by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 


Backstory to this post: I had a 2 minute clip of Torch Song Trilogy in this post FOREVER. The first time I wrote this was 2008. Recently Warner Bros decided (wrongly) it was against Fair Use. I’m not going to tempt the YouTube gods  by challenging it, but honestly WB, I am an attorney, I understand Fair Use and the clip I used in this post was TOTALLY FAIR USE.  Ahem,

Okay, so  I’m  going to quote it now instead, and even though WB is being jerks about it, I’m going to encourage you to see this film if you haven’t.


Arnold (played by Harvey Fierstein) says to his mother (played by Anne Bancroft)

There’s one thing you better understand. I have taught myself to sew, cook, fix plumbing, build furniture – I can even pat myself on the back when necessary – all so I don’t have to ask anyone for anything. All I need is love and respect. If you can’t love and respect me, you have no place in my life.”

In 1988 I saw this movie when it came out and I was pretty tortured and depressed at the time. I was ending my marriage and wrestling with my relationship with my adoptive family. I remember crying at the relationship between Arnold and his adopted son David (played brilliantly by Matthew Broderick)…I wanted a mom like Arnold, bunny slippers and all.

But I didn’t UNDERSTAND the sentiment, “Love and respect me or get out.” I thought, “What the F does THAT mean?”

It did not compute. I had not yet learned, as Arnold knew, that love is an action. And I had not yet insisted on it from absolutely everyone.

But about 3 years later I saw it again. I was STILL in contact with my adoptive family but some of the themes and Arnold’s insistence on being loved and respected by his mother bothered me. I had read that “Love is An Action” in the Road Less Travelled but I was still not yet “there” in insisting on it or get out.

I saw it again in 2000 and they were out of my life. When he gets to the line, “If you don’t love and respect me, you have no place in my life.” I thought, “That’s RIGHT!” I  realized I now ACTED in concert with that sentiment, but I cried because it was so damn hard to do and to boot out people who are SUPPOSED to love you. They’re not supposed to take it away and give it back and take it away.

One of my very first affirmations was: Love and respect me or get out. It was pretty clunky, but it worked. 

Some of the people that used to be in my life would like to think they were exiled because of what was WRONG with me (abandonment issues/hypersensitivity), but I will tell you–I did it because of what is RIGHT with me.

My therapist used to say that my family “un-adopted” me when I did not act the way they wanted me to act. And they did. It was hard when I realized that family doesn’t treat family the way they treated me. My sister stopped speaking to me for a message I left her and I didn’t know why for 7 years. And the message I left was one that said I thought it was ridiculous for my brother to be calling her over an issue he had with my son. That was the horrible message. Let the ending of the world begin.

The family “dance” was that I was supposed to grovel and crawl or try to find out what I had done wrong. But by this time. I was done. No more. I went NC and my family failed to notice. They must have still thought they weren’t speaking to me.

It’s scary to say NO MORE! to a group of people who are the only ones you’ve known or to a one someone who has been the only one you’ve known. You think you will be alone. Forever. And ever. It seems like the big black hole of aloneness. And you wonder: Did I do the right thing??????? DID I???

But if you stand up and say NO MORE, it’s scary and sometimes hard.

Sometimes very hard.  I find that today there are still people who un-adopt me when I’ve said or done the wrong thing – ACCORDING TO THEM….and I can’t do it anymore.  Not with anyone.  Not friends, not family – NO ONE.  If you’re not there for me, GET OUT.  Just GTFO  NOW.

When I talk about unconditional love, that is what I’m talking about. Unconditional being there and will be there. And any issues will be worked through. It’s not “disappear and guess what my problem is with you” because after a time I don’t really care what your problem is. I don’t want you in my life. And if you want to blame that on my abandonment issues or sensitivities or WHATEVAH, go right ahead.

I saw Torch Song Trilogy in 1988. I was thoroughly confused by its message.

By 2008, when I wrote my first Torch Song Trilogy post on this blog, I got it. I had learned it’s very simple. If you don’t love and respect me, you have no place among the people close to me. I’ve done my grief work over people who didn’t. I’ve walked away from those who had less than my best interests at heart. I’ve done the work. And the people in my life are a reflection of that work. They love and respect me.

It took me a long time, to walk that particular talk with absolutely everyone, but today I do. I started in the early 1990s with my ex husband, moved onto friends and coworkers, slowly worked it through with my family and it was pretty much a wrap in 1995. But since then I’ve had occasions where I’ve had to revisit the insistence…and it got better and easier.

I’m not afraid to be alone.  Totally alone if I have to be.  I’m used to it.  It’s OKAY.  Better than accepting bread crumbs thrown and then told I don’t appreciate them.  Too bad, so sad.  I’m done.  Over and out.

It took me a long time, to walk that particular talk with absolutely everyone, but today I do.

It’s become second nature….that’s what I expect, that is what I deserve and that is what I have.

That is what everyone needs–love and respect.

And don’t let anyone twist your demand for love and respect into what is wrong with you…ooh you hypersensitive, imagining-abandonment freak you. If someone is not treating you well and then blaming your objections on YOUR STUFF, well just walk away with a gigantic “WhatEVAH dude” and keep on going.

Remember your standards and don’t put them to a vote. Not everyone can meet them. Most people can’t. But the ones who can are keepers.

The path from “What the F does THAT mean.” to “That’s right.” isn’t always easy but KEEP affirming that is what you deserve and it will become second nature.

Love is an action.  DO NOT SETTLE FOR LESS.

To order Torch Song Trilogy from Amazon click



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