Know This Love: The hardest people to love


No matter how much we try to avoid it, all of us, at some point, end up hurting the people we love. Some, like immediate family, are difficult to remove from our lives. Others, like ex-girlfriends and boyfriends, often leave our lives with the closing of the relationship.

I used to hold onto a lot of hurt related to exes. A victimhood mentality pervaded my thinking, and even if it wasn’t always conscious, I blamed and hated them for not loving me enough.

The truth of it was, of course, that I wasn’t loving myself enough.

The severity of resentment toward my exes varied according to how traumatic the breakup was. The pain that followed would last for a long time – or until I got into another relationship to cloak the pain.

I finally learned to face it the last time around, and once I did, it freed me somewhat. I saw and finally believed that everyone in our lives is a teacher, and sometimes exes serve as the greatest of them.

We should be grateful for that, because it’s often a very painful role to play for someone.

Still, it can be difficult to forgive, much less love, that person. It’s even harder if we also blame ourselves for it. I still sometimes feel a gut-wrenching, visceral reaction to seeing things that remind me of her.

So this seemed like a fitting place to begin with Know This Love, before I even had the little cards to pass out. But I’ll keep private the details of what I did or didn’t do in relation to her, because it’s for me alone.

The joy I’m getting from this comes through the freedom in my own heart, as well as the thought of her happiness. I know I’m not the first fool to figure out how amazing it feels to make people smile, but I love it all the same.

This particular ex and I used to discuss how altruism doesn’t truly exist, because no matter what the person was doing, they were always getting something back for it – whether it was validation of a belief, a feeling of satisfaction, compensating for guilt, or something else.

She was absolutely right. To give to a person in any way is a joyful experience. That joy is mine, and no one can take it from me.

The hardest people to love are the people who teach us to love unconditionally and without attachment. But they are also the people with whom the capacity to love is the deepest. She is that teacher for me.

Matthew Stensland-Bos explores consciousness, love, healing, and grounded spirituality in Know This Love, a weekly SFBay opinion column.  You can find him on his website, and his blog,

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