get better — that this perverse concept of love will transform and become pure. That’s if we even recognize it as tainted.

This outlook serves no one other than the person inflicting the hurt. They do whatever they want, indulge their most selfish desires and still get to keep the person they claim to adore. Or, perhaps both parties are wounding one another. Certainly, any relationship that leaves us black and blue inside but begging for more can’t be considered healthy.

People that we love will hurt us sometimes. It’s inevitable as we are all flawed. But they should go out of their way to not do us harm. Such occasions should be rare, as oppose to common occurrences. Because love doesn’t hurt.

Betrayal hurts. Disregard hurts. Having our emotions toyed with hurts.

We can’t offer ourselves as tribute for pain and be whittled down to nothing under the guise of love. One is not an indicator of the other and the two should be disassociated. Pain is pain. Love is love.

You know what are legitimate measurements of love? Levels of respect, honesty, grace, support, discipline, kindness, protection, accountability, and commitment to self-improvement. There are so many positive, empowering elements that lift us up, why give so much significance to the one that tears us down?

I really just cannot believe that anyone who quantifies our dedication and strength by the lengths to which we are willing to suffer in their name truly loves us. They may on some twisted level love that we care for them so much that they can hurt us without consequence. They may love getting what they want. But genuine, selfless love? Can’t be.

Love is the healer, not the ailment.

Author of a critically-acclaimed book on women and dating. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1687069786

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