Coaching with Darlene on My Definition of Love


I am really excited to welcome my friend and guest blogger Carla Dippel. Today Carla is writing about a coaching session we recently did. This post is an excellent example of how to dig down and discover your belief system about a specific concept; in this case “love”.  As always please feel free to contribute to this wonderful post by leaving your feedback and comments.  ~ Darlene Ouimet, founder of Emerging from Broken

Cocahing with Darlene on my Definition of Love by Carla Dippel

A few weeks ago, I was freaking out about love. I felt anxious, confused, and stuck. I had this sense that I was missing something, that I was scrambling in the surface of myself while there was much deeper stuff going on beneath that I couldn’t get at. I described this “freaking out”-ness to Darlene. In her masterful way, she asked me a couple simple questions that changed everything. I really cared about working through this struggle because I really cared about the part of my life that it was affecting. So I decided to be open and reveal the truth as honestly as possible. I had hope that in doing this I would find better answers than the ones I was working with at the time.

First Darlene asked me to reveal my definition of love. She added, “Don’t worry about sounding silly or trying to have the RIGHT answer. Just write what naturally comes out, what you believe off the top of your head.” I had this sense of taking my focus off the leaves of the tree that were sick and shifting it to the soil. What was really down there?… I felt afraid to be so honest. I don’t like feeling vulnerable or sounding stupid (especially). But I went to work.  Here is what came out, un-edited and un-analzyed:

“Okay, off the top of my head with little thinking, love is… Always wanting to be with the person. Life long commitment (aka- I want to be with you forever). Feeling all fluttery inside whenever we see each other. Knowing I will never be hurt by the other person (that’s weird…) Perfect loyalty. Security. Liking everything about each other. Never having doubts. Always being nice (ew).  Major physical attraction all the time. Feeling empty if we’re not together (woa). High emotional intensity when we are together. Being perfect.”

Darlene’s response was: “Your definition of love could not be more wrong.” But she didn’t try and fix it. She asked me a couple more question to go even deeper: “What is your definition of love between you and your mother/ you and your father, you and your brother?  (do them separately for the best results).”

Again, I did my best to be totally honest. This is what I revealed to myself:

“Dad and I: Love is NOT ROCKING THE BOAT. Love is making him feel good about himself. Love is being protected.

Mom and I: Love is never abandoning her. Love is pleasing her. Love is pleasant and cozy. Love is helping her. Love is being helped by her.

Brother and I: Love is enjoying being with each other. Love is looking out for each other. Love is taking care of him. Love is sacrificing what I want for what he wants and arranging my life to work around his life. Love is trying to make sure he won’t abandon me.”

I finished writing this out, read it over and cried. I immediately and deeply understood why I was freaking out about love. I was terrified of being trapped in these kinds of definitions, definitions that had formed within my earliest relationships with the most important people in my life. Definitions I had had no control over until that particular moment of seeing them. Powerful beliefs that were hurting me and that I had coped with and tried to escape from in all kinds of ways. Beliefs that made me unnecessarily suspicious and untrusting in current situations. I felt this new compassion for myself. I wasn’t struggling because I was messed up. I was struggling because of a legitimate problem. And I was fixing the problem.

We moved on to “re-building” questions. Darlene asked, “How do you define love now? How do you define love in the friendship you and I have?” I know love differently now.  Love is many things, but at its deepest core it is acting in ways that are best for myself and for the other person. It challenges and encourages growth. It fosters freedom and choice and individuality. It is honesty with good intention and being real. It is fun… It is enjoyment, attraction, caring. It is not control, manipulation, or lessening myself. It is not constantly adjusting for the other person.

I have had the new definition of love in my head for some time now. I tried to apply it and felt like a failure when I started struggling. I felt helpless and didn’t understand my confusion and angst. Having the new truth in my head wasn’t enough. As long as I didn’t see my deeper beliefs (unique to me based on my own story) going on underneath, they still had the power to tug me down and backwards. Going through this process took their power away. I saw them and where they had come from. I empathized with myself for the pain they had brought me and I started working to change them in those deep places. This made all the difference. I felt free to move ahead. I felt excited… and empowered. I realized that I had been working very hard in the wrong direction by trying to cope with them. I had tried hard to change my thinking and my feelings on a surface level but was getting nowhere. There is faster freedom in working things out on the deepest level of my belief system. Though the struggle to reveal the truth wasn’t easy, the process was simple and invaluable to me. A literal process of digging deep “recovery.”

Carla Dippel lives in beautiful Alberta Canada. She loves to cook, dance, write and grow in knowing what is good and true about this life.  As Carla has emerged from broken, she delights in being a distinct and adventurous woman, living her life to the full, exploring new possibilities and making her dreams a reality.  Carla loves to share reflections of her journey with others and to hear the stories of others in return.

Related post ~ Rebuilding my Relationship with Me ~ Recovering from Dysfunctional

Before I faced the pain I had to face the lies

Categories : Freedom & Wholeness



Wow, it’s really hard trying to ‘define’ love and finding out I have had it the wrong way round too. I totally relate to what you wrote in a lot of ways. Often I talk with folks about how do you learn to love/be loved when you have no foundation to start from? I think it’s a vicious cycle for a lot of people and that’s why it’s so important to recognize we didn’t know in the first place. And self love too. I wonder what defining that would reveal. Thanks for sharing this Carla


It is very true…we have to learn a new “dance” That what we learnt …its not love…..but the whole world wants to keep us in the “marter” mould…then it is more difficult …Love is not all about pain and be stepped on… its something different


I Had that exact problem…It took a therapist to say she wondered if i even knew what love was, to make me think . I Thaught tha i was nobody and nothing…what i had did not belong to me and i had no say. I remember one husband telling me how other women stood by their men through alcholism …and at the time this created in me th worst guilt feeling. How could i be so bad that i did not want to. Because deep inside i knew i hated all that goes with a drunk man.Today i know …..he was manipulating me!..That is not love.


Hi Louise~ I can relate a lot to your thoughts as well and the struggle involved in re-working definitions that I have lived with for so long. As I reflect on your comment, I think through my life and see how I have always been observing other people who’s lives seem to work better than mine in certain areas. I’ve watched them closely (like a detective) and tried to figure out the truth from what I see “works” in their life. It might be a more labour intensive approach, but it’s been part of my process. And now I’m in the middle of learning to pin point what works for ME, what feels true and healthy for me, and putting it all together. And a big part of that is the process of learning to trust myself. 🙂 I like your idea about defining self-love too. It feels like it’s all intertwined together- learning to trust ourselves, love ourselves, and being free to re-work our definitions with compassion from that foundation. Thanks Louise for being here and sharing.


Hi Hermien, and welcome here! Your comments have me thinking about the power of not knowing what you have been missing… and how this is really an opportunity to practice compassion. I’m thinking how easy it can be to be hard on ourselves if we have to “fix” these things, thinking that we should somehow just “know” what love truly is. It took me some time to engage in this coaching process because (this might sound really ‘out there’) I had this belief that if I had to work at something that wasn’t just coming naturally to me, then I was somehow a fundamental failure with no hope. But like you say, if we never learnt the true definition of love, it is no fault of our’s if we have to re-learn it now.

Absolutely – love is not being a constant martyr. Unfortunately, that message is in our society in so many kinds of ways, and especially in abusive relationships. I’m sorry that you have experienced it so profoundly… Thanks for sharing here Hermien.


So, let me see if whats happened this week applies to this post… Been trying to sort it out. Met someone real nice. He seems to be. So I thought, maybe that’s what I need. Then, the more I thought about it the more I thought well, I think he’s nice. I don’t really know him. What do I know about relationships? I don’t want him to meet my family. How will i explain my family to him. Do I have to explain it? Do I want to? And, I’m afraid of trying or explaining to someone why its so hard for me.

Then later, an old friend (guy) that I’ve been corresponding with. I thought, “well, he’s been supportive” Maybe if I’d given him a chance all those years ago. But, I’ve seen this week that he’s interested in me in the wrong way, that he thinks I might disregard that he’s married and be interested in more. I totally don’t think that way. But he thinks I do. Why? Is that how he sees me? So I told him, if I agreed to meet with you, do you mind if I bring someone? So, maybe I’d have to spell it out for him I guess.

Excited about starting job, but not making an issue about it because I expect disapproval from family. Its not in the “perfect” town that they all don’t want to leave! That according to them I’m am supposed to be there. And realizing that I have to try to stay no contact with most of them. Love to me has been trying to stay safe on my own.


You do not have to have (your new friend)him meet your family. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Expaining your family (without focusing on them and letting them drain the power out of your relationship) can be two different things. When you become an adult, you are supposed to gain independence; don’t feel guilty for doing so.


Yeah, I have to stay no contact and let people “in” here who are supportive. Starting a job now and I am more healthy than I have ever been. (that’s important when starting a job) I realized that otherwise unhealthy people will be attracted to you (at the job) and if you aren’t better yourself, well its not good. I attracted and put up with a lot of crap at other jobs. So, its good as long as I stay no contact and try to start to visualize a relationship. The “family” of course would like all the attention to stay on them. Part of no contact also I think is not to even discuss their behavior. Let it fade away…


@Sheryl – I acually have NEVER brought a guy home to meet the family. I’m thinking more of what the guy would want or not understand. I see your point though.


What a great post! I never knew what real love was either – I grew up with the wackiest and most hurtful definition of love. It wasn’t until I met the man who would be my husband who shared with me and showed me, God’s Love. Reading 1st Corinthians 13:4-7 told me what real love is and knowing this and believing it helped me to see and define the abuse for what it really was. Knowing this definition of love helped me to not put up with the ‘toxic love’ from my mother (and family). The biggest thing for me was learning that love is not earned or weighed on a scale, and it does not keep a record of wrongs – and my mother was ‘wonderful’ for keeping that record of wrongs as far as I was concerned. It was communicated to me, that anything I did short of her idea of perfection meant ‘no love for me.’ Her idea or level of perfection was just WAY TOO HIGH for me … it didn’t matter what I said or did to please her – it was never enough – and then because I ‘fell short’ – on came the humiliation, degradation, hate, … you get the gist. It’s been one long journey, learning what love is … even a longer journey is learning what forgiving an abuser really means … it does NOT mean forgetting; … and when the abuser doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong, forgiving also does NOT mean reconciling. Reconciling with someone who abuses is a very bad idea … but that’s probably another topic. 🙂


My definition of love was about doing whatever was required of me to meet whatever they wanted from me.

Love was all about obligation, hurt, pain, shame, fear, terror, appeasement, manipulation, degradation, brutality, humiliation, power, abandonment, isolation, keeping quiet, never questioning, loyalty, insinuations, suspicion, allegations, scapegoating, confusion, never being real, superficiality, obedience, control.

Wow, no wonder my understanding of love is so skewed. No wonder I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to relationships or love.

Whatever I did it was never enough so love for me was always requiring more of me than I could give. It was about never being good enough. It was always about falling short.


Fi, when you said, “My definition of love was about doing whatever was required of me to meet whatever they wanted from me.” This is what it boiled down for me too and then all the words you used regarding the abuse – me too. So painful. And now, here I am at 45 – just now learning to love myself and discover who I am.

HUGS, Fi !


Hi Paulette, there must be something about turning 45 – I turned 45 in February and am only just beginning to discover who I am, and slowly discovering there is more to me than “they” said there was. It is very painful hard work, but I have hope now that I didn’t have before, hope that there is a way through all this stuff. Thanks for letting me know how my words resonated with you.


Hi Bonnie~ thanks for sharing this chapter of your story. The steps you are taking inspire me, make me think about how important it is to guard and the protect the new things we are nurturing within ourselves, whether that involves protecting ourselves from certain people (by having no contact) or just fending off the lies on the inside. All the best to you on your journey. Thanks…

Paulette, I love all your thoughts. I can identify with that “rule” of perfectionism when it comes to how I learned to treat myself, expecting myself to be perfect and live up to certain ideals. What in incredibly damaging and stifling burden to live under, especially when that rule is between a child and her mother. I’m so glad you found real love and are journeying deeper into it, and sharing your insights here too.

Fi, maybe you have found your beginning, just in seeing what your old definition of love was like. What a painful lie… It is really encouraging that you are discovering who you really are and have hope that you didn’t have before. Thank you for being here and being a part of this.


just need to inform people on my Face book page that one of my rapists is trying to friend my friends. I cant post his name at FB for legal reasons. His first name is frank. Dont accept his request. I will not be bullied off of FB. My name on there is pinksugarbaby. He is mostly friending high school friends and many of them don’t know but I am also unfrieding them.


Fi – on post #13 … I’ve noticed that there are a good many of us in our forties (or older) that are where we are. I think it takes this long to realize that we can’t live in ‘it’ anymore and that ‘it’ actually robs our lives of joy and life. At least it was this way for me. So glad I am on my way out of it now. I love the strides I’ve made emotionally and psychologically and am now working into the mix of getting healthy (meaning thinner). It feels good to actually care about oneself – its a real first for me of late – I had no idea it could make me feel so good about me. 🙂


Omigosh Pinky! Scary!


@Paulette and Fi…Ditto, all my thoughts exactly…I’m now mid 50″s and just starting to realize these things. I don’t know what love is!! Everyone whom I thought I loved has “trampled” me to bits in one way or another. My life has been so full of bs up to this point that I never really took the time nor looked at it before. It took a “stupid” family fall out three weeks ago (me being the bad guy of course)to finally come to these realizations…How sad is that??? I am “empty” because I don’t know how to feel…haven’t “felt” on my own since I was a kid……


Hi Susan, I’ve lived my life without feeling up until now, I don’t know how to feel or how to deal with feelings. I don’t know what love is and have never had a relationship. I’ve been alone ever since I was disowned and left for dead by my abusers (my family) at the age of 19. I too am “empty” and am painfully aware of the emptiness of my life. A year ago I got to the point where I couldn’t continue as I was and something had to change if I was going to stop merely existing and have some kind of a life, that was when I broke my lifetime’s silence.


Fi and Susan … it isn’t nice feeling empty and it’s really not nice, in my case, not knowing who I am and not being able to love and accept myself as is. So much emptiness dissipated when I became a Christian (more by God’s choosing than my own) … but its also been a great journey ever since. I am now discovering who I am – the person God created me to be – the person my abusive mother stole – and I’m learning to love and accept myself which is also something my mother never did. Loving oneself is so new to me … and the only thing I can compare it to is a ‘new romance.’

Keeping abuse secret in order to keep (false) peace is more harmful than when we tell. After I told my father and siblings the full truth of my mother’s abuse 8 months ago – I have had no contact with any of them. And you wanna know the sad thing … I have never been happier. I finally feel like I can ‘live’ my life!!


Hi Everyone!
I have so much that I would love to say about this post but I am still in holiday mode which for me means that my head is still not all back home yet and my thinking isn’t totally ON EFB yet!
Fi ~ I just wanted to say that when someone has a lifetime of being worthless, never being loved, never being shown value, it takes some major time to sort all that out. The whole “re parenting” thing that I talk about takes some time. I am so pround of your for doing it! For taking this on, for putting yourself first and for being willing to face the emptyness you speak of. I felt so much like that, and I can say that the empty feeling is no longer the biggest part of me. I know my value today, and I know my worth is equal to others. All of us have equal value and when we begin to understand that, things change for the WAY better!
This is a tough journey, but it is the most worthwhile undertaking I have ever come accross! So glad you are here!
Hugs, Darlene


Carla wrote: ”First Darlene asked me to reveal my definition of love. She added, “Don’t worry about sounding silly or trying to have the RIGHT answer. Just write what naturally comes out, what you believe off the top of your head.””

My Answer: One of my definitions of love today is a feeling of inner joy when I bless someone, for example, the joy I feel when I feed our dog and then watch and listen to her eat and drink. Her needs are being met, by me, and that brings me joy. I feel a similar joy when I fill the bird feeder and the birdbath fountain and then watch through the kitchen window as the wild birds eat and drink. I feel joy, knowing that I have provided joy to these creatures. I call that joy LOVE.


Carla wrote that Darlene’s next questions were: “What is your definition of love between you and your mother/ you and your father, you and your brother (in my case, my sisters and brothers)? (do them separately for the best results).”

My definition of love between me and my mother… Well, I have known for several years that there is no love between my mother and me. But, before I realized that, love, when it came to my mother, was trying to please her, trying to make her proud of me, trying to be good enough and perfect enough for her to LIKE me, because she so often told me as I was growing up, that she loved me, but didn’t like me. I used to spend hours every day, while I went about my daily chores and routines, daydreaming of how I would succeed in business and become so very rich that I would buy my mother a furnished, brand new house of her dreams… or else I would write best-selling novels and then do the same thing with my wealth…. or I would marry a multimillionaire, or win a lottery, and then shower my mother with material riches.

In my daydreams I always visualized how surprised and overwhelmed with happiness my mother would be, when she saw her beautiful new house, and walked inside it, and realized that it was all built and decorated in the style and colors she likes best… I went to great lengths, in my fantasies, to make certain that the dream house I would have built and decorated for my mother, exactly suited her taste… I would get a post office box, and print up something that looked like a contest form ~ my mother always liked to enter contests. I would mail it to her, with a stamped self-addressed business-like envelop for her to return the “entry form” in, and on the form it would say that in order to enter the contest, she needed to fill out a survey, which would ask her to describe in detail what she liked best in…. EVERYTHING.

I believe I was in my early 40s when I finally stopped having these daydreams.


Lynda ~ I would often have daydreams like this – of doing something grand for my mother in hopes of winning her love and approval. When I finally realized that there is nothing I could ever do to win it – I stopped ‘daydreaming’ these things. So funny isn’t it? How we will go to great lengths to win our parent’s approval?? I was 34 when I realized that there was nothing I could ever do or say to win my mother’s affections. And about two months after this realization, I told her she couldn’t be in my life anymore (because of her abuse and her failure to see her behavior and treatment of me as abuse.) That was 11 years ago, and it was the best decision of my life. It’s been a hard journey of healing ever since, but so worth it!!


Paulette…. it’s sad, isn’t it, remembering the little girl we used to be (even after we were physically grown adults), daydreaming of doing something so wonderful, so amazing, that our mothers would “have” to love us? Even when I did manage to do something big enough to impress my mother… when I graduated from nursing school, as Class President… when I wrote and published a novel…. even when my mother was moved to compliment my accomplishments, she always threw in some criticism along with it. Sad. But, like you say, so very freeing when we finally “Give Up” that lost cause, and get on with our own living!


My definition of love between me and my father…. for most of my life, there was no love between me and my father. He is dead now, he died in 1988 when I was almost 35. I started drinking then, to numb the pain. I quickly learned that drinking made everything so much worse. I was drinking, too, because I didn’t love him… and regretted that. My dad was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder. From my earliest memories, until I was 12, the person that my dad was, almost all of the time, I loved. But after my loving daddy’s personality disappeared for good, the strange “new personality,” I never did love. He was a cold-hearted stranger to me. I didn’t even try to get to know my dad’s new personality, I just stayed mostly away from him, and waited for my “real daddy” to come back. When he died, of course, I realized that would never happen, and then I regretted not giving the new personality a chance.

But the person that my father was most of the time when I was a little girl… that daddy, I loved very much. That daddy also loved me, and as I look back, I realize that he loved me, because I loved him. I loved him, because he was my daddy, and because, even as a tiny toddler, I knew he needed my love. (My mother didn’t ever seem to want my love, I wasn’t valuable enough to her for that, she just wanted me to always be DOING things to please her, mainly cleaning house, taking care of my much-younger siblings, waiting on her, bringing her things, doing her work for her, that was what she wanted from me… but a woman’s daughter’s work is never done, especially when there are 3 or 4 little ones in diapers… so I never was able to DO enough for my mother, and I never could do it perfectly enough for my mother. If I dusted the house, I missed too many places, if I washed the dishes, I left some spots… that sort of thing. I was my mother’s Cinderella, really, and there is No Love for Cinderella… until she meets her handsome prince, which I spent most of my adult years looking for, until age 50 when I finally realized that Prince Charming wasn’t coming!)

While my mother didn’t seem to ever really love anyone but herself, my daddy, the original personality, loved me, and needed me to love him, and so I loved him most of all for needing me. But then, when I was 12, the price of my father’s love got too high. First he became sexually inappropriate with me, and then he almost murdered my mother. I thought she WAS dead. I was so terrified by the new abusive personality that had taken over my dad’s body, that I stopped loving my father. I didn’t know who he was anymore ~ this violent abusive CRAZY man was not my sweet daddy who used to bring me candy home from work everyday, and often took me with him to the hardware store and to the church where he preached on weekends. When it was just us, just my daddy and me, he often held my hand, or held onto the back of my neck, which hurt a little, but I never told him that it did. This daddy who treated me like I was his pride and joy, called me “Frin-Lyn,” which he told me meant “Friend Lynda.”

When I wouldn’t/couldn’t love the evil scary atheistic and some said “demon -possessed” monster that my former Pentecostal-Minister father turned into when I was 12, then he turned all his “I will love you if you fulfill my need to be loved” attention to my sister, who was 7 years younger than me, and looked a lot like me. My little sister became my replacement. Years later, I heard from another family member, that my father sexually abused my sister after I was long gone from the family home.

As the Big Sister, who was responsible for everything, I STILL have to fight the guilt of thinking that somehow I should have been able to save my little sister from our father. This particular sister is now 51, and appears to have grown up to be a Narcissist, just like our mother. I haven’t lived in the family home since 1967, with the exception of 2 or 3 months when I lived there in 1969 and 1970. I haven’t even lived in the same state as my family, since 1974, when my then-husband’s work on oil rigs took him to the Gulf of Mexico, and then to the North Sea off the coast of England. I wasn’t there, with my family of origin, nor was I WANTED there…. yet I still feel guilty that my once-sweet and adorable baby sister was abused by our dad, and has grown up to be such a ”B.” I still have to remind myself that my little brothers and sisters, who stopped being ”little” decades ago, are NOT my responsibility!!!


My definition of love for my siblings means: Allowing myself to be our mother’s scapegoat, by allowing them to believe her lies, and staying far away out of their lives so I don’t rock the boat.

I also used to dream elaborate daydreams about becoming rich enough that I could give each one of them a house and car and a trust fund with enough money that they would never have to work if they didn’t want to. I used to daydream about doing the same thing for each of my grown children, to try to make up to them for being such a broken mother.

But when my siblings were very little, and I was the Big Sister Caregiver Substitute Mommy, before my mother threw me away when she remarried when I was 14; my definition of love for my siblings was: “….a feeling of inner joy when I bless someone, for example, the joy I feel when I feed our dog and then watch and listen to her eat and drink. Her needs are being met, by me, and that brings me joy. I feel a similar joy when I fill the bird feeder and the birdbath fountain and then watch through the kitchen window as the wild birds eat and drink. I feel joy, knowing that I have provided joy to these creatures. I call that joy LOVE.”


Lynda, wow. How incredibly sad for a mother to tell her daughter that she loves her but doesn’t like her. That is so twisted to me. And what a powerful (and painful) realization that a father loved his daughter because she loved him first… What a huge weight to put on a child. I see a lot of children carrying that weight, into their adult years as well. It’s not real love. I see a parallel in your definition of love between you and your siblings and between me and my brother- that aspect of “taking care” of them. Powerful protectiveness and a desire to nurture. It’s hopeful to me that I can use that tool towards myself, as I continue along my recovery. Thank you for really engaging with this post and sharing your work with everyone Lynda.


[…] last blog entry was about a coaching session that I did with Carla Dippel about her belief system when it comes to the concept of love. In my recovery, one of the most […]


Hi Everyone!
I posted a follow up post to this post.
You can read it here: False Normal Systems about Love and Self Love


What inciteful questions and answers. So often with awareness come change and healing.


Thank you Patricia. I really like what you say about awareness… In my mind, it takes the “striving” and suffering out of the process and replaces it with courage and persistence to simply find the truth… Hugs, Carla


~Awareness…. takes the striving and suffering out of the process and replaces it with courage and persistence to simply find the truth~

Carla, and Pat: THANKS. I needed that. Ever since the horrible news story yesterday about the “mother” drowning her helpless little children along with herself….. I hae been STRIVING and SUFFERING. This was my truth, one of many painful truths, my mother trying several times to gas us all to death. Finally giving up on her many attempts to over ride the safety shutoff valve on the gas furnace, she was going to drive us all off a cliff to our deaths, when she confessed to me, her 12-year-old confidante, the eldest of the 5 kids, the second mother….

Since I saw that horrible nightmare on the news yesterday, and I SCREAMED……………. which is how it always affects me when I see in the news about yet another parent, usually a mother, killing her children….. I knew, then, that I was long overdue for writing a long therapuetic TRUTH-SEEKING letter to my mother, who is now 76 years old.

I will write it for ME, not to herm, although I expect I will probably send it when I am through writing it……

But it HURTS! That’s why I’ve put off writing this for over 40 years.

I hope, Carla and Patricia, that your words here will halpt to take the striving and suffering out of what I must now do, and replace it with courage… and persistence.


Renee/a Resurrected Spirit
April 14th, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Fi-post #11 is my definition of love also. It took me 3 husbands to finally realize that my “PICKER” was and is broken. I told my oldest daughter her “PICKER” was broken also, and that what we both were attracked to was the abuse in a man. We discribe it as the rough handsome, rugged type = abuser. She decided that she didn’t want to go through life unhealthy and because there are children involved she wants to be emotionally healthy. Im very proud of her for taking the steps to being the best mom, self, friend, and daughter she can be. Myself It is hard to admit that my definition of love is the total opposite it turely is. I have had speciffic counseling for “love” but it is so ingrained into my being that it is only a word to me. It is just sad I wish I could be normal enough to actually feel love. I love my daughters and grandkids and it is such a different feeling and yet I am numb.


NUMB!!! Renee, MR TOO!! I was totally NUMB for YEARS when it came t loving. I knew inside my head that I loved my children, but the FEELING, for years after my last physical beating, was just Not There.

Then, one day, it was like someone flipped a switch back on in my brain, and the feeling of LOVE for my children washed over me like a huge waterfall…. and I have had the ability to feel LOVE ever since.

My husband, a combat veteran from Vietnam with severe PTSD, went through a 9-week in-house PTSD program at a VA hospital in 2005… that saved our marriage. Anyway, he told me they taught the veterans there that not being able to feel love is a common trait of PTSD, or so they have found in their studies.

TRAUMA… the “gift” that keeps on giving.


Numb – yup that’s me – I’ve spent my life an existence incapable to receive love and not even know where to start in giving love – if someone says to me “I love you”, I freeze and then run as fast as I can away from them, whether it was somebody I knew well or not, that was end of relationship. Love means only bad things to me, negative things, painful things, things to run from. The only times I’m not numb is when the rage and the hurt get too much for me and I start to feel them, and then I don’t want to live anymore. It has kept me alone but it has kept me safe but I realise it is not healthy but it’s so hard to risk and trust and let people in to help me.


I can really relate to that Fi,
I kept believing that someone would love me, and because my definition of love was so wrong, I was never looking for real love. I didn’t even know what it was and I also deep down believed that love was dangerous. I know today that I was seeking validation way more then I was seeking love, and I didn’t get that back then either….

Everyone, I just posted a new blog post that was inspired by Mountains comment on Susans post (Dysfunctional Relationship with Mental Health Providors )(comment number 59) and also inspired from the comments on my last post. You can read the new post here: Seeking validation and Understanding from the Wrong People


Hi Renee~ It’s nice to meet you here. It’s funny- I’ve used similiar terminology about my ability to choose, or even knowing what I want and knowing which desires to trust, in my recovery too. I told my counselor once that my “liker” was broken. What he explained to me was that as I continued to build my foundation on the truth and point myself in the right direction, my feelings would follow- but it would take TIME. That is a great comfort to me- whenever I feel panicky about not feeling the way I think I should feel about something healthy, I remind myself of that. The feelings associated with coping (whether it was feelings I felt or really feeling “numb”), which I lived in and were my “normal” for a long time, don’t just switch for me overnight. The new feelings are slowly growing, and that is exciting.

Lynda, I’m glad that my idea of no striving or suffering was an encouragment! I hope a lot of good comes out of your letter, whether you send it to your Mom or not. Hugs to you.



Wow. I have been struggling with this for a while – trying to understand what love is. What is it NOW. Now that I have been recovering memories of abuse by people who “should” have loved me, protected me, promoted my best interests. What did those actions called “love” mean for me now, as an adult woman, in an adult relationship, re-connecting with the wounded, broken child within? What I thought was love was now up for re-defining… and I have been lost in that effort…because it was too scary to look really way down within at the core of the lies I was sold – that I swallowed as a kid – because not to meant death.
The impact on my marriage has been huge – we are still together – but I don’t know if I can return to how we were before all this stuff began to emerge and overwhelm me. Sexuality was always a rather fraught thing for me – although till now I didn’t know why.
Bit I am not content to let this continue to rule my life… and so the battle for Self is joined. Things have changed over the past 18mths – but it is so slow as to be almost imperceptible at times….


Hi Libby
I can relate to what you have shared. My husband and I went through major changes because I was no longer willing to return to the way it was before the fog lifted for me. We are still together, happier than every before and our kids have flourished because of it too.
About slow; I felt that way for a long time, but something happened and I have seen it happen with others too and that is that there is a time in recovery after the foundation is cleared and the new ground prepared (the slow part of recovery) when suddenly the clarity came quickly and the changes were far more obvious. That is how it happened for me anyway!
Hugs, and thanks for sharing. Love Darlene


Hi Libby~ I wrote this post a year ago (wow…) and I am still in this relationship, and still working on a lot of what “real” love is and means. I have experienced the slow part very much, in how both you and Darlene describe it. The process is still alive. In the past month, what has really come alive to me is the huge importance of truly learning to love myself. Reading through EFB posts, this sounds like such an obvious truth! But I see more and more how it is at the heart of everything. It seems like the degree to which I lack love for myself, that’s the degree that I let the other person take advantage of me or let the other person define me (in ways that I still haven’t learned to define myself). So even though I’ve “known” about the importance of loving myself, it is very hopeful for me to discover how to truly do and grow in this. And then to see how it affects my relationships. For me, I think this process is especially slow because truly loving myself has been a foreign thing for me for so long. And a person has to learn to love herself all in her own way. No one else can come live in my skin and do it for me- and I think we learn to love ourselves in a way that’s just as unique as who we are as people, which is actually quite exciting… I think the important thing is to stick with it, no matter how slow it feels. Slow is still way ahead of giving up altogether and forever… and holds much promise. These are my thoughts from a year later, for what they are worth! Thank you for contributing your experience to this post Libby. ~Carla


Thanks Darlene and Carla – its good to know that the slowness is “normal”.
I think it has been more acute because of a recent birthday (anniversaries seem to bring up alot of stuff). My husband is desperate for me to be happier, for something like a normal life to return – he does understand that life will be different from how it used to be. I don’t want to give up – and I do….. just now things seem especially tough and the old negative thoughts are ever-present. I know they will pass, but I am fed up with them and they sap my already low energy. Self love is clearly the key…..it really is a foreign country and I have no map or phrase book! Hey Ho – try again!


Is there a follow up post by Carla?

I read… ” In her masterful way, she asked me a couple simple questions that changed everything. I really cared about working through this struggle because I really cared about the part of my life that it was affecting. So I decided to be open and reveal the truth as honestly as possible. I had hope that in doing this I would find better answers than the ones I was working with at the time.

First Darlene asked me to reveal my definition of love.”

I imagine this was the beginning. Are there more questions to this journey? Very curious about any followup to Carla’s journey..

Thank you!


Hi Dory
Carla wrote blog posts from the beginning (which was December 2009) to July 2010. You can use the archive button to scroll through those months and read all of Carlas work. Another way to find her posts is to type “Emerging from Broken Carla Dippel” into the google search engine. I hope that helps!
Hugs, Darlene


Excellent suggestions. Her initial definition of love that I read her write for all her relationships hit very close to home for me too. Thus her journey is of special interest to me – it may well be a great connect. Thank you! Thank you for this web site. May many be healed through your obedience to share. Hugs back.


I have been reading many of the articles on this site…so helpful for me. I am the significant other of a man who was severely abused in his childhood, physically (BEATEN by his very angry father for the tiniest “looks” or percieved infractions in behavior) emotionally ( shown NO love, not listened to, blamed, etc) and sexually ( by his mother). He also had NO extended family that was healthy or kind to him, no special teacher or coach…In his adult life, he has been spiritually abused by wacky churches with harsh teachings, betrayed in his work life, gang assaulted after parking his car, serious medical issues in his twenties, and married very young to a controlling and manipulative wife for 25 years. He has some damage… we have a GREAT relationship, but it is haunted by his demons and ghosts. He is a WONDERFUL man and person. He denies he needs ANYONE, but I know better. He is emotional and sensitive, but he has never been truly loved or cared for by the most significant people in his life, ever. We talk openly about EVERYTHING, even the hard stuff, I have researched abuse online extensively to learn all I can, and it is depressing for people who really love and want to help and support their abused loved one. He has had counseling, and it has helped a little. But as you all know, it is a LONG process, and it is a constant process. The main things I deal with that is so HARD, is being projected on ( past behaviors of his wife and others who have hurt and betrayed him) me, and the assumption that if he lets his guard down, I will do these same things. It really hurts.The really interesting and horribly sad thing is…that he was very trusting of me in the beginning ( he never learned in childhood how to determine WHO to trust or not trust, or how to sense or determine that, because of his abuse) , but it seems, the closer we get, the more he distrusts me and more fear he has. This is all internal on his part and not due to any behavior of mine. I DO understand where it comes from , and WHY, but it still hurts and leaves me out in the cold. I am NOT his past abusers, what was done horrifies and angers me, and makes me weep for the little sensiive and helpless little boy he was, when he was perpetrated against with so much abuse. He lives with anxiety, ptsd symptoms and FEAR. He is governed by FEAR. His mindset in life is to always be on the alert for every “potential” bad thing that can happen. Obviously, this is exhausting emotionally and physiologically. His night time has always been plagued with nightmares. That is his normal. If anything is good in his life, he then braces and waits for the “shoe to drop” or the “hammer to fall” because anything GOOD can’t be TRUSTED.I long to comfort and help him, but I feel so HELPLESS and on the outside. I know I cannot heal him, and I know HE is the one who has to do the WORK. I love your site, and have sent him some of your blogs to read, and he said he can totally relate. My main problem is…we have been together for 4 years. I turn 50 this year. We have a GREAT relationship, outside of his issues that obviously affect this. I have my own issues, but have defined, faced and worked on them with counseling as well. His definition of love is: If you do something for me, than I do something for you” its an obligation, a tit for a tat. Love HURTS and means PAIN. When someone tells him they love him, that means they WANT SOMETHING FROM HIM. His mother told him she loved him too, and then sexually abused him from age 5 to 13. It makes me so sad for him. I told him what I believe love is, its unselfish, seeks the others good, kind, etc…and he just looks at me with a blank face, uncomprehendingly. He trusts NO ONE. ANd that includes ME. He has told me not to take it personally,but how can I not? I am lumped together with everyone else, including the monsters that hurt him, and I have done nothing to EARN or DESERVE this mistrust. I tell him I love him, but I cringe inside when I think of how he hears it and interprets in his head when I say it. He is thinking I WANT something from him, when it means I value him, and want to GIVE to him. He is unable to compute this, it is so completely FOREIGN of a concept, his mind refuses it, as his early definitions of these things crushes any good definition down. He has a hard time, or even can’t RECEIVE my love. Then, when he says ” I love you” back to me, I can’t help feeling that it is a rote response,is just saying it because it is the accepted response when someone tells you they love you, and Knowing how he defines love, that it has a completely different meaning for him than it does for me. I don’t know how many comments or followers you get on this site from people who LOVE their abused partner, but these relationships are HARD. Much of my emotional energy is spent on trying not to do or say anything that will “trigger” him, or finding ways that I can best help him in our relationship, but my needs of being trusted and Loved and seen in a healthy way, are neglected. We want to love them and help them heal, and feel so helpless…


Hi Susie, Your compassionate post inspires me that other people really can get it and care and love. Rather than seeing him as “damaged goods” you see the wonderfulness of your partner. That speaks volumes about you.

Does your significant other know about your needs to be trusted and loved?

When he responds “I love you” (or tries out a trusting behavior) it may feel foreign to him, and may sound/look rote, but perhaps his feelings need to catch up with his words and actions. Perhaps the repetition, over time, will feel safer for him.

I’ve been told I’m hypervigilant and have difficulty trusting. I can tell you that because I’m in it, I don’t even “see” it. Having a conversation about what it means to show trust and love, with specific examples, would help me and give me ideas on how to show my partner that love and trust.

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