A follow-up to “How To Love a Woman Who Has Been to Hell and Back.”
Last year I published the article, How To Love A Woman Who Has Been To Hell and Back. This article has since been republished on more websites than I could even tell you. It has been shared hundreds of thousands of times all around the world, and has received millions of views. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of messages I’ve received from women who have thanked me for giving them the words they could never say.
But in the last while, my inbox has also been filled with messages from men such as you. Men who are trying to love the woman who has been to hell and back, but are struggling. Men who are doing the best they can, but are hurting. Men who are trying to understand more, do better, love harder, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the pain and exhaustion. Men who are confused, unsure, lost, and in need of answers.
Dear man, the fact that you love your woman so much that you are willing to read an article to understand her more is a truly wonderful thing. That you would message me in the hope of knowing how to love her better is admirable. Men like you are rare, precious, and so appreciated. The world needs more men like you. Men who are strong, brave, resilient, determined, loyal, and willing to love at a high cost because you understand the worth of the woman you hold in your arms. You are a testament to the masculine heart that encompasses both strength and gentleness, fierceness and kindness. Hearts like yours are worthy of respect, and I give thanks that you have chosen to love the woman in your life with such determination, commitment and resolve.
I understand how hard it is to love a woman who has been to hell and back.
Because the thing is, this woman carries in her heart a lifetime of pain that you didn’t cause. You didn’t inflict this pain on her. You didn’t hurt her. You didn’t damage her heart. You aren’t the reason she cannot fully love or trust.
But you are the one she pushes away. You are the one who tries to get close to her, to love her, but fails. You are the one she won’t turn to when she’s in pain, the one she won’t talk to when she feels alone, the one she won’t draw near to when she needs someone the most.
You are the one she hurts, because she is hurting.
And you don’t deserve that.
I know what that does to your heart. I know of the times you are so damn frustrated at not knowing what to do. I know you feel like no matter how much you love her, it will never be enough. I know you are exhausted at times, and are not sure how much more you can take of this storm. I know you feel confused and sometimes none of it makes sense and you lay awake at night and wonder if it’s worth it.
But the thing is, you’re still there.
You’re still there because something tells you this is worth it.
It’s difficult for me to tell you how to best love the woman who has been to hell and back. No situation is ever the same, and I have not the mind and heart of a man in your shoes.
But this is what I can tell you.
My original article was not written to condone abuse of any kind. Our society is vocal when it comes to domestic violence where women are the victims, but far less vocal to speak of men who are abused by women. It’s real, and it happens, and I understand how my article may have been interpreted in this respect and how that may have confused and upset you. But abuse is never okay, no matter from a man to a woman, or a woman to a man.
There is a difference between a woman who is hurting and inadvertently hurts others as she works through her pain, and a woman who justifies hurting others because she has been hurt, so that makes it okay. There is a difference between a woman who is willing to acknowledge that she has hurt others, who seeks forgiveness and redemption, and who strives to do better, and a woman who plays the victim card, blames others, and does not seek to change her ways but expects others to be her punching bag. There is a difference between a woman who struggles to love but does her best to give all she can to the relationship, and one who merely expects, takes, and gives nothing in return.
I know sometimes the lines can seem blurred, and because of this you struggle to know whether to stay or leave. But you are not obligated or responsible to stay there in the face of abuse. You must still, always, protect your heart. The woman who has been to hell and back needs to be responsible for her own healing. It’s not an easy journey, nor a fast one. There are many hard days, many times she will get stuck and not know the way forward. But the important thing to consider is that she is trying – for herself, for you, for your relationship.
No-one can tell you whether to stay or leave, only you can determine what you see in her heart, whether you see growth and change and promise, or whether you merely feel like her doormat. To love a woman who has been to hell and back is not easy. But it should never mean abuse, lack of respect, lack of boundaries, or that you become a scapegoat for someone who is unwilling to heal. This is something you must be able to understand the difference between in order to answer the question of whether you should stay or leave.
I can tell you that you are not responsible for fixing her, nor does she want you to. Men are fixers, and I understand it’s in your nature to want to make this better; make her better. But this is her journey. This is her pain. Her healing will not be pretty. At times she will be the hurricane and you will need to be the storm shelter – let her rage, let her anger and her fury and her pain unleash from her heart, let the weight of the trauma she has stored in her body for so many years come undone. Don’t fight it, don’t stop it, don’t fix it. Just be that safe place for her to come home to when the storm ends and the tears begin. You cannot fix her, you can only love her.
I can tell you the woman who has been to hell and back has a story written on her heart. A story which says everyone who should have protected her, didn’t. Everyone she trusted, hurt her. Everyone she loved, left her. She waits for you to continue the story, to be the next person to reject her, abandon her, hurt her. She expects it. She thinks it’s only a matter of time. And this is why she pushes you away, hurts you, leaves you, when you have only ever loved her. She doesn’t believe she is worthy of a love like yours, and believes it’s only a matter of time until you realize this too.
You asked me what it means to love harder.
It means you will need to be better than anyone else at love. It means you will need to love with more strength, more patience, more grace, more determination, more understanding, more perseverance. It means you will need to love her more than anyone else has before or will again. It means you will need to love her until she understands what love is, and believes in a love she’s never known.
It means you will need to love her hard enough to be the one to re-write the story on her heart.
But dear man, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t everything she needs, and didn’t have everything it takes, to love the woman who has been to hell and back.
Kathy Parker “With Permission”