Why abusers say ‘I love you’

Ever wondered how your partner can passionately insist that he loves you one minute, and threaten to punch you in the face the next? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have turned this over in your head, obsessively trying to fit the puzzle together. Unfortunately, manipulative abusers don’t speak the same language: here’s what he really means when he says he loves you.

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1. He says: “I love you more than the world.”

What he really means:

I want you to believe that I love you, because then you will accept me and my behaviour. In a new relationship, I want you to fall hard and fast in love with me, because then I can remove my mask and relax into my natural state. So, I’ll work really hard at being charming and affectionate. I’ll tell you what you want to hear, even (and especially) if it is not true. I’ll be the first to say ‘I love you’. And, as you begin to buy-in to the hearts and flowers, I’ll be carefully conditioning you to accept what comes next. By the time you’re deeply in love, I’m deeply in control.

2. He says: “I love you. You’re all I need. I should be all that you need.”

What he really means:

I’m not to blame for the abuse. I act this way because people keep interfering in our relationship, and other guys chase after you. You ought to give up your friends, maybe even your family. You shouldn’t go to work, because then there will be no male co-workers to worry about. The same goes for any hobbies or outside interests that waste your time and energy, and take the focus off me. Why am I not enough for you? I am the centre of your world. I am your world. It’s time you accepted that.

3. He says:I love you. I can’t live without you.”

What he really means:

I love what you do for me. With you gone, who will clean-up after me, iron my shirts, bail me out when I’ve wasted all my money, cook my dinner, and keep my bed warm? My need for control over you is so strong, it cuts me to pieces when you resist it. I need to feel powerful. I love that you make me feel strong, because I can treat you this way. I don’t want to have to start over conditioning a new narcissistic supply. I’ll promise what I must, and maybe even improve my behaviour (for a while) if it persuades you to stay. Don’t leave me.

THE BIG QUESTIONS

Man with heart silhouette

Photo by Bien Stephenson

Knowing that love is a manipulation tool for an abuser, the big questions to consider are:

  • do you love him? and is your love for him worth forever sacrificing your physical and mental wellbeing?

When we live with domestic abuse, we often believe passionately that we love our partner. Why else would we stay? More so than fear, love is without doubt the single most common motivation that abused women give for staying with a poisonous partner.

I believe that it is impossible to truly love an abuser. Love is mutual-respect. Love is equality. Love is affirming. Love doesn’t hurt. We need to know that the affects of trauma-bonding feel a lot like love.

If you’re still not sure, try this simple exercise:

  • Think about your man as he currently is. If you met him for the first time today, minus the charming mask, would you stick around to find out more, or run for the nearest exit?

When I tried this, I realised that I didn’t love my abuser at all. I detested him. I was in love with a false memory, because unfortunately, the fantastic guys we fell in love with don’t exist. File him away into your mental archive under Stuff That Seemed Real But Wasn’t.

REMEMBER:

When we invest so much in a relationship – especially one scarred by domestic abuse – it is extremely hard to accept that love has nothing to do with it. When your abuser says, ‘I love you’, he has only one a motivation: to establish, consolidate or maintain his control over you. He isn’t offering love. He is attempting manipulation. Whether he is capable of love isn’t important, because whatever you do, you cannot change his behaviour.

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Do you believe it possible for love to co-exist with domestic abuse? Did your abuser use love to manipulate you?

ALSO SEE: Thoughts on whether narcissists are born or made that way, in Culture Bomb: when your narcissist is from the Middle East.

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24 responses to “Why abusers say ‘I love you’

  1. I “almost” laughed when I was reading this…I was told “I have you trained, it would take too long to train another one”…NEVER said “I love you”…well, maybe once in 13 years during sex. I tried so hard doing all of my teacher tricks to model the behavior -it didn’t work. Had I ever heard those 3 words, I might still be in the relationship-trauma bonding had quite a hold on me.

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  2. Powerful post, I like how you begin to question whether or not the abused loves the abuser as well. I know I personally felt and see a recurring theme in that people, myself included, mistake someone’s efforts at control for love. He cares about what I wear, he wants to dress me up! He wants to spend so much time with me, that is why we can’t go anywhere or be with other people. So many people are needy for love and it leads them to a path where just the opposite occurs. In the last 7 years of my marriage I never heard I love you once, at least he was honest. I am sorry there are so many people who can identify with the pattern you describe. I wish all survivors the best.

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    • Hi betternotbroken and thank you for contributing. You are so right to point out that control can look like love – I certainly have been there, in fact, so much of what you wrote could have applied to my relationship too. I mistook his jealousy as protectiveness, his shadowing of me as care for me…

      However, my ex said ‘I love you’ so often and flippantly that I just knew it was something that tripped off his tongue without genuine affection behind it.

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  3. This was so wonderfully written. I love how you counteract each of the abuser’s statements to direct our attention to what is being said. We often need such clear cut information to cut through the thick haze of abuse. thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your words of encouragement Kimberly.

      It is so much harder to see through the fog of abuse when we’re in it – and, we really don’t want to believe that words which are supposed to carry such weight are being used so cruelly.

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  4. I have never been in an abusive relationship. But I have seen a few. But honestly, I had not given this problem a lot of thought since I had never suffered it.

    But Teela Hart’s blog opened my eyes. Instinctively, I guess I knew this was widespread, but not as much as I am discovering. Leaning a lot from this community and that makes me a better man.

    I admire the courage of all the victims of DV I have met and read these past few months.

    Stay Strong.
    Get better
    And rock on!

    –Lance

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    • Thank you Lance.

      I’m happy that you’ve never been in an abusive relationship, and big kudos for you for engaging with the issue anyway. Too many others think domestic abuse isn’t their problem, yet it is a global epidemic affecting millions everyday 😦

      Thank you again for your contribution and words of encouragement.

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  5. hi, i just got out from an abusive relationship. me and my ex only has been together for 3 month, about 3 weeks ago i found he sent out a flirty msg to a girl and i ask him to explain. he pushed me away and grabbed my neck. i broke up with him directly and he kept begging me. good that i have been reading a lot online about domestic violence and i got a lot from this blog, so i didnt give him a chance. and also i got contact with his ex and his brother, found out he had hide a lot from me and he is truly abusive to his ex, he almost lied about everything about his part relationship and made himself the victim…so scary, i found myself really lucky can see his true face this early. but at same time im wondering is there anything i can do for the potential victims, because im pretty sure he had found a new target online and i can take a guess who she is(omg only 10 days). i just hope less girls get hurt, so im thinking if it is possible for me to report him to the police, force him to stop his evil behavior and get him to see the therapist. can you give me some suggestions? thanks!

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  6. Pingback: Why abusers say ‘I love you’ | jnnkts·

  7. As well as telling you that they apparently love you, they also say things like “I’ll look after you”, or they’ll raise their eyebrows while talking to you. They will try and tell you how similar you both are to each other. They promise you a lot of things, but they never put those things into action. And don’t bother waiting for them to change. You’ll be waiting forever . That wouldn’t be worth it, because in all that time you’ve waited for him to change, you could have used that time to meet a gentleman. Why put up with an emotionally unstable man, when there’s other men our there who wouldn’t dream of harming you. You know, my abuser kept telling me what a gentleman he was. Whenever a man did that, I knew there was a bad reason why he would tell you. Real gentlemen treat you like you’re the only one for them. There’s no reason to believe any man who tells you he’s a gentleman. True gentlemen show it. I knew I could smell a rat. And as for the creep, asking me at the bus stop, whether I trusted him, well, what a laugh. Not sure what he meant by “Well that’s a good start”. A start to what? More like the beginning of the end. I bet he’s trying to do it to other women too. I’m too good for that love rat. He can get thrown out with the trash. I was just a bit of fresh meat for him, because I happen to be younger than him. Well sorry dude, but you’ll never find a more loving woman like me. You’ve lost me for good 🙂 I only have time for men who have time for me. WHY would I take abuse from any man? He can cry over me all he likes, because I won’t be back. He deserves everything he gets. He really thinks he’s the next big thing. He ought to think about how he treat me. He has no heart. I can’t be with a man like that. I never believed everything he told me about his divorce. He never wanted to make love. Well, no wonder I already began to feel unwanted. Luckily I can find a man who will. I think he only tried to get my attention, because I was the most recent new woman, to come along. I didn’t plan on getting close to him. He probably did. *clap clap* Good game he played there, but I don’t have time for domestic violence abusers like him. He always seemed a bit too enthusiastic.

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  8. As well as telling you that they apparently love you, they also say things like “I’ll look after you”, or they’ll raise their eyebrows while talking to you. They will try and tell you how similar you both are to each other. They promise you a lot of things, but they never put those things into action. And don’t bother waiting for them to change. You’ll be waiting forever . That wouldn’t be worth it, because in all that time you’ve waited for him to change, you could have used that time to meet a gentleman. Why put up with an emotionally unstable man, when there’s other men our there who wouldn’t dream of harming you. You know, my abuser kept telling me what a gentleman he was. Whenever a man did that, I knew there was a bad reason why he would tell you. Real gentlemen treat you like you’re the only one for them. There’s no reason to believe any man who tells you he’s a gentleman. True gentlemen show it. I knew I could smell a rat. And as for the creep, asking me at the bus stop, whether I trusted him, well, what a laugh. Not sure what he meant by “Well that’s a good start”. A start to what? More like the beginning of the end. I bet he’s trying to do it to other women too. I’m too good for that love rat. He can get thrown out with the trash. I was just a bit of fresh meat for him, because I happen to be younger than him. He has himself to blame. Not a nice thing to say, but he doesn’t deserve to have a relationship with anyone woman ever again. Marie suffered him, then me, and after me, I hope he can’t find another woman to be with, because he’s a complete tool. Well sorry dude, but you’ll never find a more loving woman like me. You’ve lost me for good 🙂 I only have time for men who have time for me. WHY would I take abuse from any man? He can cry over me all he likes, because I won’t be back. He deserves everything he gets. He really thinks he’s the next big thing. He ought to think about how he treat me. He has no heart. I can’t be with a man like that. I never believed everything he told me about his divorce. He never wanted to make love. Well, no wonder I already began to feel unwanted. Luckily I can find a man who will. I think he only tried to get my attention, because I was the most recent new woman, to come along. I didn’t plan on getting close to him. He probably did. *clap clap* Good game he played there, but I don’t have time for domestic violence abusers like him. He always seemed a bit too enthusiastic.

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  9. I was in an abusive relationship for six months. He was my first boyfriend and I fell hard for him disregarding the red flags and his shady past (jail time past drug use). I said I love you first and I meant it..for the first time in my life I’d fallen in love but he ruined it… He’d stare at girls on our dates out, accuse me of cheating, made me delete a male friend off Facebook and monitored my Facebook. I gave him seven chances and he shouldn’t have had any…. It finally ended and I haven’t had contact with him in two and a half months. But the mental damage remains.. The self doubt, self hatred, and always going over what went wrong in the back if my head. One day I will be free of him completely and I can’t wait. I pray that girls won’t fall for the mask he wears..and that one day I will find my soulmate. I believe that I was put through this so I could recognize real love and what I deserve. And I try to help people that are going through or have gone through this also.

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  10. This is literally so true! I am going through this now except we have a child together and this is the first real break up we have had… its been 2 weeks and I am reading a lot and constantly focusing on his negatives and I hate him too. But when he tells me he loves me and will get his family back it gives me hope but I also KNOW it is never going to happen. Its Stockholm Syndrome. Its horrible I can’t wait to move completely on from this and rid any sort of positive feelings I have for him. On my birthday he berated me all morning then left for 4 days shows up on fathers day wasted saying he wants to die and did something bad. I made him leave. He took my co-worker to Las Vegas and on a 2000 shopping spree and didnt pay rent or food or anything for the “family” he so desperately desires and claims to love so much. He humiliates me with the other women he involves (over 20) in the 3 years we have been together. He always makes sure to pick someone I will find out about (co-worker) or friend and is sure to tell me its my fault and we were broken up. Most i had no idea we were “broken” up and when I knew we were “broken” up it was for LITERALLY one day and yet in that time span he is on another date. Then he comea back to me to berate me mentally and fight me physically. Hard pill to swallow. This article is helping me heal

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  11. This is maybe not standard, since I’m a man, but I’m pretty sure my girlfriend is a bit abusive, at least emotionally

    We just started but I feel like walking on eggshells all the time. She is very moody, and blames me for everything. We haven’t met in months and when I suggest meeting up she comes up with a bunch of excuses and makes me feel like I’m annoying her or being clingy.

    Any thoughts? I don’t wanna be clingy, but it seems that this is not normal at all. We’ve been dating for 7 months. The first month was great, but after that we barely met. In the last 5 months we only met like 4 or 5 times, and there has been no intimacy at all in the last 6 months, not even passionate kissing.

    She still texts me “I love you” all the time, and says she wants to have a family with me. Is this normal? Or maybe I’m going crazy already?

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