…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Earning Love

By Rex Goode


It is one of the hallmarks of sexual addiction that such a person was usually raised in an environment where love was earned, conditional. For those of us who struggle same-sex attraction, we often rely heavily upon the love and acceptance of others of our same sex to help us heal the breach we have felt with such people.

I always have wanted a man to love me without me having to do anything to gain his love, to reach out to me voluntarily and without any pleading or hinting on my part. I have thought too often that a true sign of love would be when some man (who must be good-looking for some strange reason) would be intuitive enough to sense my needs and come riding into my life like a knight in shining armor to rescue me from my loneliness.

So far, no white knight has been forthcoming. Instead, I have learned that I can make close friends by being a Sir Lancelot myself. This is not such a bad way to live, but it doesn’t answer that burning question of, “Where is my unprompted hero?”

Concentrating on being of service just to earn love is often as disappointing as sitting around waiting for someone to love me. Now, I’m knocking fellow needy people, but so often people in need of help and support are in and out of your life before you have a real chance to develop a deep bond.

Impatience is one of my biggest flaws. I fully understand that all good relationships are a combination of supporting and being supported. Most of my problems in relationships are not that they are not close enough, but that I dislike waiting for them to deepen. I want my friendships to hit the ground running and to only intensify as they grow.

This is the other common difficulty in addicts, that due to the deficits in intimacy, they mistake intensity for intimacy. One of the biggest problems this presents for me is that I tend to be ungrateful for those relationships that are sufficiently intimate, but not fatally intense like I want them to be.

When I am honest with myself, I can look back over a very fulfilling lifetime of wonderful men and women that have touched my life in very meaningful ways. They are most often someone that I have helped, but there are very few that are people that I have helped but they have not helped me.

Usually, such relationships take time, something I’m rarely willing to allow. Striving desperately to earn love is not a good mode to be in. It only drives my self-esteem into the dust as I tend to judge myself by how others seem to view me.

The truth is, self-esteem is something that comes from within, hence the prefix “self-.” If it didn’t come from within, it would be other-esteem–a nice thing to have when you can get it, but not the same as having respect for yourself.

As I have struggled to understand myself, I have often become depressed that other men often don’t seem to have the same care for me as I try to show towards them. At these low times, I try harder and harder to earn their love. However, true love is not earned and love that I have to work for doesn’t seem nearly unconditional enough.

In their book, Spirituality and Self-Esteem, Drs. Bednar and Robinson wrote:

The Myth of Unconditional Love

Many of us erroneously believe that if we are the recipients of constant doses of unconditional love, self-esteem is sure to follow. The ‘bucket of love’ metaphor is overused: ‘If your bucket of love is full, you’ll feel good about yourself and others.’ This rationale leads us to think that if disappointments are minimized, rejection is avoided, and our abilities are never questioned (that is, we are accepted unconditionally and unceasingly), our self-esteem will remain unquestioned and intact. Many unwary individuals fall prey to the false idea that others can and should act as a constant source of their well-being. In other words, according to this myth, if we suffer from low self-esteem, the reason is that those around us are not loving us enough.


We assert that although others do contribute to how we feel about ourselves, if our family, our friends, and our associates spent all their time being nonjudgmental and uncritical and if they deflected every potential scrape and bump coming our way, they would actually be depriving us of the very experiences that provide important problem-solving opportunities and the chance to develop the internal self, which builds self-esteem.

This myth can be placed in proper perspective when we remind ourselves that the purpose of our earthly existence is to be separated from the Father and his protection so that in the face of mortal trials we can grow (Spirituality and Self-Esteem, Richard L. Bednar and Scott R. Peterson, Deseret Book, 1990, pp. 82-83).

On the other hand, I think there truly is a love that individuals can have that emulates the perfect love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us. It is not the kind of love that prevents us from experiencing pain, but still remains constant and pure through all difficulties. Such love is not earned.

In my darkest moments, I’ve ungratefully devalued the love of people that I have helped. I think to myself, “He only loves me because I helped him. If he really knew me and I hadn’t helped him, he wouldn’t love me.”

This ignores an important truth that I’m slowly discovering. Real love is not earned, but that does not preclude us from having to pay the price in terms of putting an effort into our relationships.

It is verily true that to gain a desired outcome, we usually have to do our part. This is true in relationships too. If we want to be close to someone, there is a price to pay in terms of work to achieve that closeness. This does not mean that their love is conditional, only that love grows out of a process, not out of some chance and magical meeting of two people who are fated to be together. Our fast-paced romantic society teaches us the tragic lie of “falling” in love.

I am grateful to all those friends with whom I have a long and steady relationship of mutual caring and support. ‘Tis a beautiful thing. These are the friendships that have the greatest value. Just because I spent the time and energy to pay the necessary price does not mean that their love for me is conditional, only that it is the way it is supposed to work. The value in the relationship comes from the work it takes to foster it.

What a hard-learned lesson it is to come to realize we must first love ourselves before we can understand how much others really love us. I may be loved by a great many people, but if all I feel towards myself is disgust, it will seem to me that everyone is disgusted with me. When I have the courage and determination to look for the good in myself, then I am suddenly aware that others see good in me too.

I feel a responsibility to love others unconditionally, but for as many times as I’ve let unconditional love pour out of my soul towards someone seemingly in need of it, there have been so many times when it made very little real impact in the lives of those I was loving. Loving without conditions is a godly quality, but just like God’s love for us, it cannot overwhelm someone’s freedom to choose their own actions and reactions.

I now know that I can’t earn love, but I can do the work and wait patiently for the reward. The hardest-won love is the love I’ve had to have for myself.

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One Response to “Earning Love”

  1. Heidi said:

    I’m still musing over this post too much to have an adequate response, but at the very least I want to thank you for writing it.

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