Sometimes we really can’t see the forest for the trees. I have been reminiscing today (wait–that’s too nice of a word, I think ‘mentally slumming’ fits better) about the dark years with Larry–he was living in denial, acting like a jerk and I felt as if the entire weight of the universe was crushing my spirit. I remember those long months before I finally decided to leave. I remember trying to make sense out of the nonsense. I remember being unable to decide what to eat for dinner, let alone decide what to do with the rest of my life.

But, I also remember a pervasive, underlying phrase that kept coming back to me, clouding my choices.

‘But, I love him.’

Four little words. Four words that can have so much influence. Four little words that seem to paralyze our common sense and force us to do stupid things.

So, I thought that now, today, when my mind is much more clear and my decisions have been made, that I would analyze ‘Love’. Okay, I know, philosophers have been trying to do that for centuries, but let’s just look at love from the perspective of a relationship in crisis over a spouse or partner’s Sexual Addiction.

I have no doubt that every woman on this site feels love for their partner. Most of you were blindsided by the discovery of the addiction and many of you are still grasping desperately for a lifeline. But, once the reality sets in, choices must be made.

I remember that every time I tried to be analytical and make my ‘pluses and minuses lists’ about the relationship that little ‘love’ phrase just kept nagging at me. Finally I just snapped, went a little crazy and decided that my ‘gut’ was telling me that I should stay with this man, whom I truly loved with all my being. After all, he was my ‘soul mate’.

Well, that little burst of insanity didn’t last very long (thank god!) and I had to face the reality that this love was not making me happy–in fact, it was killing me. I finally realized that the love I felt was uniquely my own emotion; it came from within myself. But, the behaviors that were making me unhappy were coming from without, from someone whom, although I loved him, I could not control, make him ‘see the light’, or change his ways. I loved him but he was not being loving toward me.

The light bulb went off when I finally realized that just because I loved him didn’t mean that I had to stay with him. I could keep my love. Keep the good things. Keep the memories that I chose to keep even if they were now tainted with deceit. I could make those choices. That love was my precious emotion, mine to do with as I pleased. Loving someone does not mean you have to stay with them.

Here is a list of what I think love is and what I think love isn’t:

Love Is:

  • An emotion we feel that we may or may not have any control over.
  • A joyful feeling that sharpens our sense of wonder and beauty.
  • An appreciation of personal and universal uniqueness.
  • A respect for others choices in life.
  • Compassion.
  • Empathy.

Love Is Not:

  • Unconditional.
  • Disrespectful.
  • Dishonest.
  • Deceitful.
  • Harmful.
  • Sex.
  • Lust.
  • Necessarily mutual.
  • At first sight.
  • The ties that bind.

We may continue to love our partners and spouses even though they do not love us, or even have the capacity to love us. I feel a deep sense of respect and love for my two ex husbands, but I don’t regret for a minute that I left them. And, leaving Larry was the single, most loving thing that I did for myself.

Loving your partner and staying in a bad relationship with them are two individual parts of your life; they are not bound together with cement. Each is separate. You can have one without the other.

You can love ’em AND leave ’em.