Four Types of Love That Wear a Mask

Tough feedback is deceptively good for you.

I got a DUI when I was 22 and it was a long time coming.

I’d gone off the deep end and was on a downward spiral. I lacked direction and was unhappy with my life.

Family members gave me a few doses of tough love and I eventually got my life together. However, at the time, I took that feedback personally and was considerably pissed.

In hindsight, my loved ones were right. I’m just grateful I didn’t hurt anyone behind the wheel. Love often wears a mask. It is disguised as something else.

Getting roasted into absolute oblivion

Humor can often become very mean-spirited. Among men, especially, this is common. If you haven’t been exposed to this type of banter, it can be upsetting to see firsthand.

And while roasting people isn’t always in good taste, it is often an expression of friendship and caring. We tend to put on our nicest faces in front of strangers for fear of making a bad impression.

When we are willing to poke fun and tease, it signals we are comfortable and care about that person. We feel they know we respect them and they shouldn’t feel attacked.

When we are able to take those jokes and dish them back out in kind, it strengthens the bond between two people — albeit in a twisted and occasionally toxic way.

Don’t assume every insult is meant to rip you to pieces. Hand it back to them.

On the brink of death

The pre-mentioned DUI led to a long, painful process of restitution. The DUI laws are strict here in Florida. I did tons of community service, which included volunteering with a kindergarten as an assistant — which is a story for another day. All in all, the DUI cost nearly $10,000.

I’m not proud to share this part but I also had to attend alcohol counseling because as I’d blown double the legal limit.

The treatment house was this huge 2-story brick building with a waiting room I sat in each week. I was in a chair, reading a magazine, and a procession of 7 or 8 young women walked in. When I looked up, my jaw about tumbled to the floor. They were eating disorder patients.

Most of them looked — and I’m not trying to exaggerate or be funny — like Auschwitz prisoners. They were under 100 lbs. I could see their ribs poking through their shirts.

Seeing extreme anorexia firsthand takes yourbreath away. Every part of you wants to jump up and help them somehow.

I learned that getting them to this treatment center took great fights and turmoil, and in some cases, a court order.

Eating disorder patients often can’t accept that something is wrong with them. They feel betrayed by a family who speaks up. It’s just as I’d felt, prior to my arrival.

It takes tremendous courage for loved ones to speak up. Being confronted with difficult truths is an act of caring, even if it’s disguised in criticism and rejection.

Getting the ax (to freedom)

If you’ve ever been fired you know how terribly hurtful it can be. You can feel blindsided. Many people spend the rest of their lives being pissed about a termination.

Yet very often, being fired is a favor in the long run. Many employees eventually end up happier and with better jobs after being canned.

A job not going well is a signal that you aren’t on the right path.

I’ve heard a manager lecture another manager for not firing an underperforming employee, saying, “You are doing him a disservice by keeping him around.”

A few months ago, I had this crazy dream where I was sitting in an office chair, working as a financial analyst (as I used to). This beautiful female boss came in, wearing black lingerie.

She sat in my lap, in this seductive, but demonic way. Her eyes had this tiny red glint in them.

She leaned in and said, “I am sorry my dear, Joe.”

“Why?” I said

She tilted her head sideways, put her fingers to my chin, and said, “Because. I’m getting ready to fire you in front of everyone.”

Sadly, that’s exactly what happened. I couldn’t will the dream to a more pleasurable storyline.

Oddly, what struck me about the dream wasn’t so much her devilish beauty or the sexual overtones. It was how she had so much love in her voice as she said she was going to fire me.

Grand and dramatic acts of separation

A terrible breakup has this suffocating, world-ending feeling. It’s common for people to feel like they are hallucinating, seeing this terrible new reality.

A decade ago, my marriage was crumbling and I was having trouble coming to terms with it. The entire situation felt unexpected.

We met with a marriage counselor near the end. The counselor had a Ph.D. from a good school. He wasn’t some spiritual charlatan out to get my money. And it showed. He said several things that totally changed my life.

The first time we met, he’d just finished speaking privately with my then-wife. I’m sure he had a good scope on the situation and where it was headed. He’d been counseling for many years and was damn-smart. These situations probably become highly predictable.

Nevertheless, he was patient with me and my rationalization of all the madness in this crumbling marriage.

He patiently sat and listened as I waved my hands around, being upset, hypothesizing and psychoanalyzing the true reasons for her uninterested behavior.

Eventually, he got fed up.

He held up his hand to pause my talking and said “Look, Joe, I’m not definitively saying this marriage is going to end. But things aren’t looking good.”

I was caught off guard because I thought his whole mission was to help us fix our marriage. Thankfully, he was good at his job and knew it’s never that black and white.

He continued, “I’ve seen the toughest men in the world, cage fighters, firemen, SWAT team members, men who kill for a living, sitting right there on that couch you are sitting on — crying hard — because of a failing relationship.”

“They sounded like you, desperate. Then, things got worse and they thought their life would never get better. They thought they’d ruined their only chance at being happy and having love.”

“And you know what? I spoke with all of these men and six months later,” — the counselor did a wiping-hands-clean gesture — “they were all fine.”

“The storm had passed. The sun was shining. They were happier than ever and living it up.”

And he was right — about everything.

Things did get worse. Eventually, one day, I woke up and felt amazing, like I’d been reborn into this new life I’d forgotten existed.

My counselor later said, “When someone tells you they want to leave, the most loving thing you can do is smile and wish them luck.”

Joseph A. Cornacchia