6 Reasons Valentine’s Day Should Be Cancelled, Stat

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This week during an interview on The Project, Michael Bublé — Mr. Love himself — dropped a shocking revelation that he’s actually not that romantic.

Instead, Bublé tells us he’s just a guy who likes to watch football and eat nachos and drink beer, and look, as a bona-fide celebrity myself these days, I’m here to tell you the struggle of such mistaken perception is real. Oh, you write poetry? You must be so romantic.

And sure, I’ll confess I’ve been known to be swayed by the occasional small romantic gesture in my time. And there’s every chance I’m partial to dates that comprise of candles and wine, and old-fashioned men who still hold doors open for women and surprise them with offerings of hand-picked wildflowers or tenderly scrawled love notes.

But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, I’m right there with Bublé sitting in my trackies on the couch eating nachos, drinking beer and not listening to, well, albums by Michael Bublé. And I understand the confusion; how a romantic poet normal woman who writes about love can also be a Valentine’s Day insurgent, so to help clarify, I’ve compiled a list of all the reasons I think February 14th should be cancelled, stat.

1.   Expectation

Omg, we’ve only been dating for a month, do I actually have to get him something for Valentine’s day? We’ve been together fifteen years now, do I have to cook her dinner tonight when I just want to watch the game? She just rang to tell me her friend got engaged and I only got my girlfriend a box of chocolates, I’m totally screwed. GOD, THE PRESSURE I CAN’T BREATHE. This is especially true for the avoidant-attachments out there (I’m not terrified of commitment, you’re terrified of commitment), too much expectation on Valentine’s Day will send the relationship down. in. flames. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2.   Obligation

Nothing says I love you more than being forced into gestures of commercialised romance; smarmy Hallmark cards, love-heart-shaped-everything, generic roses, maybe some OTT jewellery thrown in there too. Hey darling, looks like we can’t afford to get little Bobby braces this year but here are those diamond earrings you wanted for Valentine’s Day so you could show your sister up this year. Naaaw, and who said romance was dead?

3.   Cliché

Oh, how I love a good cliché, said no one ever. Clichés are the worst at the best of times, but never more so than where romance is concerned. Clichéd songs, clichéd movies. Flowers, teddy bears, chocolates, 50 Shades Of Grey <shudder>, pink and red lingerie, pink and red balloons, pink and red candles, WHY MUST EVERYTHING LOOK LIKE A FLAMINGO?! Think outside the box, people.

4.   Social Etiquette.

For many, Valentine’s Day raises the issue of social awkwardness — programmed as we are on special days to greet others accordingly, ie, happy birthday, happy New Year’s Day, happy Mother’s/Father’s Day, happy Australia Day etc. Do we say happy Valentine’s Day to people we pass on our morning jog? Our pharmacist? The grocery delivery guy? If we greet our work colleagues in such a manner will they think we’re practicing correct social etiquette or sexually harassing them? Genuine concerns the socially awkward among us lose sleep over.

5.   Lists

HOLD THE PHONE THERE IS ANOTHER TOP 10 LIST OF HOW I CAN CELEBRATE  VALENTINE’S DAY WITH MY LOVED ONE THIS YEAR. Or top 10 gifts I can buy. Or top 10 songs to put on my V-Day playlist. Or top 10 ways to make him fall in love with me this Valentine’s Day. Enough of the lists, already! Get out of my social media so I can return to my regular scheduled newsfeeds. Oh, wait.

6.   Social Media.

 If there’s anything more nauseating than regular Insta-perfect couple photos, it’s Insta-perfect couple photos on V-Day steroids. #besthusbandever #datenight #loveyoutothemoonandback #solucky. DEAR GOD IT HURTS MY EYES. Seriously, nobody wants to look at their friends getting engaged while they’re home on the couch getting drunk. Have the decency to keep that sh*t to yo’self.

You’re no doubt reading this thinking I’m just some cynic who’s been dumped one too many times, and look, you’d be right. We aren’t just born with these avoidant-attachment tendencies; it takes many years of rejection and abandonment to perfect such thorough aversion to relationships. 

It goes without saying then, I’m no expert in love. What I do know, however, is I’m not interested in token gestures of commercialised romance. I’m not interested in a declaration of love dictated by a calendar date or marketing strategy; in posting Instagram photos on February 14th just so I can prove to the world, look how much I am loved.

Give me the real stuff. Give me the Saturday night folding socks, the Sunday afternoon budgeting, the Monday morning alarm. Give me the exhausted falling into bed together after dealing with teenage children. Give me the arguing over whose turn it is to do the dishes, the laughter at times you’d rather be crying, the arms to collapse into when the world is falling apart, the hand gently squeezed to say, I’m here, even without words spoken, the carrying of one another’s pain and grief and sadness, the celebrating of success and joy and all those perfect moments never forgotten.

As the self-confessed non-romantic Bublé says, “I do kind things for my wife, but I think they’re different than buying flowers on Valentine’s Day, I think it’s, you know, doing the poopy diapers or waking up and letting her sleep in, I think those to me are romantic things.”

Anyone can practice romance one day of the year, but showing up for someone every day of the year? That takes some hard work, compromise and sacrifice. But will always carry a greater sentiment of love than a Hallmark card ever could.

 

The Three Words Our Children Need To Hear Most (Hint: It’s Not ‘I Love You’)

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There was a time not long ago when my thirteen year-old HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) daughter was feeling particularly sensitive to anything on television that unsettled her in the slightest – the news, high-action movies, television dramas with any kind of depiction of violence or trauma.

With two older brothers in the house — both partial to action-packed thrillers of any kind — it became increasingly difficult to find something suitable for everyone to watch. The traditional Friday movie night would see us spending hours scrolling through Netflix, arguing back and forth over what to watch until eventually my daughter insisted she was happy to just read a book in her bedroom so others could watch what they wanted.

There were a few times this happened; each time I would go to her room and tell her she didn’t need to read in her bedroom alone and we would find something everyone could watch together. She continued to insist she was fine with this arrangement. But I knew her better than that — this tender-hearted peacemaker daughter of mine who often sacrificed her own desires for that of others; so much like her mother.

I knew what she really wanted was to be with the rest of the family; to know she was important enough to have her needs considered. To know she was wanted enough for others to make sacrifices and compromises that would allow her to be included, even if they didn’t necessarily understand how her sensitivity made it difficult for her to watch movies they saw no issue with.

I knew this, because this had once been me — except, I’d had no one to advocate for my needs, and had instead grown up with a sense of isolation and exclusion from the rest of my family; left feeling unvalued and unseen. And it wasn’t until I said this to her one night as she read alone in her room: “It’s okay, I see you,” that her pretence of fine collapsed and she was able to tearfully admit that which I already knew.

I realised that day the importance of those three words. I see you. That to be seen is something we all crave; perhaps even more than to be loved. To be understood. For our true selves to be known by those who love us. That when we exist inside this place of being fully seen, here we find our safety; our greatest place of acceptance and belonging.

I recently read The Good People by Hannah Kent, and was reminded again of this with these words, “How frightened we are of being known, and yet how desperately we long for it.” There is something transformative in being seen — both in our weaknesses and strengths, our struggles and triumphs. To be seen in the whole person; the entirety of our flawed yet perfect humanity.

As parents, we tend to focus on the I love you; to remind our children of this as often as we can, which is, of course, vital and necessary to their lives and development. However, being loved and seen aren’t necessarily synonymous and while our children may know they are loved by us, if they don’t have a sense of also being seen, they may never feel completely understood, accepted and safe to flourish into their truest selves.

This is especially important for this generation of children whose identities are being developed inside such an virtual world — where they may have hundreds of friends online and yet still have a fundamental sense of loneliness and isolation in feeling as though they aren’t seen or understood by those around them.

We know this of ourselves; the innate need for human embrace; to be heard, to be accepted as we are, to be understood, to feel we are worthy enough to have someone show interest in our lives; more so, in who we are. There is a connection felt in those moments our own hearts crave — how much more the hearts of our children as they seek to find their identity and sense of worth in this hectic world.

As school holidays come to a close, I find myself journeying through the usual emotions – relief to once again return to some semblance of routine and work, coupled with guilt that I did not do enough with my children over summer — that I did not give them enough experiences and memories, that I had all this time with them, yet unsure whether anything valuable was gained from that, or not.

However, I don’t believe the measure for being a good parent is found in how many hours we spend with our children, but more in the ways we show up for them in the time we do have with them. We aren’t always going to get it right or be the perfect parent; we too have our own shortcomings and limitations. Likewise, we aren’t always going to have the amount time with them we often desire; life all too easily gets in the way.

But showing up and being aware, present and engaged is where it matters. Taking the time to see – really see – our children, knowing if we cannot fully see another person, we can never fully love them; only ever our own version of who we believe them to be. And in doing so, fail to give our children what they so desperately need from us the most.

Article originally published at 10 Daily   as The Three Most Important Words To Tell Your Kids (And They’re Not ‘I Love You’)

Mothers Day: We Never Really Fail, Even When We Think We Do

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I never planned to become a mother; at least, not in a tangible way. It was always likely to happen. At some point. In the future. Way down the track. But wasn’t even a blip on the radar when my husband and I took our first proper holiday, three years after we were married. We’d both been working two jobs with barely a day off between us; to say we needed the time away was a hilarious understatement.

We spent a week in the mountains. At least, I think there were mountains. There was alcohol – I know this because every day we drank our body weight in red wine; and then some. It didn’t occur to me until two weeks after we returned home that my period, which was due while away, hadn’t shown.

A week later when it still hadn’t arrived, I stared at two blue lines on a stick; horrified. “But how much did we drink while we were away?” I sobbed, convinced the baby I’d never anticipated to be in my womb at that time would be born with fetal alcohol syndrome.* I hadn’t even become a mother, and already I had failed.

 *said baby is a straight-A student, Grade 8 pianist and 3 times recipient of the Dux award – he turned out okay.

Three babies arrived into the world in the following six years; no more anticipated or planned than the first (we eventually worked out sex was the problem and promptly stopped having it) (kidding) (sort of). This is where I’d love to be able to say I transitioned into motherhood with grace and ease; instead, my rate of failure only increased with each child.

Like the time my second child climbed over the gate at the top of the stairs and landed wrongly as I was in the throes of both post-natal depression and making lunch and just. couldn’t. deal that day. I played down his tears with hollow reassurance: you’re okay, you’ll be fine, just eat some lunch and you’ll feel better. My husband arrived home later that afternoon and noted his lopsided angle. Maybe we should get him checked out. He had broken his collarbone.

Or the time I had to grab a few things at Camping World and left the store, busy and distracted, thinking I had four kids in tow, only to realise at some point the third one was missing. Where’s Aliandra? Confusion. Panic. Retrace steps. Stay calm. More panic. We found her back at Camping World – she had strayed too far behind as we’d walked out; the automatic doors had closed on her and, too short to activate the door sensors, she’d ended up trapped inside.

And then there was my fourth child who could barely walk yet managed to climb onto the table, momentarily, before landing headfirst onto the wooden floor below; her initial scream lasting less than a second before she blacked out and went limp in my arms and I was left with only the screaming in my own head: oh my god, she’s dead, she’s dead. The ten seconds it took for her to regain consciousness have never felt more like a lifetime. Ten years later, I’m still reeling.

My biggest failure, however, was believing these failures (and the million unmentioned others) defined me as a mother. That I wasn’t a just a mother who failed at times, like every mother, but that I was a failure. Enough so, that I could no longer fight against the inadequacy which overcame me.

Defeated, I walked away.

Everything in me at that time believed my family would be better off without me; that my husband was a far better father than I could ever be a mother. That I wasn’t competent enough or equipped enough or able enough. That I’d not been raised with the kind of mother who’d modelled how to parent well, so I could never be the kind of mother my children needed me to be.

I didn’t have a tribe or a village or a support network or anyone to tell me, this is normal. That failing as a mother is as much part of being a mother as anything else. That motherhood is a fucking hard gig and no matter how it may seem, all women feel like they are failing at times.

I needed someone to tell me this; to tell me how I would struggle with the isolation of being home all day with my kids; that no matter how desperate I was  to leave the house and actually see other real-life people, there would always be one sick or one sleeping or one who needed to be fed or one who would have a meltdown because they didn’t want to put their goddamn shoes on.

I needed someone to tell me how alone I would feel when I swapped an adult-filled world for Play School and the Alphabet Song and never-ending rounds of Go Fish; how small my world would become. How small I would become.

How I would lose all sense of identity and self-worth to days I couldn’t even find the energy to shower and dress; how when I eventually did manage to shower I would be too overwhelmed to do anything more than stand there and cry.

I needed to know there would be days where the loneliness would become too much. Days I would be too tired to pick up the dirty socks strewn around the house; too exhausted to put away one more toy or wash one more dish. Days I would be irritable and short-tempered with my kids and react too quickly and speak too harshly.

Days I would feel desperate to be left alone; to not be touched by another or have to speak to another or listen to another. Days I would barely hold my marriage together because of this. Days I would barely hold myself together because of this.

I needed to know there would be days I would fail.

But more so, that it was okay to fail. That failure didn’t define me; not as a mother and not as a woman. That every mother out there was failing and feeling inadequate and falling apart on the bathroom floor on the days it all seemed too much. I needed to know this is what being a mother is like; that for every good day there are even more bad days. That some days are little more than survival. But even then, we’re still enough.

Being a mother isn’t measured in success or failure, but in our ability to meet our children with unconditional love; regardless. It’s in the way we offer them acceptance, understanding, compassion, grace, forgiveness, support, guidance, comfort. The way we nurture them in the truth of who they are and cultivate in them the confidence to become all they’ve ever wanted to be. It’s in the way we show up, even when we don’t know how.

It’s in the way everything they become is because of everything we are.

Even on the days we fail.

Tonight, my children sit around the dinner table; there is talk about their day, the usual ribbing of one another, much laughter. These days, being a mother is less struggle and more heart-in-throat as they begin navigate the world themselves. Days that never seemed to end become years which go by too fast; I am all too aware of how numbered my days are with four of them under my roof. Greedily, I soak in this moment, willing it to stay.

I needed someone to tell me we never really fail, even when we think we do.

Article originally published at whimn.com.au

Day Twenty-Two #PoemADayFeb – Sun


And when we couldn’t turn the page
we burned the book;
yet isn’t this the truth of love:
that we would rather
fill our houses with ashes
than promises;
that we would rather
curse the sun for drought
than believe for the coming rains.

©️ Kathy Parker 2019

Day Twenty-Two #PoemADayFeb – Sun

So, It’s V-Day and All That…

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Here’s the deal, guys:

I was born smack-bang on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer, which leaves me existing in a kind of constant state of ambivalence, swinging between the emotional heart of a Cancer and the intellectual mind of a Gemini.

Which means even though I have this big, sloppy romantic heart of a poet inside of me, I also flatly refuse to buy into the ridiculous, over-commercialised notion that is V-Day, and all the shizza that goes with it.

Because even though I may have had to learn about love the hard way, here’s what I do know:

Love cannot be bought with flowers and chocolate and wine; even less so on the one day of the year consumerism tells us it can. The only exception to this rule is gin. Love can be bought with gin.

When Jesus said to love thy neighbour as thyself, the dude was seriously onto something. Because if we cannot love ourselves first and foremost with every measure of love we deserve, we will never be able to love another the way they deserve. Loving others can only come from the overflow of love we give to ourselves first; to expect another to fill our well only ever leads to disappointment.

If we cannot love ourselves with this measure of love we deserve, we’ll spend our whole lives settling for those who do not love us that way either. How much we value our worth is how high we set the bar for the love we accept. Keep it high. Those who deserve to be in our lives won’t be afraid to climb. Or at the very least, buy a ladder.

Unconditional love transforms people. Like, the most incredible magic trick you’ll ever see. Love someone like that today and watch them change before your eyes.

Love does not look like abuse. The moment it does, leave and never look back. You do not destroy the people you love. Period.

Love is a decision. You will not always want to love the person you wake beside every morning. You either choose love, or you don’t. One of those choices is easy. The other is worth it.

For those actually celebrating Valentine’s Day today, I promise not to judge you. At least, not too much. It’s not that I take issue with celebrating love, or showing a loved one what they mean through grand gestures of overpriced flowers and chocolate. Love is glorious. It should be celebrated. Every day. And this is the point. I don’t want to reduce love to a once-a-year gesture, but remember to celebrate each day this force of nature that resonates through every part of our lives and makes it worth living.

K x

And This is How We Must Learn to Love

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And this is how we must learn to love; without expectation or attachment.

To understand we cannot force people to come into our lives, or stay in our lives, simply because we want them there. There is nothing forceful about love; we cannot demand it, manipulate it, control it, coerce it into being.

We cannot bind another person to us but must understand those who want to be in our lives, will be. Indecision is still a decision; if we must convince someone to see our worth then they do not belong in our lives. There is no place for those who are not ready or able to love us now, as we are, and to set them free is to create space in our heart for those who will see us, and love us, as we deserve; it is to set ourselves free also.

To love without expectation does not mean we should ever be okay with a love that offers us no loyalty, respect, understanding, or hurts us in any way. But that we learn to love without an expectation of outcome; that we cannot place those we love inside our predetermined ideas of relationship but must allow love to manifest of its own accord, all the while finding the grace to accept we may not always get the outcome we hope for.

It is allowing those we love to put their own needs first, even if those needs do not include us; to become whole enough within ourselves that we do not need another to complete us. To love ourselves enough that we do not need another to prove we are worthy of love. To learn to love in a way which honours both them and ourselves.

It is accepting that there are days love will hurt; days our wounds of rejection and abandonment will be reopened when someone we have loved is no longer there; it is learning to sit with our pain in those times, to lean into it and know this too shall pass; tomorrow it will hurt less to breathe, tomorrow we will lift our heads a little higher toward the sky.

To love without expectation or attachment means to be open to allowing love to enter, but also to be willing to set another free. Knowing when we let go of someone we love it will make us bleed, yet so will the blisters on our hands from holding so tight as we force them to stay. Allow them to go; allow their freedom to become your closure. Their journey is not yours, and that is okay. Take what you have learnt, and use it to become stronger, and wiser, as you continue down your own path; eyes and heart open to new horizons ahead.

– © Kathy Parker 2018 –

Day Ten #poemadayfeb: Promise

That we would be an old house restored

with fresh paint and newly hung curtains.

That the roof would be replaced and the

cracks in the wall would be re-plastered

so we would no longer be susceptible to

the bitter winds that blew from the south.

That we would work hard to maintain this

house so it would no longer be a burden

for our weary hands to constantly repair.

And these were the promises you spoke

when we no longer knew how to believe.

We sat amongst the ruins and wrapped

our hands around cups of tea instead of

each other and grasped for a promise

we knew would never be more than

makeshift words.

~ ©️ Kathy Parker // Makeshift Words ~

Day Ten #poemadayfeb: Promise

To The Mother Who is Struggling

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Dear Mother Who is Struggling,

I know you haven’t been yourself lately.

I see it in the way your eyes no longer carry the light the way they used to, their colour faded; like an old photograph that once held a cherished memory, now lost.

Your frown lines have deepened, they outnumber the lines of laughter that once etched the sides of your face, back when your joyful smile would reach that far, back when your shoulders were straight and the weight of your tiredness didn’t pull you down.

You love your babies, I know you do.

But this is hard.

And you are tired. So damn tired.

And maybe this is what adds to the tiredness; the guilt that you shouldn’t feel this way. You wonder if you’re the only mother out there who feels so isolated, so alone, so exhausted. Or do they all have these villages you hear of; support networks of family and friends who share the burden of raising a family, while you wake up each morning and wonder how you will get through another day on your own?

There was a world you used to belong to, and you grieve it. It’s there in front of you, every day, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – there, in the radiant faces of other women as they go about their social lives, their holidays, gym classes, dates, promotions. You wonder how, in a world so connected by social media, you are left feeling so goddamn disconnected from it all.

Surrounded by little people, noise, clutter, you find yourself lonelier than ever. But it’s not a loneliness from being alone. It’s a loneliness that comes from being so far from yourself, so far from who you once were. You don’t even know who that is anymore. You feel as though you’ve traded your whole identity to be a mother. Sacrificed your entire life to care for those around you. This is all you know now. This is all your life has become.

And you miss the woman you once were, and the life you once had.

You long for your independence, your spontaneity, your carefree. For road trips and dinner dates and live music and nights out in the city. For beach days and lazy Sundays in bed and to read a book, uninterrupted. Drained, you yearn for the things that bring nurture to your tired body and soul as you force yourself through another day on the scarce remnants of what you have left to give.

Around you, other mothers appear cool, unflustered; they’ve got this. You wonder if they catch a glimpse of the defeat in your eyes before you look the other way, if they can sense the effort it takes to simply place one foot in front of the other.

I know this is hard. But take heart, dear one.

It won’t always be this way. It won’t always be so hard. Days will get easier. There will be more moments to be still, to breathe, more moments to laugh again. There will be more moments where you can reach inside and find the misplaced pieces of the woman you used to be, and the days will begin to feel less lonely as you journey back to your own heart.

I know you think the way you struggle makes you a failure. That because of this, you fall short and aren’t enough. Don’t believe these lies. Be gentle on your heart, for every day you face the hardest job, alone, and you make it through. No matter how hard, you don’t give up. You show up, and continue to do the best with what you have. And some days that may not seem like enough.

But every day, you continue to love.

And that will always be more than enough.

I know this is hard. But for now, this is all you need to know.

This too shall pass.  

And when you close your eyes tonight, write those words on the back of your eyelids, and watch as they fall away beneath your skin and seep into your bloodstream where they will reach your heart and kiss it with the hope that will get you through your tomorrows.

You may not feel it today, but I promise you, my love – you’ve got this.

Image courtesy The Winged Woman 

Arisen

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“You’re safe with me,” you say
As I gaze at fault lines
Mapped upon your heart
Desperate to believe you
I pretend not to see
And look away

“I love you,” you whisper
And I unpack worn bags
And make you my home
Not yet wise enough to know
Your love would always come
At a cost

I tiptoe around the cracks
Of our distorted foundations
And try not to notice the
Tremors that rattle my bones
As you kiss weak excuses
Upon my lips

The walls close in around us
I suffocate under the weight
Of their intimidating stare
They watch, and follow
And scorn their judgement
Except, the walls are you
Held by mistrust

The air seeps with tension
As cold as your touch
Even though hot anger
Simmers fire in your veins
Tectonic plates shift, and rage
Pours onto me

“Who is he?” you ask
You never did understand me
For there is no other
But you erupt, violent,
The unredeemable earthquake
That destroys us

But I arise the tsunami
Carried on the force
Of my own glorious strength
And all that remains of you
Is the memory I once held
Washed away evermore.

~ © Kathy Parker \\ Paul Kohn ~

Image courtesy http://www.ransomedheart.com

Dear Man Who Loves The Woman Who Has Been To Hell And Back

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Dear Man Who Loves The Woman Who Has Been To Hell and Back,

Last year I published the article, How To Love A Woman Who Has Been To Hell and Back. This article has since been republished on more websites than I could even tell you. It has been shared hundreds of thousands of times all around the world, and has received millions of views. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of messages I’ve received from women who have thanked me for giving them the words they could never say.

But in the last while, my inbox has also been filled with messages from men such as you. Men who are trying to love the woman who has been to hell and back, but are struggling. Men who are doing the best they can, but are hurting. Men who are trying to understand more, do better, love harder, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the pain and exhaustion. Men who are confused, unsure, lost, and in need of answers.

Dear man, the fact that you love your woman so much that you are willing to read an article to understand her more is a truly wonderful thing. That you would message me in the hope of knowing how to love her better is admirable. Men like you are rare, precious, and so appreciated. The world needs more men like you. Men who are strong, brave, resilient, determined, loyal, and willing to love at a high cost because you understand the worth of the woman you hold in your arms. You are a testament to the masculine heart that encompasses both strength and gentleness, fierceness and kindness. Hearts like yours are worthy of respect, and I give thanks that you have chosen to love the woman in your life with such determination, commitment and resolve.

I understand how hard it is to love a woman who has been to hell and back.

Because the thing is, this woman carries in her heart a lifetime of pain that you didn’t cause. You didn’t inflict this pain on her. You didn’t hurt her. You didn’t damage her heart. You aren’t the reason she cannot fully love or trust.

But you are the one she pushes away. You are the one who tries to get close to her, to love her, but fails. You are the one she won’t turn to when she’s in pain, the one she won’t talk to when she feels alone, the one she won’t draw near to when she needs someone the most.

You are the one she hurts, because she is hurting.

And you don’t deserve that.

I know what that does to your heart. I know of the times you are so damn frustrated at not knowing what to do. I know you feel like no matter how much you love her, it will never be enough. I know you are exhausted at times, and are not sure how much more you can take of this storm. I know you feel confused and sometimes none of it makes sense and you lay awake at night and wonder if it’s worth it.

But the thing is, you’re still there.

You’re still there because something tells you this is worth it.

It’s difficult for me to tell you how to best love the woman who has been to hell and back. No situation is ever the same, and I have not the mind and heart of a man in your shoes.

But this is what I can tell you.

My original article was not written to condone abuse of any kind. Our society is vocal when it comes to domestic violence where women are the victims, but far less vocal to speak of men who are abused by women. It’s real, and it happens, and I understand how my article may have been interpreted in this respect and how that may have confused and upset you. But abuse is never okay, no matter from a man to a woman, or a woman to a man.

There is a difference between a woman who is hurting and inadvertently hurts others as she works through her pain, and a woman who justifies hurting others because she has been hurt, so that makes it okay. There is a difference between a woman who is willing to acknowledge that she has hurt others, who seeks forgiveness and redemption, and who strives to do better, and a woman who plays the victim card, blames others, and does not seek to change her ways but expects others to be her punching bag. There is a difference between a woman who struggles to love but does her best to give all she can to the relationship, and one who merely expects, takes, and gives nothing in return.

I know sometimes the lines can seem blurred, and because of this you struggle to know whether to stay or leave. But you are not obligated or responsible to stay there in the face of abuse. You must still, always, protect your heart. The woman who has been to hell and back needs to be responsible for her own healing. It’s not an easy journey, nor a fast one. There are many hard days, many times she will get stuck and not know the way forward. But the important thing to consider is that she is trying – for herself, for you, for your relationship.

No-one can tell you whether to stay or leave, only you can determine what you see in her heart, whether you see growth and change and promise, or whether you merely feel like her doormat. To love a woman who has been to hell and back is not easy. But it should never mean abuse, lack of respect, lack of boundaries, or that you become a scapegoat for someone who is unwilling to heal. This is something you must be able to understand the difference between in order to answer the question of whether you should stay or leave.

I can tell you that you are not responsible for fixing her, nor does she want you to. Men are fixers, and I understand it’s in your nature to want to make this better; make her better. But this is her journey. This is her pain. Her healing will not be pretty. At times she will be the hurricane and you will need to be the storm shelter – let her rage, let her anger and her fury and her pain unleash from her heart, let the weight of the trauma she has stored in her body for so many years come undone. Don’t fight it, don’t stop it, don’t fix it. Just be that safe place for her to come home to when the storm ends and the tears begin. You cannot fix her, you can only love her.

I can tell you the woman who has been to hell and back has a story written on her heart. A story which says everyone who should have protected her, didn’t. Everyone she trusted, hurt her. Everyone she loved, left her. She waits for you to continue the story, to be the next person to reject her, abandon her, hurt her. She expects it. She thinks it’s only a matter of time. And this is why she pushes you away, hurts you, leaves you, when you have only ever loved her. She doesn’t believe she is worthy of a love like yours, and believes it’s only a matter of time until you realise this too.

You asked me what it means to love harder.

It means you will need to be better than anyone else at love. It means you will need to love with more strength, more patience, more grace, more determination, more understanding, more perseverance. It means you will need to love her more than anyone else has before or will again. It means you will need to love her until she understands what love is, and believes in a love she’s never known.

It means you will need to love her hard enough to be the one to re-write the story on her heart.

But dear man, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t everything she needs, and didn’t have everything it takes, to love the woman who has been to hell and back.

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