To Love is to Be Loved

“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”

― G.K. Chesterton



For many, this is one of the first lessons that we learn regarding love and how it works. Love begets love, right? So how do you explain domestic violence? Is it because you did not ‘love’ the other person enough? Is it because your ‘love’ wasn’t real enough? That you didn’t mean it enough? Speaking as a woman who has been both physically and mentally abused by those I have loved for years at a time, I can promise you that this kind of an explanation just doesn’t cut it.

When does it become okay to release yourself from the conventional ‘stick-it-out’ love and get out of a horrible relationship? When does it become okay to admit that you can love someone all you want, but you cannot force someone to change if they do not wish to? When does it become okay to admit that, just because the object of your desire doesn’t love you back, it doesn’t mean that you are unloveable? 

I would love to have an open discussion about this, as this was an honest challenge for me to tackle when taking on a re-imagining of such a classic, and sometimes classically misleading, fairytale. What are your thoughts on this?


6 thoughts on “To Love is to Be Loved

  1. Fairytales are fairytales for a reason, they do not coalesce with reality. Don’t be afraid to love yourself as much as you love another.

    • I would argue that though the magic of the fairy tale may not be a reality, it’s message is certainly intended to be taken as such.
      What I am speaking of is not a fear of loving oneself. It is an inability to understand that the mere act of loving someone does not guarantee that that person will change- i.e. in an abusive relationship where the woman genuinely loves her man, but that love (in the conventional sense, which is commonly expressed as ‘sticking to them through thick and thin) is incapable of transforming the man into someone who is not going to beat her. If he continues to beat her, does it mean that she did not love him enough? Does it mean that the woman is unlovable because her love is not returned? I’m not saying that I have an answer for either of those questions, really…. but in examining the message of Beauty and the Beast (as much as I love it and will eat up any version of it that I can find), it’s a nuance that I just could never seem to get over, if that makes any sense.

  2. I apologize if my remark came across as cliched. I agree that fairy tales, especially Disney ones give misleading messages to children (and adults) at best and destructive ones at worst. As a former social worker with some knowledge of addiction, I have learned that in order for cycles of abuse to be broken, a person has to learn not to tie his or her self-worth or value to the abusive partner. Often, people in abusive relationships have had their self-esteem systematically broken down to the point they are cp-dependent on their abuser for validation and are conditioned by the abuser to accept any crumbs of positive feedback along with a sized-up portion of verbal, mental and /or physical mistreatment. Addicts in recovery learn to accept the things they cannot change and find the courage to change the things they can. That being said, it’s easy for me to point out what others should do and although my ex-spouse was verbally and mentally abusive at times, I do not truly know all that you have gone through. I think this is an important topic you are addressing. My two cents.

  3. Thank you for your input! I think that’s an important perspective to add when speaking about abuse. And I’m glad that you agree that the topic is important. My view is that the fairy tale itself is a wonderful starting point, when we are children and know only a percent of the world, and that now as adults it is our responsibility to look at the story and say “I see what that means, but now I must add this perspective to make this meaning more True”.

  4. For me, Love is an action – not a feeling.
    Sure, we have hearts that go a-flutter in the early stages of a romance, but Love is action.
    Standing up for you when others are against you, taking time off work to care for someone, calling just because – to say “I love you”.
    It’s not reasonable to think that Love is flowers every day, surprise trips to the Bahamas or diamonds on your birthday.
    I believe that in an abusive situation, it isn’t about love. It’s about control. It doesn’t matter how much you love that person, they just want to control you.

    • Of course, I don’t think the abusive person is in love with the person who is abusing them. The question is- it the love of the person being abused invalid? I’m never going to argue that it is not healthy, but in my own experience of being abused I can truthfully say that my love for my abuser has been the same as my love for healthy non abusive relationships- the abusive relationship was a one sided love, that is for sure- but I do not think that my love was cheapened because of the lack of reciprocity.

      Also, something my current boyfriend just mentioned- he is proposing that the abuser does in fact love the other person, they are just in someways incapable of portraying it in a healthy manner because of x,y, or z reason. I don’t fully agree with him, of course, as I also subscribe to the idea that love is a choice and not an action- but again, in my experience with abuse, it’s hard to believe that the abuser doesn’t love you when they appear desperately penitent for their actions when you try to leave or point out their abuse. It’s a very complex and contorted situation, and I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s not as cut and dry of a situation as people would like to believe- even several years out of an abusive relationship, and now in a very stable and healthy one, it’s easy for me to slip back into that kind of black and white thinking about my friends who might be slipping into a bad relationship, or reveal that they’ve been in one. But it’s never as simple as we think when people throw love and violence together.

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