[Trigger warning: mention of childhood abuse]
If you’ve been a victim of childhood abuse, chances are that you’ve not been told that you are loved, or, that you haven’t felt loved enough. If you suffer from mental illness, or just poor self-esteem in general, chances are that you feel like no one will ever love you. Being told that you are loved by someone you care about is very powerful. It can truly change everything, especially if those three words are what you have longed to hear all this time.
I’ve been together with my boyfriend for nearly two and a half years now and I can honestly say that he has done more for my recovery and well-being than any medication or therapist ever could have. He has showed me that I’m worth fighting for, that I deserve respect and attention. He has poured his love over me, he has chosen me over everyone else in this world. It means more than I can explain. I had never even dared to dream of being told that someone loves me, let alone feel loved, but here we are.
Now, there is also something else that has dawned on me, something that might be a bit unexpected. I have come to realize that telling others that I love them is just as healing as being told that I’m loved. In the beginning of our relationship, I had this huge need to tell my boyfriend that I loved him several times a day. It wasn’t a case of me just thoughtlessly adding a “love you” to goodbyes or anything, I truly meant it from the bottom of my heart every time. Throughout my childhood, I felt unloved. At times, I was absolutely convinced that I indeed was not loved by anyone, and I think that my need to constantly reassure my boyfriend of my love derived from me feeling like no one gave a crap about me. I did to my boyfriend what I had needed and wished someone would have done for me; remind him every single day that he was loved. Because that’s what it was, a need to remind him that I love him, that he matters to me. I was absolutely terrified that he would forget, simply because I know what it’s like when you do. Being given the opportunity to save someone I hold dear from the fate that I had faced and endured was relieving. Furthermore, telling him that I loved him, being allowed to speak up about my feelings, showing him, and myself, that I’m here, that I have feelings and that they matter, was huge. Not only that, but also seeing for myself that my feelings made a difference for someone, that they actually have the power to make someone happy, was unbelievable. It was a whole new world. Who would have thought? All my life I had hidden my feelings, my problems, my alters, myself, because I had learned that, not only did no one care, but putting yourself out there, existing, could and would be used against you. Claiming space can and will get you hurt.
Saying “l love you” is making a statement. It’s revealing a piece of yourself. It is validating your feelings. It is allowing yourself to take up, or perhaps reclaim, space that is rightfully yours, and that may or may not have been taken from you. Love is a wonderful thing, and being told that you are loved is priceless. But your love can bring joy too. It can heal others, and ultimately yourself. So remember, your love is precious too.