May 15, 2024

He Loved the Way I Loved Him—& I’ll Never Love like that Again.

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“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” ~ John Green


Something interesting happens, heartbreaking really, when you realise they loved the way you loved them.

Sort of like an epiphany that slaps you hard and cold across the face. And the sting is so painful you think you’ll never recover.

What if that was all it was? What if they were in love with the way you loved them rather than actually loving you? What if your love made them feel so good, it swept them up. You cared for them. You validated them. You held them. You made them feel good about themselves. You loved them at a depth they had never experienced. Your love captivated them, but was it ever really reciprocated?

He loved the way I loved him. The way I was always there for him. The way I nurtured him. The way I cared for him when he was sick. The way I massaged the tension out of his shoulders. The way I touched him. The way I looked at him. The way I would drop everything to be there for him. The way my body responded to him.

Yes, he loved the way I loved him. And I will never love like that again.

He always said he needed me and at the time I found that flattering. Endearing. But I knew didn’t need him; I never needed him. I wanted him. I desired him. I loved him, but no, I didn’t need him. And it’s taken me a long time, several years in fact, and a good dose of therapy, reflection, and internal work to understand he needed what I gave him. He may have loved me. He may have even wanted me. I know he desired me. But he needed me fiercely. Unequivocally. With an intensity that could have swallowed me whole. He needed my energy. All the ways I made him feel. He needed everything I had. And it almost sucked the life out of me. He took and took. I gave and gave. And then I gave some more.

I wanted him. And he needed me. He needed all the love I had, desperately trying to fill his gaping voids. Wounds. The holes that someone else created. And I gave it to him. I fed him even though I was starving. I hydrated him even though I was parched. And I’ll never love like that again.

He loved the way I loved him. He needed the way I loved him. Like an addict and their choice of drug. He needed the hit of dopamine I gave him. He couldn’t get enough of me and my love. He once said, “I can’t do life without you”—which boosted my ego at the time—but what he really meant was he needed the way I loved him. What he was really saying was, “You fill the parts of me I have no idea how to fill.”

He was a leaky boat and I was plugging every one of his holes the best I could. I knew I could always do life without him, I just didn’t want to. Want and need are vastly different things and upon reflection “needing” someone like this is unhealthy. It’s toxic. And it’s codependent. Yes we all have needs, but that does not mean we “need” that partner. That does not mean we suck another human being dry.

I loved him. And he loved the way I loved him. I will never love like that again.

I will never allow myself to be needed like that again. To try and fulfil every need of another grown adult. To ignore my own needs to ensure another’s are filled. To run a daily marathon, only to give the medal to someone else. To walk through the desert in the searing heat, in search of a mirage, to fill another’s cup of water. To be the therapist. The friend. The cook. The nurse. The metaphorical punching bag. The masseuse. The chauffeur. The assistant. The maid. And the lover. To be everything for him and nothing for myself. To hold him when he was sad. To calm him when he was stressed. To feed him when he was hungry. To listen to him when he needed to talk. To assist him in his work. To wear every harsh word, each one bruising my heart that little bit more. Appease every jealousy. Manage every mood. And to be the lover he needed, whether he wanted to gently make love or f*ck me with unbridled heated passion.

He loved the way I loved him. Until I was depleted. And I will never love like that again.

I was drowning in a sea of need and giving, and every so often he would throw me a life raft. Just before my head would go under. I thought he was saving me and it kept me there, spinning, grateful for every small morsel he threw my way. But I realise now, I was drowning under his need for me. I was drowning because he loved the way I loved him and that wasn’t enough. It’s not enough for anyone.

He was taking far more than he ever gave and I was exhausted. But I didn’t understand this at the time. I wanted him and I loved him and I never understood I was accepting a love I thought I deserved. I was accepting less then. I was accepting pieces of him. I was accepting breadcrumbs. I was accepting a man who needed me and because of that he took everything I had to give. I was accepting a man who didn’t know how to love himself so he sucked all the love out of me.

He loved everything about the way I loved him. And still that was not enough. I will never love like that again.

I allowed it, so it’s not all on him. My boundaries were weak. They were low enough for him to climb over. They were narrow enough for him to walk around. They were flimsy enough for him to push over. The door to my boundaries was always slightly ajar for him. And even when I tried to lock that door, he always found the key.

His wounds bled all over me and I was his human bandage. I soaked it all up, never realising I was now cut. I too was bleeding. I too was wounded. And whilst I spent so much time tending to his needs, his wounds, stemming his blood flow, I was bleeding out. I was on life support.

He loved the way I loved him. He needed me to love in this way. And I will never love like this again.

My wounds have healed now. I learnt to tenderly care for them. It took time and work. Sometimes they would reopen and I had to start again. Sometimes he would try to check on my wounds, but all that did was cause them to weep. In checking on my wounds, he was inadvertently seeking the medicine, the dressing, and the bandages for his own. He still needed that. Needed something from me. Needed his fix. Needed to feel the way I used to love him. Even after it ended, I was unwittingly still giving.

My scars are still visible if you look really closely. A reminder of the man who loved the way I loved him. A reminder that giving needs to be reciprocated. A nudge that my needs are important. That boundaries are crucial and sometimes you need to deadbolt the door and throw away the key—even if there’s love in your heart.

Some love stories were never meant to be. Sometimes they are just a chapter in your story and you need to put that book back on the dusty shelf it came from and choose a new book, and this time it will be a bestseller. Because you are writing it. You are living it.

I love the way I love me and that’s how I will love again. That’s how I will be loved again.


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