Monday, August 23, 2010

Emotional Barbed Wire

"We love you but right now we don't like you."

This could be the single most confusing thing I've heard in my life, and it is one that I have consciously tried to understand for years.  I still cannot.  It baffles me.  It confuses me.  It makes no sense.

I understand
loving a person and not liking their choices, but this statement always had me believing that love was an obligation and that liking someone was more of a character judgment, a choice.  The obligation of loving was somehow expected and desired, required even.  

However, being able to say I love you was mysteriously separate from actually liking that same What?  Let me wrap my mind around this, if I can, that you can 'say' you love someone but then be also able to 'say' that you do not, in fact, like that person.  What sort of twisted mind came up with that bit of emotional barbed wire?

For anyone who doesn't really know much about it barbed wire is a terrible thing.  Once you get tangled up in it the harder you struggle to get free the deeper you get cut and the more you bleed.  People and animals have died from being tangled in barbed wire.  The only way to get free is to carefully disengage each barb, cut each wire where you can and gently pull yourself free.  

HOWEVER...this is the hardest thing to do when you are actually tangled up in it!  Emotional barbed wire is just as deadly, just as wounding and just as likely to kill you.

The "love but not like" lie is a whole rotten, rusted fence line of emotional barbed wire, and although it has been said since I was a little girl I still don't understand it.  I don't think it is something that is really understandable because it was only meant as a means of control, of power.

Love is something that is given freely, love is something that shouldn't have a string or price tag.  You don't really have to love everyone you like.  That would weigh a lot!  BUT, can anyone who truly loves say there is love in their heart for someone they don't like?

There are people in my life that I love dearly and we don't always agree with or like the choices that the other makes.  If my little boy makes a bad choice, do I tell him he is a bad person? NO!  I still love and like him the person, his choice is something else.  It is a choice to agree to disagree, it is not a judgement call on them as people.  I have many people who I genuinely like and a few I deeply love - seems simple to me that when I don't agree with their choices (and some have been shatteringly bad choices) I still care for them as people, I still value them as people, I still hold their person in my care and in my prayers.

Emotional barbed wire is everywhere, and when we are recovering our lives, when we are finding out what life is like as a survivor, there are rolls of it everywhere! Rusting on fences, shining on rolls, tangled in the bush, draped over our doorways and beds...emotional barbed wire ready to tangle, twist, cut us and make us bleed.

I wish I could give you a pair of fencing pliers, some side cutters, a hacksaw for heaven's sake so you could cut yourself free when you feel the barbs digging in.  Do you know the signs of emotional barbed wire in your life?  Once you do it is easier to avoid, and easier to untangle from.  It has taken me many years to untangle this lie from my life. 

 I promise myself, every day, that I won't be stringing wire.


  1. Wow, my daughter and I are sitting here reading this together and then look at each mother left both of us with love ya don't like ya verbage.....Wow.

  2. So, so true. And for me, for years, this one wounded emotionally but also spiritually. Having grown up with the belief that my folks 'loved me' but didn't 'like me', when I became a Christian at 16, I transfered that thought to God (unjustly of course). And with that mistaken belief that God 'loved me' (because that is what the Bible says) but that at the same time He didn't 'like' me (in fact, in my mind, He couldn't *stand* me!), I got so tangled it is a miracle I ever got free of that barbed wire. This post is *so* critically important - and as you rightly distinguished, loving someone doesn't mean that they don't make choices you don't like! But I think failure (deliberate or unintentional) to separate a person's actions from who they are, is one of the most powerful and earliest tool an abuser uses. And any parent that plays that 'love you but don't like you' card is subtly poisoning 'love' for that child, perhaps for the rest of their lives - love becomes a cold, impersonal obligation somewhat along the lines of 'you are scum but I *have* to 'love' you (ie grudgingly put up with you) because you are my child'. The sooner we see those deceptive poisonous lies for what they are, the sooner we can heal, the sooner we can truly love and recognize love from others as the precious life affirming, joyful enjoyment of us as people, that it is. Sorry for the rant, but this blog post is just a gem and I had to comment.

  3. Linda and Zoe, thank you for your comments!

    Linda: I'm so glad that you and your daughter were reading this together and understood together. That is two less generations doing this!

    Zoe: Your rants are always welcome, and your points thoughtful and thought provoking. Thank you for being here with us.

  4. Coming from another perspective: love is action, like is feeling. God tells us we must love- we can CHOOSE to ACT loving without having to like the person emotionally.

    One can choose to love their abuser but I Do not believe you can choose to like them. I must love my parents no matter what they did to me but I don't have to choose to be their friend and like them.

    IMO anyway.

    Please ignore the name on my blog that is represented here- I deleted and now use -- don't know how to delete the other one sorry.

  5. Maribeth, thanks for your perspective on this. For me, personally, the love I have as a Christian for my fellow (wo)man is not the same as the obligatory human expectation of 'love me because I'm family'. The capacity God has for love is without measure. Me, I'm only a human, and my capacity is much less.

  6. Mystic_Mom, thank you for sharing this. Maribeth, I am confused by your explanation. How is love an action rather than a feeling and like is a feeling? I thought they were both feelings with like being love to a much lesser degree. It is too early in the morning. My mind isn't working yet.

  7. Great Post.. being a farm girl myself I LOVE the barb wire illustrations! Emotionally controlling and abusive people say things like that (I love you but don't like you) in order to get greater control over you. That has nothing to do with love at all. It is a control tactic. Control is about insecurity. (theirs) That is not about love either. Love is an action word that sometimes says good bye. Good bye is so often best for everyone and love always acts in a way that is best. Having said that, the definition of love is something that I studied for years in my recovery process. First learning what it was NOT and then what it really is. (and then realizing why I did not love myself ) I didn't know that the definition taught to me was wrong. Even the biblical definition taught to me was wrong because abusive people with a lust for power and control taught that to me too. It gets confusing. I love my fencing pliers. I love the how I know that I am free from the oppression that kept me in the dark for so many years because they are well used.
    Thanks Shanyn!
    I love the style in which you express yourself.
    Hugs, Darlene

  8. Thanks Darlene for stopping by, and I love my 'real' and my 'virtual' fencing pliers too! They help keep the tangles from getting too tight.