Love Is A Taught Construct



How do you know how to love? Did you sit wide-eyed in front a large screen as colourful costumed characters hugged one another to a saccharine sound-track so this imbued you with the concept of what love was? Did those cartoon characters explain to you what it is to love? Did their exaggerated voices and crazy antics, followed by the moral of the story teach you what love is? Perhaps you read about it in love, heard it in songs and studied the many ways in which this ultimate emotion appears and affects people. Chances are that you have been affected by those hugely affecting passages from the great works dedicated to love. Chances are you have been captured by haunting lyrics and catchy jingles which also profess to tell you what love is. They have all played a part. You may have learned about love from the version churned out by the media, of Hollywood romance, dashing heroes, fair maidens, tarts with golden hearts, the good man who rides to the rescue, the wayward soul saved by love. Love may have been explained to you from the pulpit as a higher love, something which transcends all earthly manifestations, a love so powerful and complete that it sacrificed its only son in order to demonstrate its love for humankind. This godly love is all around you, it touches each and all and is mighty in its effects. Love may have been learned from furtive fumbles down alleyways, sneaking into bedrooms when so young, the exploration of warm and urgent body parts accompanied by those every so sincere protestations of love. A haphazard journey through galloping teen years as nothing and everything makes sense all at once. Then again, love might have appeared to you in the form of something small and furry, an unconditional (so long as it was fed) love which was loyal, giving and ever so cute. So many erudite tutors, learned lecturers and wise proponents of what love is. Love thy neighbour, love yourself, love is all you need, woman in love, it must have been love, crazy little thing called love, to know him is to love him, we found love, how deep is your love? Love is all around us, in us, between us, lifting us up and letting us down. It is everywhere and you may well have been taught by many of the above and more besides as to what love is.

However, love most likely will have been taught to you by those who created you, those two people who came together and through their own pleasure created you. Two people who decided that they would shoulder the responsibility of creating life, nurturing it and bringing a new person into the world. Those two people accepted many, many responsibilities from such a decision and act. Chief among them was the responsibility of teaching that person what love is. Through their offices they have furnished each and every one of us with the notion of what love is. A deep-seated and visceral understanding of this is how love feels, this is what it looks like, this is what it sounds like. This is love. From those two people more than anything else we are first grounded in the concept of what love is. This grounding lasts a considerable time and whilst there are other factors to be considered, as I have mentioned above, it is this lesson which is learnt invariably first and the one lesson which resonates beyond all others. So often we are in their hands when it comes to being taught about love. So, what is this taught love? It has so many, many facets.

Love is being told to never trust anybody.

Love is being made to re-write the entire essay because of one spelling mistake.

Love is being sent to stand outside on a cold winter’s day until all three verses of Ode to Autumn are recited correctly.

Love is knowing nothing is ever good enough.

Love is understanding that someone else knows better than you what is best for you.

Love is turning away from the reality.

Love is standing straight against a wall for several hours for speaking out of turn.

Love is for the weak.

Love is being told that when I am gone nobody else will look out for you.

Love is succeeding.

Love is building a wall as high as possible.

Love is trying until it hurts and gaining that final curt nod of approval.

Love is being seen and not heard.

Love is fulfilling your potential and securing that legacy.

Love is hurting you even though it hurts me, but someone in this household has to do it and it won’t be him will it?

Love is reading to yourself than being read to.

Love is living in the shadows and hoping not to be noticed.

Love is being the best.

Love is the preserve of the powerful.

Love is being denied a birthday party because the other children are too stupid.

Love is being undermined in order to prevent conceit.

Love is a begrudged recognition and the injunction to try harder, go further, climb higher, run faster, study longer.

Love is burning your hand but not crying.

Love is don’t tell anybody about our secret.

Love is a righteous beating.

Love is being distant and pretending things never happened.

Love is being sent away.

Love is not being told.

Love is splendid isolation.

Love was taught this way.


65 thoughts on “Love Is A Taught Construct”

  2. Love is never crying
    Love is never showing weakness
    Love is the ability to endure pain
    Love is the ability to endure shame
    Love is the ability to endure guilt
    Love is the ability to be bent and twisted and not break
    Love is the ability to endure isolation
    Love is the ability to endure humiliation
    Love is the ability to endure confusion
    Love is never asking why?
    Love is the ability to suffer is silence
    Love is like being slowly choked to death
    Love is like the death of a thousand cut
    Love is being stripped of your hopes
    Love is being stripped of your dreams
    Love is never having your own identity
    Love is “we”, not “me”, as I don’t exist
    Love is being everything you hate
    Love is failing so your mother can succeed
    Love is dumbing down
    Love is never out shining your mother
    Love is know you were born to suffer
    Love is wishing you were never born
    Love is a lie
    This is the love I was taught. Glad it didn’t stick!

    1. IdaNoe,

      Love your name, by the way.

      This was a hard read. All those things were expected of me as well, but I never identified them with love. In my home those statements would have started with “a normal person,” “a strong person,” “a good daughter.” But I recognize them all, just the same. They warped and twisted my psyche in permanent ways.

      Love to me was how I felt about my pets and possessions. Love from other people only meant they would provide food, clothing and shelter. I grew up understanding and accepting that no one would ever show me the affection that I showed to dogs. I guess I internalized that I was never worthy of that type of love and affection. Really sad now that I think about it.

      1. Animals saved me too. Listen to them, learn from them, they are empathetic too. They will show you that you are worthy!

      2. Windstorm
        Yup. Animals and books were all I could equate a feeling to that might feel like what love was supposed to be. I certainly didnt want to believe that it was what I experienced or observed at home (or in many other places out in the world to be honest) and didnt relate it at all to sex (that was about power and degradation). I thought it was the worlds most elaborate hoax as a child and cant say Ive moved much on that point. I find people fascinating but still prefer the company of animals. Even when they kill they are more honest in their intention.

        Whatever love is Windstorm – we were as worthy of it as anyone else, but there was no one in our environment capable or worthy enough to provide it.

        Guess its true what they say.
        Location, location, location! Haha.

        1. NarcAngel
          Ha, ha! Thanks for your reply. I needed a laugh this morning. Yeah, location, location, location. It’s not just about real estate.

          Yeah, I feel like I’m outside looking in thru the window when people talk about romance and how they believed what they read in books and fairy tales and saw on tv about “true love” and being “love devotees.” We didn’t all grow up that way. Some of us grew up considering all that stuff in books and movies made up for entertainment. I just assumed romantic love was as fake as dragons and evil witches. I guess you had to see real-life examples to believe that it was possible.

          Animals have always been essential to whatever little mental health I have. I woke up this morning to two dogs on my bed kissing my face. It was very sweet. At least I do get kisses! My little cabin has 5 dogs in it this week. My 2 grand-dogs are visiting from Kansas. Pretty crowded in there, but full of love and respect – except for the poor cat. He’s afraid to come in. I’m currently sitting outside with him letting him eat his breakfast.

          Thank you for reminding me that we were always deserving of being loved and valued, it was those around us who were lacking. At least we’ve always had our animals. Reminds me of the saying, “Whenever God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.”

  3. Hi HG,

    You answered a comment previously on this post as to whether or not there were a lot of pictures of you in your childhood, and you replied that there are few. I hate this because I did the opposite. By chance is the little boy in the picture you? He is adorable. Have you ever published any pictures of yourself from your childhood? If not, would you consider doing that? I doubt anyone would be able to lift your anonymity. All of us loving Moms would like to see you as a little boy. I hope that you don’t mind me asking you to consider this..

  4. Dear Mr Tudor,
    Would you be willing to elaborate “why” you didn’t voice your concerns with your mum because I got the “impression” you did and hence you’re current situation.
    Thanking you

  5. Oh HG I wish your childhood had made you an empath and not a narc, I think you would have been an amazing person as an empath, your amazing as you are and the help your giving is fab, we feel your pain and so wish you could feel others then you would be the person you deserve to be not the person those cruel people made you.
    Do you think they knew what they were and their actions could pass the awful condition onto you?

    Big hugs

  6. Dear Mr Tudor,

    “Love” ….. is none of the above

    From me to you
    Bubbles xx

  7. This is a very sad post. It makes me feel even sadder to think that during their childhood, the children treated this way learn this kind of treatment constitutes what love is and it stays with them for the rest of their lives.

    It’s like being abused twice. One is the actual physical or emotional abuse, and the second is that the child’s developing mind is forever manipulated and shaped into believing the wrong things about love. It’s heartbreaking.

    HG, if this post describes your own childhood experiences, would you say you were mostly the golden child or the scapegoat? It’s not really clear from this post. On the one hand, the scapegoat is told they are never good enough, but on the other hand, the golden child is told they are the best. From this post it seems you were treated as both, which can also happen depending on the situation and what the narc parent wants to achieve.

    1. Golden child, but with the heavy weight of expectation. I was the high achiever but it was never enough.

      1. It is now, HG! At least from my perspective.

        I think you achieved something unprecedented and golden here.

      2. Dear Mr Tudor,
        Just curious … did you ever have a one on one with your mum discussing her treatment of you and you respectfully put your foot down … or did it all fall on deaf ears, because if you were her golden child, surely she would’ve listened and not want to get off side with you or lose you? Or did you do exactly that and she then ostracized you or something?

        It appears on both sides of the spectrum, your narc side and our empath side that … “we were never good enough” and we are searching for and trying to fill that same “void of emptiness” from the people we wanted it from the most …. but will never get

        Or perhaps I have it all wrong on both parts … I am the the crazy one after all 😜
        Thanking you kindly

          1. Have the doctors ever tried encouraging you to confront your Mother or do they advise you to have minimal contact due to all the damage she caused?

      3. Thank you for your answer HG. What you’re doing with this blog is a great achievement and it is more than enough. You are greatly appreciated by many people. Just saying 🙂

      4. Dear Mr Tudor,
        Have you written about your father anywhere and where could I find it please ?
        Many thanks

  8. Bad childhood shit happens to everyone in varying degrees- most of us either become a narc or an empath in response to it. I think genetic disposition and wiring plays a role from that point forward as to which we will become.

    1. Sherry
      I agree with you. Environment does shape us, but everyone with children knows that babies are all born with their own personalities. Genetics and and our own inborn dispositions are a major factor in who and what we become.

  9. HG why do you think some become empaths and other narcissists ? Same upbringing, same treatment yet two siblings become polar opposites.
    Same as children of alcoholics – either you become one or become the complete opposite. Would value your insight. Thank you.

  10. My husbands mother always had sexual overtones to her parenting / narc-ING on him . Creepy fucking woman.

  11. What secret …?

    Good thing I played outside and disappeared without being noticed at 5am tell dark ….good thing I didn’t receive such concentrated parenting …neglect is awesome ! Big families dilute the the impact of criticism and being under microscope .

  12. Hi, HG.

    If you don’t mind me asking and if you wish to answer, I was wondering if there was anyone in your life as a child who praised you with a hug and a smile, gave you kisses, tickled you, played games with you, let you decide what would be the best choice of things to do, treated you with kindness, laughed at how cute and silly you were, gave you fun surprises and / or made you feel supported? I hope there was someone, even if you saw them infrequently. Please forgive me if this question is wrong to ask..

      1. That is something.

        HG, did your parents take a lot of pictures of you as a child? Like, showing a facade, a harmonious family? Do these photos look convincing?

        I’ve just scanned all my old photographs and even I could almost believe that I have had a lucky childhood, …. though my smile vanished after the age of appr. 3 …. I have destroyed all pictures where my father had us lined up like chickens on the couch to have our picture taken …

        And the pictures show clearly how I’ve always felt ice cold with my father, there are almost none with both of us, but those make me sick even now, and I am standing there hugging myself.
        The ones with my grandfather are lovely, as I’ve always said, he was the only normal person.

        My siblings are only looking nice towards me when I was a baby, others show how they have mocked me daily.

      2. Thank you for answering, HG.

        I am glad that you were not completely alone. Still… I don’t understand mothers who don’t feel an overwhelming feeling of love for their children. I have so much love, I would have wanted to have more.

        Years ago I worked at a school for three year-old children and there was a boy who followed me around everywhere. I was so attached to him, too and it scared me. He so obviously was not loved by his mother (I met her once and she sent a chill down my spine). If I could have done so legally, I would have raised him and loved him myself.

        I wish that your parents had been different in the way they parented you or that other adults would have made themselves a part of your life to give you what you needed.

  13. I read an earlier post of this after I left my original comment. I then read the comments underneath. I was impacted greatly. It is very difficult to not have any ET after reading.

    1. Agreed! One of my greatest joys was reading to my daughter every night before bedtime from birth thru 8 years old and such strong bonding occurs. I struggle not understanding parents who never want to do that. Recently my daughter told me that her school’s librarian is retiring at the end of this year and she thinks I should apply for the job because I would “read so nice to all the little grades”. It made me feel good that she has that happy memory from her mom.

  14. This was an emotionally difficult read. I can’t imagine what it was like to live this.

  15. This is so sad. This was my life. I swore that I would be a different parent, a BETTER parent. And, I am. Not perfect, by any means, but I have two amazing children (now adults). I was able to put my childhood out of my head for the most part. That is, until I met KS. It has all come flooding back. The rages, the demeaning words, the silent treatments – I feel like that wounded child again. The wounds are once more open and bleeding. How do I heal? I need to find meaning. I want to have hope.

    1. HG – How come some survive to be better people and others repeat the patterns of their past?
      I realise my mother never put her arms around us, we never kissed, we never said I love you to each other. Dad did. Dad read bed time stories, sang and whistled, rough and tumbled. She took care of us, fed us, clothed us, and looked good for the outside world. Strike up a conversation? No. Get the look. Children seen and not heard.
      And yet still I learnt to love to hug to kiss and to be kind. I taught this to my kids. It was for my kids that I awakened determined to teach them a better way.
      I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve learnt.
      I still got entangled with two narcs – ex husband lesser 27 yrs then 15 yrs ex greater entanglement. Neither could love. Both had mother issues. I guess mine affected me by bringing out the empath. I guess I was lucky. But actually it felt like a choice a conscious decision. I could have gone down the other path but didn’t . So why can’t narcs do that? Or can they? And if they choose not to then why? Because it’s easier?

      1. The route that is taken is an instinctive response at that time and is generated from the combination of genetic predisposition and the application of environment, we do not choose for the narcissism to manifest. I accept that there may appear to be an embracing of that outcome and a choice made, but by that point it has already occurred and the appearance of choice is just a facet of the narcissism manifesting.

    2. Mary
      Do you have grandchildren? It helps me to be able to work at being a good grandmother now. Also once my time was more free (grown children), I would begin a project and focus on it. For me at least, the feelings of hopelessness are when I’m stuck in my thinking. Once I begin moving forward (toward any goal really), my happiness and joy comes back. Just an idea.

      1. Hi Windstorm,
        Thank you for the suggestions. No, I don’t have grandchildren yet. I still work full time, go to the gym, and have hobbies. But, this relationship that I got mixed up in really took its toll and now I am just trying to get back on track. He knew how to push buttons that haven’t been pushed in many years. I am trying to figure out the greater significance of this story – I feel that it does have spiritual meaning. It just hurts so profoundly. I miss the fake “good” person. LOL

  16. I don’t believe there will ever be an instance that this article does not affect me. Whether it is read or heard, it drives home a truth for so many. I unfortunately see it and hear it too often, But it is so important for it to be heard!

    I was taught a different construct of love. A love that I am able to share with my children, I can only hope that i am able to be the best mother I can possibly be; with balance, strong secure attachments and love. The importance of this is beyond measure!
    A hauntingly poignant, emotive and important article…

  17. I was raised the same– and sometimes worse- however I turned out to be an Empath- so confusing. I remember being six and saying to myself . “I better take care of me- no one else is going to.” I also grew up being bullied at school for being half native and living with a ‘white family’–

    I also remember thinking I am never go to allow someone to be treated this way, I am never going to treat someone this way– however I never understood love. Love is having to fight for it– love is always one step away, maybe I just am not good enough to be loved—- UNTIL I met my narc- then I felt love, I understood! However, yet again, I was not loved, I had to fight for his love- that meant it would be important! Wrong- love finds you, love can hurt like hell, but love is amazing! Treat it like the rare and valuable gem it is– do not throw it away, do not give it away freely, do not leave it lying around for someone to steal it from you. You must value the love you have and guard it- sharing with those who are worthy.

    1. I felt similarly growing up. I remember figuring out at a very early age that I was on my own emotionally, although I don’t remember it bothering me. I guess I thought it was normal. I was my dad’s “golden child”, and treated relatively well, but there were things both my parents did that I swore I would never do to my son. It was really more subconscious than anything, though. Because most of the abuse in my childhood was passive and covert, I am only now becoming conscious of it, in my late thirties. But so glad I instinctively treated my son differently than what I experienced. In a way, being raised by narcissistic parents made me more empathic. I should say my dad is definitely a narcissist, albeit a smiling, joking “happy” one that doesn’t seem to need constant fuel. He checks all the boxes in the dsm. My mom is a strange mixture I haven’t figured out yet. They are quite the puzzle…

  18. I felt that you,H.G., was describing your life with your mother. Notice I said felt but that doesn’t mean I am right. Let’s say I am for argument sake. Doesn’t becoming a narcissist because she was cruel( read all your books) only still give her all the power? She is still winning. It’s possible you became like her to get her approval & although you had a good father, he was weak & didn’t protect any of you. You said in your book he loved her & I think he was afraid of her. Can you imagine her fury if he had left and took you 3 with him? She would have ruined him & he never had a chance. Or perhaps he was very strong & stayed so the 3 of you had someone kind. You tell us that it wasn’t anything we did wrong by having the narc nightmare, so it wasn’t your fault that she couldn’t love you. You say you like being this way & yet at the same time you are terrified someone will see that child in you that you believe is soulless and not human if you run out of fuel. It seems to me that narcissists are cruel to everyone because you never got to actually be cruel or express anger at the one person who is actually guilty, so you feel justified in punishing the world. It’s kind of ironic that you have had a woman in your life who actually loved you & could have given you so much to make up for the one woman , your mom, who couldn’t or didn’t. But that’s the problem isn’t it? It’s only your mom you want it from? Just sharing my humble opinion after a 30 year narcissist spouse marriage that ended by me.

    1. While we may see the issue quite clearly and think why can’t they just overcome this childhood issue in therapy? They cannot because this is not a mental illness that came over them like a cloak of darkness one day. Nope this is woven into their personality. To try to undo it, would literally be undoing them. They would deconstruct. It’s every fiber of their being. Their true self no longer exists which is why no amount of therapy will cure them. You cant heal an inner child that is dead.

      Being a Codependent, I sort of get it. I can cognitively know that I’m dysfunctional at times, but still fail to do anything about it. Mr. Lesser of mine is aware that something isn’t quite right with him but is not willing to do anything about it. After awhile, your dysfunction becomes comfortable to you.

      So yeah I kind of get why what seems so curable isn’t curable. The child that needs healing no longer exists they were replaced by a false self

    2. Narcissists can’t do other than using that exuse, or any, to justify their behaviour. They have to have someone else to blame things on because they cannot accept responsibility or accountability for anything.

  19. Yes, that pretty much sums it up. Childhood is hell, still, from the hellfire of such childhoods as you describe also come empathic people who are kind to others, BECAUSE they know the horrors of hatred, lovelessness and cruelty (physical and emotional); and could NEVER treat someone as they have been treated. Do you think the narc parent picks mostly on the weakest child (one that will likely break and must create a fake self to survive, thus becoming little narc) instinctively? Someone who lives to hurt others for fake self gain (money, etc, emotions) as a permanent state of being.

  20. HG, I identify with all of thee above.
    Love was being tortured, in various ways, then held, caressed, told they are sorry for being mean.
    Every fucking day from small child to an adult,
    Beatings because I deserved it, locked in closets all day long, etc…fuck!
    I’m so angry. And feel shame because I’m telling their secrets in therapy. Two are dead and thank God. No wonder I’m always in 5th gear crazy and freaked out.

    1. Lovely T,
      That just breaks my heart …. parents can be so cruel!
      I wasn’t locked in a cupboard … however my brother n I were always being sent to our rooms, for what, I had no idea…. and made to shell peas and beans
      The anger eases over time …. as they say “time” is the biggest healer, it gives us an opportunity to sort out our emotional thinking.
      We empaths do feel shame …. it’s in our nature … letting go is good
      Its now your time precious … put yourself first and slowly your feelings of crazy and bring freaked out will fade
      I know … trust me 😊
      Lots a luv
      Bubbles 😘Xx

  21. A very powerful article. From an empath’s point of view, raised by narcissistic parents:

    I learned how to receive love: Be approved of. Follow expectations. Obey. Keep your feelings to yourself. Do NOT criticize. Agree. Listen endlessly. Do not ask for anything you can do for yourself (no matter how difficult). Be helpful. Be exceptional. Be needed.

    However, somehow, I learned that to give love: Be forgiving. Be compassionate. Try to see the other’s point of view. Do not hurt others. Do not take without giving. Help when able. Do not mislead. Do not manipulate with malicious intent. Do not judge what you don’t understand. Appreciate. Acknowledge.

    I have no idea where I learned to give love, but it has taken almost forty years to connect the two. Somehow, it never occurred to me that I should expect to receive love the same way I give it. I guess the construct we are raised with holds extreme power over us.

  22. I love this article. The second half Brings tears to my eyes every time.
    I envisage how my ex greater narc got to be how he is.
    He occasionally gave me a glimpse. Although it probably wasn’t all true. But his mother definitely his mother played a big part in his corruption. Play the piano until you get it right etc. Be the best. Don’t mix with the other kids.
    He told me he was scared of the world.
    But he’s too broken to save.

  23. One of your most powerful articles.
    You can replace the noun, “Love” from your perspective, with “Contempt” for MatriNarc’s on almost all of these.
    You had youth, innocence and time on your side and I think she had raging jealousy over that prior to your siblings coming along. Things coveted are often what is in plain sight as a daily reminder of what you do not have or don’t have control over.

  24. . I haven’t read this post before. I cannot be articulate at the moment. That was haunting. For a child to feel that way… My childhood was dysfunction junction, but I knew my parents loved me. They did the best they could. It was mucked up, but they did the best they could.

  25. My father was an abusive alcoholic who believed in physical and harsh punishment as means of discipline ( although he stopped drinking when i was 13 and didn’t touch any alcohol since then).

    My mother suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and manic depression. She was diagnosed when I was 10 and hospitalised several times during my childhood. She tried to commit a suicide twice.

    # codependent
    # myparentsfuckedmeup

  26. Nice essay. I recognized a few I feel impacted me and enabled me to stick in it as an empath way too long. Be seen and not heard, look away from the facts if they aren’t pretty..
    🙁- feel very sad today. Realizing over and over, month after month that nobody gives a sheeot what happened and-it’s solely my job to erase it from my head. It’s the lies – not the rest of it. It’s how she deceives that kills me- like goddam -are narcs the only people who attract people and flit around all raging in bars and such?
    Argggh (scream in wilderness)

    1. Dearest Kathleen,
      I just wanted to let you know …. here, we do care…. very much
      Mr Tudor has graciously allowed us this wonderful sounding platform you can’t get in a therapists office
      We do have to change our emotional thoughts ourselves, but at least, here, is a wonderful support team where you’re luvved, heard and we do it together
      I couldn’t get over the lying either
      I hope I’ve been of some comfort …. smile lovely lady, it becomes you
      Hugs to you
      Luv Bubbles xx

  27. “love most likely will have been taught to you by those who created you, those two people who came together and through their own pleasure created you. Two people who decided that they would shoulder the responsibility of creating life, nurturing it and bringing a new person into the world. Those two people accepted many, many responsibilities from such a decision and act. ”

    HA – what planet was that on?

  28. Yes, it is.

    I recommend the works of Paul Ekman and Dr John Gottman. The first statistic I ever fitted in, sometimes called “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

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