How do you stop loving someone?

When you read that title, doesn’t it just feel like it has to be the wrong goal?

All of the wives and partners of men called sex addicts that I’ve met are women for whom “loving” is a spiritual practice, whether it’s grounded in a specific religious tradition or not. For many of them, when a relationship with someone becomes difficult, more love is not only their instinctive response but also what they believe is the right response. And most of us who discovered our husband's or boyfriend's secret life went down that road—some staying on it for years before we realized it was a road to nowhere. But even when you realize it’s going nowhere, how do you stop loving someone when it just seems like you were made to do the opposite?

Sometimes we are so hurt and angry, that love doesn’t get past those obstacles. But still, in a moment of calm with our husband or boyfriend, we may find ourselves falling into the familiarity of each other’s company, the intimacy of humour based on shared history, attracted to the simplicity of not separating or divorcing or the financial security that may come with staying together. We begin to wonder, “Why did we think this relationship was so bad? People do get back together. And here he is, asking if we can’t just go back to being a family again?” Our heart, so used to loving this person, just starts up again like a kind of muscle memory. It feels good to love him again. We’ve missed it so.

This may be where some wives and partners get mixed up and take a wrong turn. We aren’t thinking about whether this man is worthy of our love any longer or whether he can return anything like it himself. For us, it’s more like a default setting that kicks in. We miss loving someone. He seems to want us to do it, and we temporarily forget all the reasons why he has no capacity to return our love with a comparable commitment to intimacy, honesty, or loyalty. We forget our love deserves those things not as options but as basic foundations. We can’t stop loving him until we value our own love appropriately and take responsibility for being good stewards of it. So what does that mean?

He had your love once. In some cases he had it for decades. You gave it unreservedly. You were ready and open to learn how to love him more. But think about what he did with your love. He used it to make himself more believable to others while pursuing a secret life that betrayed every promise he made to you. Your love made it possible for him to put you at risk physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually without you even realizing it for the longest time. You gave him your love and that’s what he did with it. That’s what you got in return.

So, it’s time to ask yourself what your love is worth because surely it’s worth more than that! It’s not that he needs to pay you for it. But he does need to value it with a kind of mutuality that precludes him from using it to facilitate harming you. What is your love worth to him? What is your love worth to yourself Until you can answer these questions, it’s hard to imagine why and how to answer the other one—How do you stop loving him?

A decision to stop loving someone means that you take responsibility for knowing the value of your love to yourself as well as to the other person. When someone misuses your love so that you are harmed as a result, it is the absolute perversion of your sacred instinct to love someone. You betray yourself. And that's the impetus behind your decision to stop loving them. Not only do they not value your love appropriately, but they are asking you to participate in devaluing it. Once you know that is what is happening you can't do that anymore. It's a loss so fundamental to who you are meant to be in this world that the loss will be felt across your family, your neighbourhood, your workplace, your community of faith, and beyond. 

Wives and partners, please stop thinking he is all that is at stake when you keep loving a man who uses your love to harm you. You are at stake, as well as every arena of action and every relationship in which your presence can make qualitative difference. Value your love. And if he doesn't, there's just way too much at stake to keep on loving him. 

Have you loved someone who hasn't valued your love? Your story is safe here.

with you,

Diane.

Diane Strickland