Post-Socratic Dialogues: Love: 5


Post-Socratic Dialogues are moving thought experiments. They portray elaborate, unfolding situations which, at every turn, force the reader to examine his or her philosophical intuitions about a range of topics. These dialogues are called “Post-Socratic” because there is no Socrates figure, telling the reader which arguments (if any) are the best ones. The reader decides that on their own.

LOVE: PART 5: Conditional Love

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
It is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
But rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
Always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4

The next day, Joe is alone at home while Loraine is at work. He reads Janet’s email over and over again. He can’t stop reading it. He hates how it’s making him feel but he can’t stop thinking about Janet obsessively. Loraine arrives home and proceeds to tell him about her day. He pretends to listen attentively even though he is a million miles away. She asks him where tea is.

Joe: Oh, I’m sorry I totally forgot about that. I’ve had a lot on my mind.

Loraine: (impatient) What have you fucking had on your mind? I asked you yesterday to make sure something was on the hob before I’m back from work!

Joe: I know, I’ll make something. Don’t worry.

Loraine: No, it won’t be ready for ages. You take too long to cook anything nice. We’ll just order some Chinese food.

The food arrives and Loraine and Joe eat together at the table. Joe orders a healthy vegetable dish. He makes sure to eat slowly so as to not disgust Loraine.

Loraine: So what did you do today?

Joe: Not much. Mostly wrote stuff.

Loraine: What did you write?

Joe: Just stuff to myself. Stuff about what I want in my life.

Loraine: What, poems?

Joe: No, just things I needed to write down so I can get a better understanding of what I want in life.

Loraine: What do you need a better understanding about?

Joe: What I want.

Loraine: I thought all of this was what you wanted. Our relationship, our home, our baby this year.

Joe: I think I still want some of that, but I want some other things too.

Loraine: What do you mean by “other things”?

Joe: I got an email from an old friend last night. It made me re-evaluate some things about my life.

Loraine: What old friend?

Joe: Someone who I don’t necessarily want to be in contact with again, but someone who made me think about things.

Loraine: (getting irritated) Who?

Joe: My ex.

Loraine: (loudly) Which ex?

Joe: One who I’ve been afraid of for many years.

Loraine: (loudly) Oh God, that fucking psycho!

Joe: Regardless of what she is, her email was very helpful in getting me to see some things.

Loraine: (loudly) Where the fuck is it? I wanna read it!

Loraine frantically gets up and goes to the office room, bringing up Joe’s email account inbox.

Loraine: Don’t you let this fucking bitch twist your mind! I won’t let her manipulate you.

Joe: She can’t manipulate me anymore. I’m with you remember?

Loraine: Make me a cup of coffee while I read this damn thing.

Joe: Before you read it I think you should..


Joe: I’m sorry.

Loraine proceeds to read Janet’s letter.


Let me start off by saying you have every right not to read this email. You have every right to delete it and if you do, I won’t have any hard feelings. You have every reason to hate me. You have every reason not to forgive me for what I did to you.

If you choose to keep reading, I will tell you from the start that this is not a letter trying to elicit sympathy for me. I’m not writing this to try and convince you that you were wrong-that I’m somehow a normal person who isn’t any different to anyone else. I have no delusions about who I am. I am a clinically diagnosed psychopath. I am writing this letter for purely selfish reasons, reasons that will become apparent as you read on.

Since we last met, I’ve had some pretty decent career success. I’ve travelled the world and met lots of cool people. I’ve had the opportunity to do creative work I find interesting and helpful to my fans in different ways. Yet I haven’t been happy through any of this. For a while, I thought the intensity with which I applied myself to my work would compensate for the feeling of emptiness that accompanied your departure from my life. It did not. As the years go by, I feel less and less like I can continue.

This last year has been particularly difficult. For the first time, my sadness actually stopped me from working at the pace I have become accustomed to. I’ve been struggling with a sometimes severe depression. I find it hard getting out of bed. I can’t stop crying throughout the day and I’m finding it hard not to harm myself. I’m not telling you this because I want you to rescue me from it. I know that won’t happen. I’m writing you because my thoughts are tinged with an unbearable guilt. I worry that I really damaged you the last time we saw each other.

I bet you’re thinking, “It’s pretty obvious you fucking damaged me! You poked out my eye, you fucking bitch!”

If you are thinking this, I can’t say I blame you.

I was a horrible person that day. The act of violence I committed against you was pure evil. It was one of the worst things I have ever done in my life, an act so awful I struggle to comprehend how it came out of me. It was wrong, it was heinious, it was cruel, it was atrocious, it was terrifying (for both of us). It would be a cop out for me to say, “It wasn’t me that did that to you. Something took over me. My true self would never be capable of such an act!” That, of course, is bullshit. I take full responsibility for my actions. They were all me. What you saw that day was my worst side; a dark side I hid from you from the moment I fell in love with you. I worry now that you think that side of me is the predominant one.

I’m also worried that my horrendous behaviour during our last conversation caused you to interpret the things I said in the wrong light. The things I said which were true I said with such malice that I can’t blame you for writing them off as obvious falsehoods. Still, I’m in turmoil over the negative consequences for you that might happen if you did dismiss it all. Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve had a habit of substituting ideological crusades for instances where you should instead be standing up for yourself.

I remember you telling me many times that your mother made you feel like her love for you was conditional when you were a child. Then you became very passionate about the importance of unconditional love. You’d give sometimes beautiful speeches about it. We would wind up discussing unconditional love instead of talking about how you needed to stand up to your mother because of the way she was treating you.

I remember she once left a phone message for us where she said the amount of money you made was evidence that you didn’t have any potential when you were a kid. Instead of calling her back that night and telling her off, you had an argument with me about why you should just ignore that comment. You said you wanted to love her unconditionally, and her comments gave you the opportunity to practice the art of forgiveness. This was one of the few arguments we ever had. Yet by the end of it, I could tell you were starting to see that your mother was actually being harmed by your forgiveness. I remember you calling her the next day and telling her, with confidence, how you didn’t approve of the way she spoke to you.

She started swearing at you, saying she wished she never had you. You yelled back, “Start acting like my mother and not like such a horrid fucking bitch!” I was so proud of you in that moment. You were actually giving her consequences for her evil behaviour. Throughout her life, no one ever did that. When you slammed down the phone, you looked at me and said, “That woman does not deserve my love.” I smiled and hugged you for what seemed like ages. Up until that point, I never felt like I was able to help another human being the way I helped you. What made it even more special was you were also my lover.

During our last conversation, I’m afraid I undid all of that. I behaved coldly with vindictiveness, making a virtual mockery of the importance of justice in any relationship. I made it seem as though anyone who values justice in a relationship is an unforgiving, self-righteous pedant. Given what I know of you, I’m guessing you would see my behaviour as a vindication of the idea that unconditional love is the only healthy and humane way of loving another person. I can see you taking on your unconditional love crusade with renewed fervor. And yes, I can see you being a casualty of that crusade. I can see unconditional love being a way people take advantage of you.

This may be paranoia on my part. Nonetheless, it’s paranoia I can’t get out of my mind. Maybe I don’t know you as well as I think I do. Maybe you are happy and self-confident in ways that have nothing to do with anything I said to you during our last meeting. However, I can’t bear the thought of you internalising a bad idea because my own inexcusable behaviour made it seem attractive.

If what you believe about love has nothing to do with what I said to you that day, feel free to not read any further. However, if you feel what I said negatively impacted your life in any way, give me a chance to explain what I was trying to say better. I want to say it to you again, but this time with clarity and calm. If you disagree, you disagree, and that’s absolutely fine. Nonetheless, I want you to see what I was trying to express in a way where my words aren’t coming out of a person behaving like a psychopath. This is the only way I can deal with my guilt and turn it into something positive. 

So here goes:

Every human being has faults. Any kind of relationship with an adult requires a lot of slack cutting from both parties. People can indeed be grumpy and unsociable on many days when the best response to such a mood is patience. However, there are limits to the amount of patience one displays before the patience becomes a way of normalising abuse. This is why constant forgiveness is bad for any relationship. If you have to constantly forgive, that means your partner is constantly doing something you have to forgive.

If that’s the main dynamic of your relationship, the relationship isn’t fair to you. It’s not fair to you whether it’s your spouse, your friend, your parent, or your child. If the forgiveness in any relationship consistently goes one way, that means someone is giving way more to the relationship than they are getting in return. When that happens, the relationship instantiates a kind of injustice. The injustice becomes abusive when there are no boundaries in place to stop the forgiven behaviour from becoming cruel behaviour that is also forgiven.

The biggest threat to the boundary which keeps a relationship just is the idea that adult relationships are grounded in unconditional love. When you love someone unconditionally, you love them irrespective of who they are or what they do. You love them whether they treat you fairly or whether they abuse you. This is why I believe unconditional love is the lowest form of love. It’s a love necessary for infants and small children because they need to be forgiven for consistently bad behaviour. This constant forgiveness is necessary for them in their journey towards goodness. This is not true of adults. Unconditional love reduces adults back into the infantile state. It teaches adults that they don’t need to bring things to a relationship that are proportionate to what their partners bring.

Worse still, unconditional love teaches adults that it’s ok to treat everyone’s pathology equally. This is another hallmark of abuse. When someone’s messy bedroom is treated as the equivalent of someone else’s punches, the relationship is actually harmful to the parties involved. Nonetheless, this abuse gets normalised because the person with the messy bedroom wants to love their partner without expecting anything in return. The outcome of this pathological desire is enabling.

Enablers use disturbing language that reflects their particular insanity. They will say things like, “We need to treat each other better” when referring to an unclean kitchen which prompted a blow to the head with a hammer. The enabled abuser will say things like, “Your hyper-sensitivity isn’t good for us” when referring to the enabler’s meek complaints about the blow. What’s often unnoticed is that physical violence isn’t the only context in which this dynamic is present. The enabler may also complain about being hurt by emotional sadism on the part of the enabled abuser. The enabled abuser will respond that the enabler is being emotionally sadistic, merely in complaining about it.

Whenever the enabler complains about the abuse, the abuser will reframe the issue as though the enabler is at fault. The abuser may even demand that the enabler should choose to interpret the abuser as someone who gives the enabler “tough love.” When the enabler expresses reluctance to accept this interpretation, the abuser will accuse the enabler of placing conditions on their love. The enabler, wanting to love unconditionally, will do anything to remove the appearance of these conditions. Thus, the abuse cycle will continue, often getting worse and worse.

When there are no conditions placed on love, neither partner has any incentive to treat the other as an equal. In any relationship, these incentives are necessary. There also need to be additional incentives to motivate both parties to treat their partners with kindness. These kindness incentives must be juxtaposed against still further incentives that motivate dignity and self-respect for and from both parties. Unconditional love removes all of these incentives in one fell swoop. For adults, it is toxic and dangerous. Something for nothing is nothing indeed.

I suspect the reason why unconditional love remains a popular delusion among the adult population is that adults have a romanticised view of infants and children. Adults talk about infants and children as though they are more valuable or precious than other adults. They use words like “innocence” to describe behaviours in children that would more accurately be described as naïve and immature. Temper tantrums in toddlers may be something we find cute for evolutionary reasons. But temper tantrums in adults are the source of everything that’s wrong with the world. Like children, adults need boundaries. Unlike children, adults are better at undermining those boundaries by exploiting the compassion of those whose job it is to reinforce them.

As an adult, when you can be loved for having met certain conditions, you know you deserve your love. You know your love has been given to you because you have helped someone, touched someone, entertained someone, amused someone, impressed someone, cared for someone, sacrificed for someone, inspired someone, or loved someone. If you’re a bad human being and you get love anyway, that love is tragic and pedestrian; a love for infants and dogs.

It is a love for what you are, not a love for who you are. Conditional love is love for the individuality of autonomous adults. Unconditional love for adults is a de-humanising form of pity. This is because when unconditional love is given to an adult, pity rather than affection is the reason it’s given. No one wants to love a serial killer because they feel warm towards the killer. Nor do they love the serial killer because they appreciate the killer’s inner qualities. The killer’s individuality expresses itself in a way which is destructive. Unconditional love is given to the killer as a way of saying, “I hate how horribly you behave. Let me reward you with what you don’t deserve so that I can change your behaviour. Let me help you be nice to me. Let me lick your ass to stop you from shitting in my mouth.”

Because of the ludicrous condescension of this gesture, it rewards the killer rather than stops the killing. Even more importantly, the unconditional love is given begrudgingly. It’s given for the purpose of stopping behaviour which is hated. It’s given as a tool to achieve something else. It’s the furthest thing from a spontaneous affirmation of a person’s individuality. It’s a Pavlovian manipulation, and an ugly one at that. 

For me, conditional love is an end in itself. It is given to reward rather than manipulate. The reward is not given to ensure future good behaviour. The reward is given out of awe and respect. Awe and respect are the main ingredients of healthy companionship. Companionship, to put it bluntly, is roughly symmetrical mutually self-satisfying behaviour. Companionship would be totally symmetrical were it not for the flawed nature of human beings. Yet the behaviour must be roughly symmetrical in order for the companionship not to degenerate into an instance of one person treating another like a begger waiting to be pissed on by a drunken rich man. This is why the term “self-satisfying” is so important. You can’t be in a relationship for the sake of your partner. You both have to be in the relationship for yourself.

In my view, love is not a favour or an obligation. It’s a gift. And like any gift, what matters is that (a) the gift is given so that it can be reciprocated and (b) the reciprocal exchange is roughly equivalent. If someone buys you plastic turds and you buy them a mansion, that makes for an awkward Christmas.

I hate how people pretend that Christmas is about giving. It’s obvious Christmas is never fun when the gifts aren’t roughly equal. Giving only feels good if you know you are giving in proportion to what you are getting. This is the true meaning of Christmas, a lesson society would gain from acknowledging rather than denying in shame. If you want proof of this, imagine Christmas had a different set of rules. Imagine Christmas gift giving involved half of the gift participants being givers and the other half being only receivers. Would people still do Christmas if these were the rules? Of course not. Unfortunately, most people celebrate Christmas in a way which is far worse. A typical Christmas has become a ritual where adults wilfully harm children. 

Think about what happens at a typical Christmas when the older members of the family give gifts to the children without expecting anything in return. They are spoiling an entire generation. They are teaching the extraordinarily harmful lesson that the children are entitled to receiving without giving. The older generation isn’t simply selling themselves short here. They are enablers, creating a generation of priviliged and self-absorbed assholes, assholes who deserve pain instead of material items. The reason why good parents force their children to give presents is so that their children can experience Christmas with the asset of likeability. Without likeability, Christmas is psychologically painful for a child. This pain is good. It’s the means by which the child learns to be more likeable next year. In a healthy Christmas, children experience shame and humiliation when they don’t give the equivalent of whatever they receive. Father Christmas punishes greedy children, in much the same way that the law should punish bankers and thieves. It’s not a coincidence that Father Christmas is red. Father Christmas is justice, or to put it another way, a rebuke to consumerism and unregulated capitalism. 

This is why I think a healthy Christmas is a good model for judging when relationships are healthy and unhealthy. The justice of the healthy Christmas is in its expected proportionality. The achievement of justice is through the recognition that giving is inherently about receiving. Receiving works when everyone is aware of what is in their interests and can communicate that with partners who they have affection for. The affection arises because the partners are likeable to each other. This likeability arises from each partner displaying qualities that are themselves presents for the other partner. It doesn’t work if one partner is intelligent and kind, while the other is a fucking moron. Moronic attitudes can’t and shouldn’t delight a good person. In any relationship, a good person needs a partner with qualities that are equal to their own. Otherwise, the relationship is like an imbalanced scale. When a relationship attains balance, everyone in it can be happy in a way where no one is deluding themselves. The best strategy for never deluding yourself is to recognise that for 99% of the things that matter in life, acting in your self-interest is what makes you a good person. Self-interest is what makes you happy, healthy, successful, and likeable.

The other 1% is where altruism comes in. Altruism is what happens when people are too flawed to do what is in their self-interest. They can still do the right thing, but in a way which seems crippled and half-hearted. The soldier who fights the Nazis can be too flawed to find pleasure in blowing up Germans who clearly deserve to die. So the soldier has to rely on an altruistic desire to die for his country. He is motivated not by his own pleasure at enacting justice but by the thought of democracy defeating a racist totalitarian regime. Although the soldier takes the life of another human being, he is too weak to experience it in the fullest way. He can’t see that his execution should be cruel, that the violence should be joyous, that his own heart should delight at the crimson blood spilling out of his enemy, and that he should swoon at the screams and sobs of the wife, the mother, and even the children of the Nazi scum he’s just vanquished from the earth. But of course he can’t. Mimicking a coward, the altruistic solder can think only about helping others when he pulls the trigger.

A similar thing happens when couples on hijacked planes are forced to choose between their own lives or those of their partners. Individual members of the couples sacrifice themselves not because they gain pleasure out of it but purely for the sake of their partner’s continued existence. Here, they are too weak to enjoy their own death; a death responsible for the continued life of their beloved. Because they are weak, they can only think of the beloved when they die. Not the fortunate violence ensuring the beloved’s continued existence. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, mind you. However, it’s only in these exceptional circumstances that humans actually draw upon genuine altruism. These occasions are so rare that altruism has nothing to do with whether or not anyone is a good or bad person.

I came to this conclusion because I am capable of being a good person even though I have a psychology most people believe prohibits that. I know my unusual mind is the reason why we broke up. I admit I was unwise in hiding so much of it from from you during our time together. I’m sorry I allowed you to be in a position where the revealing of my mind’s inner workings frightened you so much. This is the thing in my life I regret most.

However, I never felt like I got a chance to fully explain the mind I did reveal to you. I told you about my diagnosis and that I was completely self-interested. That wasn’t really the whole story. I held back from explaining as much as I should because I felt like I was defending myself the evening you broke up with me. I was defending my love for you, rather than explaining how it happened or how it felt. I wish more than anything that I could have done things differently. I feel tormented inside. All I can do is try and acquire something like peace of mind about our relationship and it’s end. This is partly why I needed to communicate with you again. I need to explain to you who I am. You need to know who you fell in love with for those three years.

I’m a person with many skills and talents others envy. I am extraordinarily creative, extremely productive, and good at getting others to do things for me. I’ve created a career for myself that requires a level of hard work, people skills, ingenuity, logistical know-how, entrepreneurial talent, impeccable taste, and social insight that one normally finds in a team of people. As you may remember, I also have a photographic memory. I can remember nearly every detail of any day I have ever lived through. This is how I am not like a normal person.

Normal people are not like me in that they can easily be kind, decent, and sensitive to one and other. These character virtues come so easily to them that they don’t have to think about character virtues most of the time. Normal people can expend most of their mental energy on their careers and life projects. I am the opposite of this. For me, re-inventing the wheel is child’s play. Being nice to people is like climbing Mount Everest. This is why my greatest achievement in life has not been my career.

As a child, my parents told me that I would be a bad person unless I could do things for other people. As a result, I spent most of my childhood and adolescence feeling angry and dejected. I didn’t bond with anyone. I hated most adults I knew. I didn’t like or care about any of my peers at school. I was angry with most of my teachers. So I coped by trying to temporarily behave in ways where I got people to give me what I wanted. I wasn’t yet very good at it.

The problem was I didn’t get much pleasure from doing things that other people demanded of me. I also had tremendous problems reining in my impulses. I couldn’t turn down a dare no matter how destructive or dangerous it was. I misbehaved, played pranks on others, and was often spiteful and sadistic. By the time I was a teenager, I was living with my aunt and uncle because my parents couldn’t cope with me. They too almost put me into foster care, when I made the mistake of telling my aunt I nearly drugged her and my uncle with sleeping pills and lit the house on fire. During this time, I also suffered my first bout of depression. I wanted so badly to be a decent person but I couldn’t help but be horrible. I often thought about killing myself. But I couldn’t tell if I wanted to kill myself because I was angry at the world or angry at me.

At the age of 15, I had an epiphany. I figured out that I actually wanted to be loved by people. I thought it was unjust that my self-centredness made people hate me when those very people seemed just as self-centered as I was. I hated these hypocrites with a passion. I even spent many afternoons day dreaming about exploding a pipe bomb in my school canteen and blowing everyone to bits. Yet I knew that if I did that I’d be depriving myself of the opportunity to lead a decent life. I didn’t know what a decent life for me would be, but I knew I only had one chance to try and live it. It would be stupid to cock up that chance.

By the time I was 17, I had disciplined myself to mostly rein in my impulses and become academically successful. I was motivated by the idea that I deserved a chance no one else was giving me. I wanted to prove to the world that I could be someone who deserved love just as much as anyone else. I taught myself how to behave well in classrooms to get the desired responses from teachers. I saved my cruelty for other girls at school who struck me as shallow, obsessed with their looks, or taking pleasure from bullying others they saw as less attractive.

I hated these girls with a piercing intensity. I didn’t hate them because I was unattractive (far from it). I hated them because they made no effort to modify their most basic drives. It’s true that, biologically, we innately dislike the sight of people who are ugly and we want to ostracise them. However, this impulse is irrational. There’s no reason why someone who is fat or ugly is a lesser quality human than anyone else. There’s also no reason to think a fat or ugly person is less hurt by this ostracisation. Because they receive it frequently, they are probably more hurt by it than the rest of us. That’s why the urge to give preferential treatment to beautiful people is something any humane person will fight against. It may be a biological urge but it’s a callous one.

Shallow girls take pride in their refusal to rise above this urge. That’s why I mostly bullied and humiliated them. It was easy to bully them because it was easy to turn people against them. They ruled by fear until someone else actually stood up to them without fear. It didn’t hurt that the person standing up to them was a beautiful young woman lots of the boys fancied. I was more intelligent than my enemies and I could be more cruel than they could ever be. Two of them committed suicide because of me. That’s how effective I was, at bullying bullies. 

To my surprise, my reputation for standing up to mean girls didn’t make people think fondly of me. In fact, my reputation for cruelty far exceeded any reputations of the bullies I took down. Initially, I thought this was unfair. Then I realised something. I was harming people. Harming people makes others dislike you. Even people harmed by the people you harm dislike you when you harm those people. So if you want to lead a good life, you need to make it one of your top priorities to minimise harm. If you prevent harm, this raises your social capital. Because high social capital is an effective tool for achieving your dreams, I knew I needed some high social capital if I was going to do anything meaningful with my life. So by the time I entered university, I had a new personal motto: MINIMISE AND PREVENT HARM.

During my first year at uni, something happened I didn’t expect. I started to really like people. I didn’t like them just because they did things for me. I started liking them because of their personalities. I started to enjoy their humour, their patience, their intelligence, and their moral and political attitudes. I became very excited about collecting friends. Yet as soon as I would collect a friend I would normally lose them, abruptly. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I possessed a terribly acid tongue. I had what you might call a sensitivity problem.

Initially, I thought it was simply a case of my friends not having a thick enough skin to cope with my honesty. What I began to realise was that my honesty was harming people. It was incredibly inconsiderate. I was assuming that because my skin was unusually thick, other people should be able to handle whatever it was I chose to say to them. I wasn’t adjusting my words for what I could reasonably predict would hurt the feelings of others. I wasn’t being kind.

Kindness, I learned, was an important and benevolent form of manipulation. Kindness is when you adjust the information you give to others on the basis of what you can predict will hurt them. Sometimes it’s necessary to hurt others. However, in general, it’s best to sugar coat the harsh truths that need to be said and refrain from asserting the harsh truths that don’t. This is the best overall strategy for resolving problems with other people, getting them to do what you want, and helping them grow. If you say things to them without any consideration for what might hurt them, your words become a kind of violence. Psychological violence can be as damaging as physical violence.

My experiences with my friends taught me that even my well intentioned words could be an unjust form of callous cruelty. Because I wanted friends so badly, I knew I needed to push myself to the limits in order to keep them. Learning the art of tactfulness took an incredible amount of focus, hard work, and self-restraint on my part. Somehow I managed to do it. The idea of someone caring for and enjoying me was a fantastic motivator. If someone with a mind like mine could be a good friend to someone, I thought this vindicated my chances of leading a good life and being a good person.

In my early twenties, I wanted to be kind more than anything. I was driven to the point of madness. I felt like kindness could somehow justify my parent’s having had me. I felt that if I could be kind, this was what could make up for all the havoc I caused in their lives growing up. I needed to know that I deserved to be on this planet. So I was determined to be a good friend to someone if it killed me. Yet the one human emotion I did not think I was capable of experiencing was romantic love. I assumed romantic love was completely tied up with altruism and so thought it was outside the realm of my neurology. That is, until I met you.

When I first met you during that seminar on Elliot and Hemingway, I knew I loved talking to you. Nonetheless, it didn’t feel like talking to my friends. Talking to you felt strangely compulsive, like playing a slot machine. We met a few times for coffee in the afternoon and I remember our third coffee turning into an eight hour conversation. I never felt so much excitement in being able to say something to someone else and wait for what they had to say in return. The engagement I had with your mind felt visceral.

Everything you said became an idea I could play with the way I would play with rubix cubes as a small child. Every look in your beautiful eyes drew me into you like an ornate row of tiny symbols I could barely understand but wanted to see more of. Talking to you made me feel like we weren’t talking. It felt like moving. Our gabfests were like a ballet of ideas; the kind of dance where the roll and sway of surprises never fails to be otherworldly and beautiful at the same time.

We would talk and I found myself wanting to kiss you, hold you, and make you feel things as intense as the feelings inside of me that spiked through my nerve endings when I so much as thought of you. It was terrifying. Terrifying and exhilarating. Exhilarating because I felt I had access to something I thought I was always excluded from. Terrifying because I worried you would find me out.

I worried that when you saw my normal day to day self, you would see my lack of kindness and reject me. This fear and exhileration spurred by having a lover I actually loved back aroused me tremendously. The adrenaline rushes made our sex life feel explosive in its intensity. Yet I still couldn’t imagine our relationship lasting for more than about six weeks. I was fairly certain that within two months or so, you would reject me.

Despite all of that, I knew you genuinely loved me. That thought motivated me in a way nothing else had ever done before. You were the most amazing person I had ever met and you loved me. That meant you deserved love from me. The thought of you not having that love was unbearable. I felt like my life actually had a purpose: to love you in a way that was deep and passionate, to make our connection work despite how different we were. But of course, that was the paradox of our relationship. We were so similar, so well suited, and yet different enough to feel exotic to each other no matter how comfortable our days together became.

From your perspective, you were falling in love with a young woman who was crazy about you. From my perspective, I was fighting myself to be good enough for you. I was fighting for you, fighting for me, going against my nature in the fight to love you just enough to keep you from noticing how hard I was fighting. No matter how difficult it was on some days, the satisfaction of even our most mundane moments made me push even harder. After a year, it stopped being so hard. Loving you started to feel second nature to me. That was when I took the ultimate risk and moved in with you. Again, I thought you would reject me. But I needed to know for certain, one way or another.

Despite all my gloomy expectations, you seemed genuinely happy when we lived together on Charles Street. During our two years together in that flat, we did have the odd argument. We did have the occasional day where one of us was bitchy or in a bad mood. Yet on the whole, our behaviours felt in complete sync with each other. I felt I could be myself and tell you my thoughts on nearly everything and I loved it. For the first time, I could be honest about most things and my honesty actually made someone happy. I had never experienced that before. Whether we were in each other’s presence or far away, it felt like you were the other half of my heart beat.

That isn’t to say I didn’t sugar coat various things I expressed to you. I was kind, remember. Not blunt and tactless the way I was during our last conversation. The only thing I was not completely honest with you about was how my mind worked. I do remember debating with you about how some of your views on altruism were unhealthy. Yet I never told you that I couldn’t do it. I never told you that my lack of altruism was the cause of an incredibly traumatic childhood and adolescence. I never told you that friendship and love were such relatively new experiences for me when I met you. I told you about events in my past. I gave you plenty of information that would allow you to eventually suss out that I am completely non-altruistic. Yet you always believed in my altruism despite everything.

I remember you saying things to me like, “Of course you’re selfless and giving! You’re a socialist!”

I would respond, “I’m a socialist because I think making people dependent on the market is unjust. I don’t like injustice because I don’t like how it makes me feel.”

You’d say, “See, you are altruistic. When you talk about justice, you’re talking about something outside of you.”

I’d say, “I only like it because of how it makes me feel. If justice didn’t give me pleasure then I wouldn’t like justice.”

You’d then say, “Well, then you’re no different to anyone else who is altruistic.”

Ironically, you were right. Just not in the way you thought you were.

The tremendous quality of our relationship was wonderful but something that began making me feel on edge as we moved into our third year together. “It’s too good be true,” I would think to myself. I saw so many people with normal psychologies in relationships that lacked the connection, intensity, and co-operation that ours had. On some level, I think I was worried I didn’t deserve you. This worry eventually made me start to feel like I was losing control of my behaviour. As you know, I started gambling and I racked up some debts for us, debts it took some crafty manoeuvring to sort out. I decided to go to therapy because my impulse control problems had the potential to destroy our relationship. The therapy was useful but it ended with me being diagnosed as a psychopath.

I suspected as much before I went into therapy. Yet having the diagnosis become official made the one secret I kept from you much more perspicuous. It was the one dark cloud in an otherwise idyllic relationship. I spent three weeks deciding what to do. The turmoil I felt was stomach churning. What finally made me decide to come out was a conversation we had after dinner one evening. You were asking me if I would be your full time carer for the rest of my life if you improbably had a stroke the next morning. In this scenario, we couldn’t have sex, you couldn’t talk to me, and most of what I did was look after you every day while you shook like an infant.

You asked me if, out of love, I would spend the rest of my life doing that for you. I said, “No, I wouldn’t.”

You said, “I don’t know how I feel about that Janet. You’re supposed to love me in sickness and in health. If you had a stroke like this, I would still be committed to our relationship.”

I said, “I wouldn’t want you to be. I’d want you to make sure I was ok. I’d want you to visit me and give me hugs. But I’d want you to get a new girlfriend. I’d be happy if you introduced me to her so she could tell me why she loved you. If she gave me good reasons, I’d feel like I did the best thing.”

You looked at me quizically and asked, “But why would you want that…?”

I said, “Because a relationship with me is only good for you if I can give you love and companionship. That’s how I express my love. If I can’t express my love for you through my own behaviour, I want to express it by asking you to get someone else who can give you those behaviours. I don’t ever want you to be living without them. As your lover, I can only feel like I’m good for you if I can give you love and companionship.”

You looked at me and said, “That’s really sweet. I’m not sure I agree but I’ll have to think about what you just said. I’ve never heard anyone put it like that before.”

I said, “Does my answer make you think less of me?”

You said, “No, it doesn’t change anything about how I think of you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want that more than anything.”

I said, “But what if you had an injury or disease that permanently stopped you from being able to communicate with me? You know I wouldn’t stay in the relationship. Do you still want to be with me?”

You said, “I guess if that scenario happens, it means we’re no longer compatible. We’ll still love each other. If I’m honest, I can’t give up this relationship because I’m worried about whether you’ll stay with me if I have an injury that stops me from being able to act like myself. I’d be giving up the best thing that ever happened to me.”

If you remember, I cried when you said that. You asked me why and I said, “Because you love me for me. You love me in all my frailties.”

You said, “Of course. I love you unconditionally.”

I said, “No, it’s not unconditonal love. It’s better than that.”

You giggled and said, “You’re so different to any other person I’ve ever known. Being with you is like being a kid. It’s like running around in a crazy psychedelic theme park with an adult you trust. Or it’s like someone holding you from behind while you’re both skydiving. Every time we talk, I never know what’s going to happen next and I don’t care. I always feel safe and like I’m having fun at the same time.”

I said, “It’s like music, isn’t it?”

You asked what I meant by that. 

I said, “Our conversation is like music. It never sounds the way you expect it to sound when we start talking.”

You said, “Maybe” and then you kissed me for the last time.

The next morning I gathered up the courage to tell you about the diagnosis. When I told you, you said very little, looking frightened and confused. That evening, you sat me down on our settee and broke up with me. I argued with you. I tried to make the best case I could as to why we should stay together. I even let you see me cry and scream. You didn’t budge. The next day, when I understood that your decision was final, I changed my demeanour. I reacted nonchalantly, like I didn’t mind. That was the first time I put up a completely false front in your presence. It wasn’t a partial lie of omission. This was a full blown and genuine lie. Inside I was devastated.

Your rejection of me made me feel like I had mistakenly convinced myself for three years that I was worthy of you. It felt like you loved me when I showed you my love but rejected me when I showed you my brain. I felt betrayed. The best thing in my life, the thing that gave my life vibrancy had quickly spiralled into a colourless present of despair. I couldn’t cope with the pain. I knew I could no longer control my feelings or behaviour.

I moved in with Julie, the woman we met at the Oxfam conference earlier that summer. Julie pretty much looked after me throughout the next 18 months. During this time, I wasn’t in my right mind. It felt like all the work I had done on myself throughout the last decade had completely disappeared. I was a teenager again. I acted either with aggression or in a depressed state of melancholia.

That meant I was either in bed or being cruel and selfish. I wasn’t acting in my own interests. I was like a pulse, alternately sleeping and bursting with rage, unreasonable rage. Julie was patient with me, but I am grateful that her love for me was not unconditional. She made it very clear that I had to make an effort to work through my problems with mental health professionals or else she would not continue to be my friend.

So I worked harder than I had ever worked in my entire life to reclaim my behaviour. Yet all that was changing was that I could be creative and productive as long as I didn’t interact much with others. So I became obsessed with writing and painting every day. I wrote my first graphic novel in Julie’s basement on an old computer. I was told by a publisher for RZM press that they loved the manuscript and were interested in publishing it the following year. This made me feel a bit of happiness for the first time since we broke up. I may not have been worthy of love but I could still contribute to the world in other ways.

Then I got your email. I had avoided you for a year and a half because I didn’t feel confident in my ability to keep up the lie that I wasn’t upset by your rejection of me. More importantly, I still didn’t have the strength to control my behaviour and I didn’t want you to see me in that state. Yet when I saw what you had written, I felt incredibly sad and guilty. What you sent me was just a big excuse for all the things your mother subjected you to throughout your life. You wrote at length about how even her physical violence towards you was understandable, given her upbringing.

You justified the way she would hit you over the head with iron cords before you were in primary school. You justified how she would punish you and your sister by making you carve pig masks out of egg cartons and wear them standing in your front garden. You justified all the times she told you she wished she had aborted you. You justified the years that went by where she refused to have contact with you because you chose to keep in contact with your father. You justified all the money she stole from different people. You justified ridiculous things, like the time she stabbed your father and then called the police, claiming she was defending herself from him. You even justified the time she tried to get you to drink poison during her post-partum depression. I knew you were having some sort of a breakdown.

You ended the letter by saying you wanted to carry on her legacy by having kids of your own after she died. That was particularly painful to read because you told me you didn’t want kids the night we had our first kiss. Do you remember that night we walked through St. Martin’s Square, even though it was quite cold? It’s actually one of my more vivid memories. You had just bought me a stack of John Zorn CDs for my birthday. I was carrying them in my little yellow bag with the portable CD player in it. We were wandering about, looking for a shop to replace the batteries.

You said, “I know it’s really early to mention this but I need to get it out before things get more involved with us. I’d rather risk an awkward moment than hurt you in the long run. I don’t want to have kids. I love the idea of being married but I don’t want to raise a family. I’ve always felt that way. If a family is something you want, we should just stay friends.”

You were tense and nervous when you said that. I could tell you were worried I was going to reject you. So I made you laugh. I said, “JOE, I FUCKING HATE CHILDREN.” When I saw you laugh I took your hand in mine and said, “Well, that’s not exactly true. I like really really old children. Really really old children who I am free to tease without having to censor myself the way I would with a younger child.”

You said, “You like teasing ex-children!” with a big grin.

I responded, “I don’t have to hold back when I tease ex-children. I can give them everything I know they want.” I smiled and stuck my tongue out at you.

You looked at me flirtatiously and said, “What do you think I want?”

I said, “You want…to be able to love who you choose to love. You don’t want it to be expected of you that you will devote your life to a stranger. You don’t want it to be expected of you that you will magically find children interesting when they spit and cry, are incapable of having decent conversations, and have horrible taste in everything. You don’t want to have to pretend that you find dirty nappies and first words interesting when you could be living in a beautiful flat surrounded by amazing books. You don’t want to devote your life to loving a demanding and ungrateful shit just because they share your genes. You want to be able to choose to love the best of humanity because you want to, not because you are responsible for them. You don’t want to feel guilty for that. You don’t want to feel guilty for wanting to love people because they make you happy. And when you find a woman who makes you happy, you don’t want a crying, attention seeking bore who won’t appreciate either of you to become the focus of your lives. You want to focus just on her. You want the woman you love to focus just on you. And you definitely don’t want a child to get in the way of her love for you.”

As I said these things, I could see tears welling up in your eyes. I put my hand on your face and asked you why you were crying.

You said, “I just feel so guilty. I agree with everything you said but it feels so horrible actually saying any of it. I was going to tell you I didn’t want kids because I’m going to have a career where I won’t have time for them. I didn’t want you to think I thought any of the things you just said. But you said it all before I could lie. How did you do that?”

I said, “It’s pretty obvious why you don’t want kids. You hate the suburbs. You hate mundane shit. Everything you write just screams that. That’s why I love your writing.”

You were smiling but I could see you were still upset. I asked you why you have such a hard time accepting the things you want.

You said, “I just feel so selfish and horrible. I feel intolerant, like I don’t give children a chance. I feel narrow minded and judgemental. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. I feel like I can’t make peace with with the fact that people are flawed. I feel like I expect too much of people.”

I said, “That’s a really stupid way of looking at it. All you are is a wonderful man who wants love that makes you happy. You’re no different to everyone else who wants children. You’re just a little odd in what makes you happy. I’m the same as you. That’s why I’m so happy I met you.”

When I said that, your eyes lit up. You said, “I love that I met you Janet.”

I smiled at you and said, “It’s weird. I feel like I was supposed to meet you. I’ve never met a bloke our age who knew they didn’t want kids. Everyone says, “I don’t know what I want” and then normally changes their mind when they hit 30 and give up on life. They blame it on their instincts when it’s really just a choice they’ve been pressured into. Most people are delusional. They think their genes will give them this intelligent and precocious, well behaved little person they can show off to the neighbours like a party trick. They won’t admit to themselves that having a kid is like playing the lottery. If most people thought about what being a parent entails, most people wouldn’t have children.”

You said, “You know, I’ve never even told my mother I don’t want children. I don’t think she’d ever talk to me again if I did. She’d think I was disrespecting her.”

I said, “You don’t need stupid people like that in your life, Joe. If your mother won’t talk to you because you won’t breed, fuck her! She’s an idiot. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”

You became slightly irritated with me. I could see it in your face. You started lecturing me about how I should be more tolerant of people that don’t share my political views. So I tried to lighten the mood.

I interrupted you and said, “I was just kidding Joe! You know I didn’t mean it when I said “fuck her.” You know I’d much rather fuck you than fuck your mother. You haven’t even kissed me yet!”

You laughed and said, “I’d very much like to kiss you right now.”

I giggled at you and brought my face close to yours. I said, “Well Joe, whether you kiss me or not depends on the choice you make. It depends on the choice you make after I bring my lips ..right up next to yours.. and open them like this..”

I grabbed your crotch for the first time, squeezing your cock. 

I also mocked you with my eyes while I brought my open mouth directly in front of your chin. I knew what I did to you when I surprised you this way. I could feel your frustration and it was delicious. I pushed out my tongue and touched your bottom lip. You quickly pulled my hand off you and stepped back, with a nervous smile on your face.

I knew I was turning you on in public and this made you embarrassed, even though you were trying to kiss me. You slowly moved in for a more conventionally romantic smooch and I moved my head towards you like I would make it easy. Then I surprised you and quickly pulled back, laughing at your earnest attempt to “be the man” during our first embrace. When I saw how confused and helpless you looked, I brought my lips close to yours again.

I whispered into your mouth, “Are you gonna feel guilty …or are you gonna take what you want?”

Before I had a chance to pull my head back, you shoved your tongue in my mouth and kissed me hard. You finally let go and took me the way I knew you could. Everyone could see us but you didn’t care. I could literally feel your courage; I could taste you not giving a fuck. It was an attitude I could feel on my tongue and in my chest and in my hands. And I loved that it was me bringing that out of you. In that moment, in that first kiss, I knew that I loved you. I saw how love could come out of and through me. I knew I was the only woman that could ever make you really happy. Even your hard cock and I were soulmates. I can still see it whenever I touch myself. I can feel it waiting for me. 

Hence, my photographic memory is both a blessing and a curse.

When I read your disturbing email about how Judy was dying and you wanted children, I felt like you were pissing on all my precious memories of you. You were going against everything you stood for when we were together. Your sentences felt violent, like you were emotionally disfiguring yourself. I knew you were forgiving your mother and deciding to become a father because of the trauma that our break up had caused in you. Or at least I hoped this was true because I would then be able to help you in some way. I should have known I couldn’t help you see that your mother was a horrible person. I couldn’t help you see that having children would make you miserable. I wasn’t mentally stable enoughYet despite my better judgement, I couldn’t resist the chance to see you again.

The morning of the day we last met, I got an email from RZM saying they had rejected my book. I went to meet you in an already foul mood, an even bigger mistake. As I sat waiting for you outside that little cafe, I did breathing exercises to try and get a sense of calm. When I saw you moving towards me, I nearly didn’t recognise you because of how much weight you had gained. At first I felt relieved. I thought the weight would help me lose my attraction to you. Yet when you sat down and started speaking to me again, the relief quickly went away.

All my feelings for you came flooding into my throat. I kept swallowing water to keep myself from bursting into tears. I immediately wanted to sob because I knew in my heart that I would never be able to move on from you. Even after what you did to me, I wanted you as much as I had always wanted you. I wanted you fat or thin, young or old, nasty or nice. My feelings made me angry because they were a reflection of how I was no longer in control of my love. I wasn’t loving you because you did or didn’t deserve it anymore. I had lost my integrity. 

I worried my love for you had become unconditional. This worry filled me with rage. It wasn’t rage at you. It was rage at me. Yet I took it out on you and for that I am deeply sorry. I should have let you explain yourself and apologise to me that day. I’m sorry I deprived you of that. I’m also sorry I said incredibly hurtful things about your weight. I’m sorry I said cruel and viscious things about your character, things I hoped you could tell I didn’t mean. And yes, I’m sorry I poked your eye out. I did that I think because you told me a truth I couldn’t handle hearing. You said I was going to die with justice while most of the world lives with love.

At the time, I thought this would happen to me because no man would ever want to be with someone who had a brain like mine. I have since found out this is not the case. The reason I am going to die alone with justice while the rest of the world lives with love is because I have only ever felt romantic love for one person, a person who couldn’t handle being in a relationship with someone who had a mind like mine. 

You could make a strong case that this love is unhealthy. I know I have good reasons to move on and find someone else. I have a successful career. You rejected me because a relationship with me didn’t make you feel safe. Over a decade has gone by since we last saw each other. A year ago, I was making progress in my attempt at moving forward. It was becoming easy for the first time since I last saw you to be kind and sensitive to people. I was making friends. I still hadn’t met anyone I had any feelings for. Yet I was learning to enjoy my work and new friends in a way that was making me feel that perhaps I could live happily without another romance.

One afternoon, I was feeling edgy for a reason I couldn’t articulate. I impulsively googled your name and found you on Facebook. I saw that you were in a relationship status with a woman called Loraine Klein. The first thing I noticed was how beautiful she is. The second thing I noticed are the vicious comments on her Facebook page about celebrities she thinks are ugly. I then went to her website and read several of her blogs where she talks about how much she hates homeless people and gay men with HIV.

I saw all the articles she re-tweets about how good it is to smack children. I saw the picture she posted of herself wearing an “I bathe in male tears” T-shirt. I saw all the selfies she took with Nigel Farage. I read the insulting ways she described you during the early phases of your courtship. I noticed how every time she posts a picture of you, she always tags you as “Fat boy.” But even that doesn’t scratch the surface of how disdainful she is of you. Especially the comments where she mocks your writing and teaching.

A week after I discovered your hot girlfriend, I noticed that Loraine posted a fresh new blog with three pictures of you in it. The first picture was a close up of your stomach. The next picture was a close up of your chest. The third picture was a close up of your shrivelled penis after you’d just had a bath. Underneath was a comment from Loraine which read:

“Fat boy is the luckiest boy in the world. Thanks to me, this ugly fat pig gets to fuck the most beautiful woman in Leicester. And you know what? He doesn’t even pay me. He expects me to fuck him him while he makes himself look like a pregnant woman. Most of the time, I can’t even feel his tiny dick. I can’t stand how he smells. His hairy tits are fucking disgusting. When he cums, I want to vomit. I even hate his puffy fingers. But sex is still better than having a conversation with him. 

I get fuck all from him in this relationship and I’m sick of it. When I look at him, I don’t feel like I’m looking at a human being anymore. I see a disgusting piece of shit I’d like to flush down a fucking toilet. When he cries, I honesty fight the urge not to kick him in the balls. I wish he would hurt more and cry harder. But there’s no time I hate him more than when he tells me he loves me. That’s when I wish he was dead. 

I know he’s not all bad. He’s good at running errands for me and he can cook a decent curry. I taught him how. But the fact that I share a bed with him makes me so angry. I don’t know why I do it. It’s like I’m lowering myself to his level. When I fuck him, it’s like having sex with a cockroach. When he kisses me, I want to be sick in his mouth. When he holds me, I think about stabbing him. Sadly, I would never stab this piece of shit because I’m a good girlfriend. I always do the right thing and fuck him every night like a robot. We’re even having a baby next year.

I suppose this is what love is. I just don’t fucking understand it. Love is nothing but a complete and total mystery to me. My love has become the reason Fat boy is the luckiest boy in the world. I’m insane.” 

When I saw this, something horrible happened in me that I can’t really explain. It was like my world turned upside down. I started worrying about you obsessively. I couldn’t think about anything except what this woman might be doing to you. I even worry about the effect she’s having on your mental health. Over the past year, those worries have become intrusive thoughts. I can’t sleep because these worries batter my brain even during the moments I’m trying to drift off into unconciousness. But even then, I dream about you. And the worries are as real there as they are when I’m awake.

I worry that Loraine wants to make sure you don’t lose weight so that she can use your weight to leverage power over you in your relationship. I worry she will trap you into a permanent attatchment to her because of a family you don’t want. I worry she preys on your low self-esteem and makes you normalise cruel behaviour. I worry that she also commits acts of violence towards you. I worry you tolerate her violence because you think you should feel lucky to be with someone so physically attractive. I worry you think your weight gives her the right to hurt and publicly humiliate you. 

I worry that the bad light I painted conditional love in has made you an easy target for someone like Loraine. I worry that your desire to give her unconditional love will stop you from placing any expectations on her behaviour. I also worry that your desire to be loved unconditionally will make you complacent with your self. I worry that it will stop you from working on your weaknesses. I worry that you may eventually become as bad as Loraine. I worry that your kids will be very very dislikeable. I worry she will abuse them too.

I know you broke up with me because you didn’t feel safe in a relationship with a psychopath. With hindsight, I can’t be angry at you for doing what any normal person would have done in your situation. If you really trusted me, my diagnosis wouldn’t have mattered. It did matter because I didn’t make you feel that trust. I didn’t make you feel how much you deserved my love. I can accept that now. But I worry you are also with Loraine because of that same failure of mine. I worry that your experience with me has convinced you that someone like Loraine is what you deserve.

It isn’t, Joe. You deserve someone who treats you with kindness, respect, and dignity. You deserve someone who is open minded and sensitive to other people. You deserve someone who isn’t an uncompassionate bigot. You deserve someone who actually understands and loves what you bring into the world. You deserve someone who isn’t a cruel and mean spirited bully. You deserve to be with a woman who actually loves you. You don’t have to be like your dad. Your masculinity doesn’t depend on you tolerating female abuse. You owe it to yourself not to tolerate it. You owe it to Loraine too. 

I know there’s little chance you agree with any of the things I’m saying about her. I know I’m making myself look presumptious and arrogant. But I’d rather look like that than not tell you these things. I know you may think I am full of shit. I know you may think I am a terrible person and not trust a word I say. I understand how this email might cause anything from confusion to anger in you. I can understand if you are indifferent to it. I can understand how you might not have even read far enough to get to this very sentence. And yet here I am, writing another sentence underneath it.

I know our relationship is done. I know I can’t have you anymore. But I can’t bear the thought of not doing everything I can to make sure you are ok. I’ll risk you hating me even more if there is just a small chance I can help you when you need help. I don’t want to see you taken advantage of. I don’t want you to suffer anymore because of me. You’re too important a part of my life. You motivated me to be my best self. I don’t know if you understand how important that is to me.

Because of you, I got to experience what it’s like to be happy, fulfilled, and loved for three years. That is, by far, the greatest thing I have ever done. As a child, I never in my wildest dreams thought that would ever happen to me. You also taught me how painful it is to lose all of that. I am still in that pain now, but I don’t regret knowing you. I can’t regret that. You’re too special. You’re the first person who ever made me feel human. Feeling human is the hardest and greatest thing a psychopath can ever experience.

I know my brain makes it difficult for me to effectively communicate my feelings. Maybe I always appear selfish and manipulative, even when I’m doing my best to project kindness. Maybe I’m not a very lovable person. But being with you made me feel like I could cope with that. I could cope with that because you allowed me to do something I always thought was impossible:

You made me love you even though I’m me. You made me love you even though I can’t do altruism. You made me love you even though I’m completely self-interested. You made me love you even though I might not be able to love anyone. You made me love you even though what I experience as love might just be a mirage.

I don’t understand how you made me love you with everything-with everything that I am and everything I could be. I don’t know how you brought that out of me. I don’t know why I gave you everything and you made me feel crazy. I don’t even know whether or not I am crazy. I don’t understand if my feelings are real or fake. I can’t grasp the metaphysics of love or the conditions that make love genuine. I’ve never been able to do that.

All I know is that whenever I think of you, I feel an intense and unbearable absence. I feel like an important part of me is missing. This is why I find myself crying so often. This is why most of the time, I try not to think about you. But today, I couldn’t help it. I didn’t have the strength to turn off my feelings. I couldn’t help writing this ridiculously long email. And no matter how much I write, I still don’t have the words to tell you how much I love you.

I can only say, from the bottom of my heart, that I wish you could feel that. I wish I could somehow put you inside my feelings. If you could feel that love, you’d know just how much you deserve it. You wouldn’t be happy in a relationship with someone who hates you. You’d respect yourself. You’d only be happy being treated like what you are.

You are not pathetic. You are not an ugly fat pig. You are not a disgusting piece of shit. You are an amazing and beautiful human being; my favourite human being. Because of you, I’m still alive and fighting to be here.

You’re the reason I can do that. You’re the reason I can love.


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  1. Wildeve

    Janet’s way of loving is really insightful to me. I have loved without boundaries and then blamed it for the awful feelings/life circumstances I was left with. This is helping me to re-evaluate what a healthy relationship (between adults) is and that it’s ok and in fact reasonable to have conditions. I love my children unconditionally but now I’m thinking this is because a) it feels very natural to me to do this and b) loving them in this way makes me happy c) this type of love is necessary for their survival.
    I love Janet and the exquisite way she expresses herself and also because she feels useful to me;)

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