Here’s what I mean: my relationship with God over the years seems to have taught me that love is a relationship in which:
- I show up consistently and give it my all;
- I am faithful and devoted no matter what;
- if anything seems ‘off’ or wrong, I scour myself for flaws, sins, and shortcomings (and assume it’s my fault);
- I accept silence, absence, and/or general lack of tangible reciprocation from the object of my affections as normal;
- I thus get supremely excited over any small crumb of attention I receive (and take it as evidence of deep love on their side);
- I generally take an attitude of self-sacrifice and self-deprivation toward my beloved – I give, give, give and don’t worry about what I receive back.
During my devout years, if I didn’t “feel” God’s love, it was clearly my fault and I needed to do more to put myself back in God’s good graces. Or I just needed to accept that sometimes God is silent or is teaching me something. My job was to hang on, keep loving Him even if He wasn't showing love toward me in any recognizable or specific or direct way. My job was to believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that God really does love me. My job was to accept that a one-way relationship was okay. My job was to believe that there would ultimately be a huge payoff for hanging on when I wasn’t getting much out of it - I would be rewarded for my patience and longsuffering. My job was to interpret some vague or diffuse event or circumstance as clear evidence of God’s involvement in my life and deep care for me. And it was presumptuous and wrong of me to ask God for more. He operates on his timetable, not mine. I am puny and little; God is infinite and not obligated to do anything for me.
But don’t doubt for a second that God is love.
So guess what? My boyfriends have been just as aloof, inscrutable, silent, and untouchable as God seemed to be.
I’ve chosen distant men who are inconsistent in their affections, and I have poured my love and devotion into them, never really expecting reciprocation, and being (subconsciously) terrified that if I ask or demand anything more or better, I will be chastised, rejected, abandoned. It has been normal for me to feel a consistent longing and sense of loneliness in all of my romantic relationships.
And when things have gone to hell with these guys, I have inevitably blamed myself and scoured everything that happened in the relationship to figure out where I went wrong and thus caused things to fall apart. It is incredibly difficult for me to look at these guys and see that they were lacking something, that they were broken, hurting, inadequate, selfish, or whatever. Just like with God, I find it extremely difficult to critique them in any meaningful way - a residual sense of faithfulness, idealism, optimism, I guess. It’s even true with this ex, who hurt me more than anyone before him: he lied and cheated, yet I still feel as though I did something wrong to make him want to betray me.
I am doing a lot of work in counseling to understand these patterns, because I have have have to change them if I am ever going to form a healthy, mutually loving, relationship with a worthy partner.
But damn, those are some messed up ‘love lessons’ I took away, huh?