“If You Love Me, You’ll Be Miserable for Me”

Love is not sacrifice. When you love someone, you want them to be happy; not miserable. When you love someone, you want them to do something for you because they want to, not because it’s a sacrifice. You want their love for you to be personal satisfaction — not charity.

Yet why do so many approach love as if they want it to be sacrifice?

The most common reason is: “I’ve sacrificed, so you must do so too. I gave up my happiness for your sake, now you must do the same for me.” Or: “I’ve been unhappy, so it’s only fair that others be unhappy, too.” This is how some people really feel, although they might not admit it.

But I don’t believe these are the most common reasons. Even people who end up feeling this way in their marriage or relationship didn’t start out feeling this way, in most cases.

What usually happens, I find, is that — for whatever reasons — a person does not feel sufficiently loved (or psychologically visible) in his or her relationship. As a result, the person feeling unloved looks for the results of little “tests” to demonstrate that love for him or her.

“I want to be sure you really love me. If you do something you hate, for my sake, then I’ll know you love me.”

This is the usually unspoken feeling or premise behind the demand for sacrifices from one’s loved one.

The error here? It’s obvious, once exposed and made conscious. Feeling unloved by another does not justify their sacrifice. Self-sacrifice will not save the romantic connection you fear is lost, or perhaps was never there.

Another person either loves you, or not. If it’s really love, no sacrifice is required. Rationally speaking, the thing to want is for “him (or her) to want to love me.”

Over the years of a relationship, communication sometimes breaks down. It’s usually a gradual erosion, not a one-fell-swoop incident. In such cases, it might seem like someone has stopped loving you, or takes you for granted, when in fact you’re very much loved and don’t know it. This is a significant issue which both spouses must address. But calls, requests, or demands for sacrifice are not the answer. They won’t give you what you want.

Let’s say you put your spouse to the test. “If she really loves me, she’ll do this thing that makes her miserable.” Let’s say she does it. But then what have you won? You now (supposedly) know this person loves you. But you’ve caused this person you love a certain degree of unhappiness or even misery. What does this say about you, and what does it do for the connection you so wanted?

There’s a saying: “Misery Loves Company.” It refers to the fact that people who are unhappy, and who feel hopeless in their unhappiness, sometimes like to find people who feel the same way.

In a marriage, this takes the form of bringing your partner’s happiness level down to your own. That’s not love. Love is wanting the best for the one you value — even if you cannot have it yourself, for whatever reason. And the motive for love is not selflessness. Quite the opposite. Loving someone makes you personally, selfishly happy — and the beneficiary of that love benefits enormously.

Strictly speaking, misery cannot love company. Misery is not love at all. If you’re truly miserable, you cannot love in any kind of coherent way.

Love, especially romantic love, is the highest form of valuing there is. You must value life and yourself, first, before you can love anyone else.

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