When Love is Dirty
Fouled love is a lot more common than we like to admit
Do you know the nagging feeling or pain you can feel when there seems to be love present between you and another person, yet something is off? What that something is, is not evident. It’s not so obvious, it's somewhat invisible.
Therefore, it is incredibly hard to explain, clarify, or point out what is happening, and thus it's hard to be solved.
Hence, I'd like to introduce the term fouled love.
This article can help you identify how and why we all deviate from pure love at times and why that is hurtful.
Answers to the following questions will be given
• What is fouled love?
• Why is it so painful?
• How can we recognize it?
• Why would it be good to accept it is very real, and common?
• Why is it so common?
• Why doesn't it work to point it out to people portraying it?
• How CAN we deal with it?
Fouled love introduction
Fouled comes from the verb foul, which means; to make dirty or to spoil or damage something by making it dirty.
Thus, the term fouled love points to anything that deviates from pure, unconditional love. It is that what makes love 'dirty', what spoils it in very subtle or not-so-subtle ways.
Fouled love is painfully common. Yet, it is intangible because it is mostly hidden deeply in the shadows. That is what causes the nagging feeling mentioned earlier.
When you experience it, it can make you feel powerless, confused, hurt, or annoyed.
Despite the pain it brings, we all accepted the presence of fouled love, as it is practically unavoidable. Because we feel it's unavoidable, we often suppress the way it affects us.
Even though we suppress it, we do feel the discomfort
No matter how good we are at suppressing how it affects us though, we all deep down experience the discomfort it brings.
One of the reasons it feels so uncomfortable is that we do not have a clear term that explains what it is we experience.
To me, it has made a huge difference in my life to be able to point it out, clarify that it is fouled love, and enable myself to at least acknowledge my own feelings around it.
Acknowledgment can then lead to accepting and understanding where the other person is 'coming from'. Or if needed it helps to take action to reduce the opportunity for love to be smudged.
What is fouled love?
Fouled love is the kind of love that is seemingly real on the surface, yet underneath, it really is (at least in part):
• Used to gain control over the relationship, the person, or a specific situation
• Either unconscious, semi-conscious but denied, or sometimes even malevolent (meaning: causing or intending to cause harm or evil)
When you read these characteristics, you may instantly think of a horrible person or relationship you surely would not (want to) have in your life.
Terms like manipulative, egocentric, and controlling make our minds race directly to labels like narcissists, dark personalities, players, spoiled princesses, etc.
So maybe you feel this is not applicable to you or your relationships.
But I invite you to keep reading because fouled love is about you and your relationships. It is about all of us.
The characteristics I described are incredibly common and not just characteristics of dark personality types or bad relationships.
Fouled love is likely to be present, at least at times, often regularly, in most relationships.
We don’t like to look at it because it is hard to acknowledge. But I believe, if you are willing to look at it, you can learn a lot about what love is in its healthy, original form: The unconditional type.
When we are all willing to acknowledge we deviate from this, probably on a regular basis, we can attune ourselves to it increasingly. Our love can become less fouled, and so can our relationships.
Fouled love can show up in subtle ways, like:
It can also be present so hugely it affects your whole life.
Here is an example of how this can work:
You, therefore, often reject people who do not reflect back to you that you are worthy. Reflections like being a good, nice, fun, attractive, smart, or great person. Sometimes this rejection is internal and subconscious, sometimes it's conscious and expressed.
In truth, you only feel at ease when people agree with you and always take your side or when they place you on a pedestal.
When anyone does not attend to your needs, you instantly feel rejected. So you only keep friendships with those who follow your moods and do not put their own needs first (too much).
When someone does not fulfill your needs, you talk to others about the situation to get confirmation on how 'bad' they are (and how good you are). You don't speak of the unfulfilled needs, of course. Instead, you, for instance, speak about how they abandoned you or were not there for you when you needed them, how selfish they are.
When someone gives you feedback on anything, you instantly feel this is unfair. So, the friendships you keep are the ones you can steer and manipulate into always taking your side and lifting you up. You do the same for them and claim that is what unconditional love should be.
In reality, in this example, your whole life is set up to not feel or deal with your deep sense of unworthiness.
You spend a lot of energy on attempting to have others reflect your worthiness and on avoiding facing the unworthiness you feel.
In any of these examples, you are hurting yourself and others. Even the subtle first example of getting confirmation is painful.
Why is it so painful?
Fouled love, whether subtle or big, is painful to us because we don’t want it to be true.
We don’t want to see it, nor accept it is indeed present. Simply because we may not be able to handle the truth of it. We want love to be pure, to be unconditional, even if we understand it is often not.
Even if the dirtiness is subtle, seemingly innocent, it feels not right.
And in some way, it is not right, not really. Deep down, we know this. Deep down, we know what love is or could be.
We have an inner compass that knows. It knows that this type of love, love that’s fouled, is not needed. It knows because the compass itself is love.
Love itself cannot be fouled, it IS pure and unconditional. It's our pain and fears that morph the love we experience. Yet, underneath, love itself is still pure and unchanged.
Therefore, whenever love is fouled by ourselves or others, we feel the pain of the dust and the smudges covering it. It hurts our very core.
How can we recognize it?
You can ask yourself questions to identify if you experience fouled love. Below are some examples. You can also use them to reflect on your own behavior or motivations toward others.
Is this person dismissing my needs as being, for instance, invalid, unreasonable, or stupid?
◦ Example: “What do you mean you need time with yourself this month? You’re so selfish”, or more manipulative or unconscious: “What do you mean you need…., that is really not normal/unhealthy.”
Is the person emphasizing how much they wish you well while pushing back / getting angry or annoyed when you do what is right for you, which is not necessarily best for them?
Is the person giving mixed messages, like; emphasizing how much good they do for you because of how important you are to him/her, but saying things like “you are ungrateful” or “you don’t listen to me” - while they do stay around you?
Is the person indeed loving you or being there in the way he or she is saying?
◦ Example: “I give you all freedom to decide what you want”, but then setting an ultimatum when you decide to go for that what they don’t want you to decide. Like; "okay, but if you take that job, I will take this other job, and we won't see each other much anymore".
Is the person clearly causing you harm by speaking badly about you, tricking you, deceiving you, disrespecting you, or intentionally pushing your buttons?
Is the person blaming or shaming you while not taking any responsibility for themselves?
Does the person barely wants to leave your side, does he or she wants to be around you all the time? Or does the person feel especially entitled to your company and attention?
If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes!’, there may be some dust or smudges there. If you answer multiple questions with yes, there might be a bit of a mud pool there.
It does not necessarily mean the relationship is bad. It will help you a lot, however, to be aware of the fouled love that is showing up between the two of you.
Why would it be good to accept it is very real, and common?
As soon as we accept that fouled love is real and pretty common, we have an opportunity to significantly reduce the pain and confusion it brings.
When we acknowledge the reality of it, we are way more prone to notice it happening.
When we notice it happening, we can act on it. Often starting with healing the wounds that cause the pain it brings, or even cause it to happen in the first place.
We then become less vulnerable to fouled love occurring.
When we become more aware of it, we can develop ways to not allow as much of it to be near us. This, of course, firstly requires you to decrease the smudges you developed.
More awareness also creates more space for compassion for ourselves and others.
Why is it so common?
Most of us are very reasonable people. We can reason our way through anything. So too do we reason through fouled love.
Because we understand it and find it so reasonable, we allow ourselves to portray it too.
We may even feel it’s unreasonable to expect love not to be fouled, it is too much to ask from someone, or ourselves.
Therefore, it is too much to even want or desire. So we reasoned ourselves out of the desire, or need, to experience love in its pure form.
We started doing this soon after birth. Right from the start, we learned to adapt to our environment.
A child has an instinct to survive that makes him/her attune to the parents. Therefore the child moves away from its inner compass to attune to the parents' state of being.
Even the most loving parents have been adapting to the world around them for many years before they had children. So almost no parent is still fully attuned to pure unconditional love.
We, therefore, learn from day one (but not necessarily really accept) that love is fouled. Not consciously, but quite certain.
As fouled love is all around, deeply entrenched in our society, it seems like we just need to learn to accept that, grow up, adapt to it, and with that become an adult too.
We think or hope when we become a grown-up, we understand why it is so. Why it works this way. There must be some logic about it that we don't see yet, as children.
When we grow older, we forget about this puzzle completely. We are no longer aware we took on the dust and smudged ourselves in order to function, to socialize, to fit in.
We have succeeded, and we function, but at what cost?
Deep down we suffer. Some of us dream of soulmates we'll meet one day, that finally will know how to love us. But if our love is fouled, we also attract fouled love from others.
The great news is, however, that: If we want to experience pure and unconditional love, we don’t need to polish up the smudges.
Pure unconditional love still lives inside of us, and we can re-attune to this natural state. The more we attune to it, the more we attract it from others, and the less comfortable others feel about throwing mud at us.
Why doesn't it work to point it out to people portraying it?
It can feel tempting, once you become aware of the dust in a relationship, you want to dust it off.
It may be tempting to point it out to the person portraying the fouled love symptoms to us. To make them aware and give them an opportunity to change it.
Before you do this, realize that this may not work. Unless the person is very self-aware and willing to reflect on themselves in order to learn and grow.
It may not work because of these points:
The person in question is loving this way for a reason. Read the former paragraphs and you’ll understand how deeply ingrained fouled love is inside all of us. It is the way the person tries to avoid pain, rejection, and loss of control.
So pointing it out straightforwardly may not be the most effective approach. It may cause shock, pain, and fear in the other person, which can lead them to close off their inner compass even more.
Because the person often is not aware of it, pointing it out to them may also induce shame, insecurity, or a dent in their sense of self-worth. Which may be exactly the reason they embody fouled love in the first place.
So direct confrontation can result in aggression, defensiveness, or them feeling bad about themselves.
It may result in them reliving the unbearable pain of lack of attunement to pure love in the past.
Possibly this could lead to them trying to make even more sure it does not happen again (by i.e. manipulating even more).
So how CAN we deal with it?
First of all, there may be situations in which it is necessary to indeed point it out to a person directly. When someone really crosses a boundary of yours, or of course, when someone is being truly malevolent.
In this case, it is important for you, the messenger, to be willing to face the consequences of the confrontation.
Because you may need to walk away or take some distance from this person for a while, or forever.
It helps, in this case, to remember the needed confrontation is an act of self-love. Bringing you closer to alignment with your inner compass, and therefore increasing your happiness (directly or eventually).
In more common, subtle cases, here are some steps you can take:
1. You have already become aware of fouled love being present. That in itself is a huge win! You can reflect on what happened and ponder if it’s something that is common or more of an incident. It can be good to write it down, describe how it happened, and how it made you feel.
2. The best way to deal with it is to deal with yourself and your feelings. So reflect on why it made you feel the way it did. Tune into compassion for the part in you that got hurt, and know that you do deserve to experience love less fouled.
3. Try to look at the reasons the other person could have shown these symptoms of fouled love. Maybe you can ask them a question, that could help them get closer to the part of them that is hurting. Always keep in mind, however, that they get to decide what they are ready to look at. And you may need to decide whether or not it's okay if that may take many years (or never happens).
4. Do not take it personally. When you start to see how fouled love works, you'll also see that the fouled love is not there because of you. Unless, of course, when you are the one portraying fouled love. It's the result of fear, pain, and conditioning. In most cases, nobody is out to get you or hurt you because of who you are.
It’s up to us to deal with the discomfort
Fouled love exists in different ways, with different gradations, in all of us. Yet it is nothing to blame and shame ourselves for (unless we consciously take it on continuously).
The reason it hurts us so much, the reason it feels off, and uncomfortable, is that we all have an intact inner compass.
That compass still remembers the purity with which it entered this world. The discomfort we feel in the face of fouled love shows that we remember this.
It’s up to us to sit with the discomfort and work through it. This way, we can embody our natural state of being a little more each day.
The more we attune to pure, unconditional love, the more resilient we become.
It becomes less likely we accept or even attract fouled love into our lives from others.
Unconditional love is incredibly powerful.
It is not a fluffy, pink teddy bear that gets thrown around.
On the contrary... The less fouled your love gets, the less you will be fooled.