What do we mean when we say we love someone who mistreats us?

I have been struggling with my marriage to my ADHD husband for many years. He is not very communicative, but sometimes we are able to talk about our problems, and sometimes he asks if I still love him. I often say, "of course I do. If I didn't, would I put up with all of this?" But recently I have wondered what I mean by that. Do I really love him? Do I love myself? Why do I put up with the anger, the chaos, the lack of communication, the wild imbalance in our work and family lives, the financial and other problems he causes for us? What do I mean when I tell him I love him? What do I mean when I tell myself that I love him?

I sometimes wish that he would fall in love with a rich woman and leave me for her. It would solve his financial problems and let me live without him, which would make me happy. Sometimes I say to myself "I wish he would leave me, but I would never leave him." Why?

Does anyone have insight into these questions?

Good question

I'm trying to figure this out myself as I've finally made the decision to end the relationship. 

"Do I really love him? Do I love myself? Why do I put up with the anger, the chaos, the lack of communication, the wild imbalance in our work and family lives, the financial and other problems he causes for us? What do I mean when I tell him I love him? What do I mean when I tell myself that I love him?"

For me there's a TON of insecurity wrapped up in this. He's the only man who's ever paid attention to me; I was young and stupid and raised in a very fundie household that basically taught that you get married young. Unfortunately I had zero experience with relationships before him, so a lot of this "stuff" that happened I didn't recognize as abnormal. I also was taught that you stick with a marriage no matter what. 

I can say that I love him but I also need to accept that if I want more out of my life than chaos and uncertainty and everything else I've dealt with that I need to love myself enough to take care of myself and end it. That's been a big issue for me because I have zero self-esteem, I have extreme insecurity, but I'm taking steps to correct the issues around these as well as the root symptoms so I can be healthy mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. 

Same with me.  My ex-husband

Same with me.  My ex-husband was my only boyfriend and the only person I was intimate with.  I got married at age 23.  I'm now 55.  I was married for 31 years.  I had low self-esteem, it gradually improved, but when he started withdrawing from me and our daughters, my self-esteem once again tanked.  It hasn't returned.

Easier and less messy

I get you when you say you sometimes wish he would just leave.  Presumably that would make for an easy, not-messy ending and you could move on.  I used to fantasize about similar things.  You could also leave the relationship feeling as if it were 'his' fault, if you were inclined to do so, since he had been the one to initiate leaving.  Somehow, that feels easier, too.  He would be 'happy' (hence his leaving) and you wouldn't have to feel guilty about it...which you might well, if you initiate a separation.

I think people sometimes confuse a sense of obligation and continued momentum with 'love.'  "Of course I love you...because if I didn't, why would I be here?" is backwards logic in some ways.  "I love you, therefore I stay" feels different from "I stay, therefore I love you."  You should ask yourself which it is for you.  The distinction is important.  Because "I stay" could really be due to "I'm afraid to leave" or "I don't want to disappoint others" or "if I leave then what was this struggle really for, anyway?'  Thinking about leaving is like looking into a void...and it really can be scary.

I'm a big fan of trying to work things out, as you know.  And, yes, I had those days when I felt so hopeless that I thought maybe it would be just great if fate would intervene and my husband would get hit by a bus or something (testament to my difficult feelings towards him that I was thinking about his coming to harm than that I was thinking of him happily waltzing off with another woman!  I am not proud of those days, though I do own them!)  But when push came to shove, it was clear that I still had a very important place for him in my heart and that the reason that I stayed was because I loved him and preferred being with him to being with any other person.

Love doesn't mean you will be able to work it out.  But knowing it's there is a good reason to keep trying.  Where are you on this one?


When we own it...(our stuff) we can make calm sound decisions...

Finding myself (I chose it, but had no idea what we were in for) in  a place at 51 that no matter what I did or said, it was wrong...It was painful, and it was so deflating...Most of my life I had been able to make sense of things, even the trials of life I was able to endure and work through.  But I had married a single 46 year old woman that absolutely thought that ever thing was suppose to revolve around her thinking. There was no ability to submit, or even work together. From the time we left the alter she never showed any desire to be a wife...She never even thought she should change anything about her life (independent controlling nature) going from single to married (independent to Interdependent)...Not to mention clinical level adhd and all that produced...I have never spoken to anyone like I did to her, and never been spoken to like she did to me...I did not know it was even in me to fight like we did those first 4 years...I had no idea what adult adhd was, or denial was...I attributed ever act, every behavior of her life as thought out intentional acts...I was a basket case...

Why do I stay? Commitment to a Vow #1....I said I do, and I will, until death we do part. I vowed to give 100% no matter what came back...I chose to Love her, and still do choose it....I just didn't have any idea what I was Vowing.. LOL....

What that has turned out to be is a life style that is acceptable to the mind she and I live in....The only way we can exist in a peaceful manner is w/ many boundaries (many late life marriages I would think have boundaries, just for respect sake if for no other reason. My first wife of 30 years was a meek person, who trusted me for everything...We could talk about anything, and she just loved being by my side...WOW, that did not prepare me for my present wife..lol....at all....

I'm content that I should be here...That there is a way to live peacefully with my wife as long as she and I are both faithful...(we experience it at times, and it's getting easier to get there, and we can stay there for longer periods these days) I realized a while back, that much of my stress is based on being offended by her life style...I had to accept it!....And when I started accepting it...I started healing, feeling less stress, and started finding my own life again. Just learning to be happy again....When I accept her realities, she sense's that (my calmness, which kindness also goes along with less stress) it's like putting a spotlight on her own life...My wife loves me, and she knows right from wrong...She knows when she is being defiant and rebellious...When I don't allow myself to be the victim who always points it out, she quietly is more aware of her behavior....We are doing better these days....More respect, more live and let live...I know most of the triggers now...And I avoid them....

I hope you ladies can find a way to live peacefully with your spouses....It will take patients & boundaries to protect yourselves and them...Boundaries can force accountability...But you have to be willing to let them pay the price for unwise living...You can't bale them out then complain about it....It's called tough love, but it works...