We talk about love a bit on this blog and by now you all know what that means to us. But, I was thinking about the one aspect of the definition that is separating out giving love freely and willingly, not because you feel you must, not to receive something in return, but just because you want the best for the other person.
I think I need to explain this a bit better in terms of why the non-transactional nature of love is now so important to me.
My brother is exceptionally gifted. While I am a hard-working, intelligent enough woman, my brother has a photographic memory, an IQ near 160 and was our mother’s pride. Mom would talk endlessly about him and forget to even mention that I existed. As a little girl, I would ask my mom “what is special about me?” And she never did have an answer, never. My dad was different. He was so proud of me, of how hard I worked, he thought I could do anything I set my mind to do. I knew it, I felt it, I saw it. And, yet I wanted that from Mom too.
As an aside, I know my brother felt that our dad favored me, as much as I felt our mom favored him. I think it was the source of so much of our horrible fights as kids. As teens we became exceptionally close. My brother and I have drifted from each other in years since. He couldn’t take our family’s dynamic and cut off ties with all but me after college. I completely understand his need to do this for his own mental health. I love him, I know he loves me. With time, age and physical distance, we are not as close as we used to be, but we still want the best for the other.
My point here was that I tried so hard to win my mom’s love. I kept hoping, praying, trying to win her love. I thought if I had something special about me, then maybe she would love me too. I do wonder if part of why I went with her when my parents divorced is because I thought if I took care of her, she would love me. Only, it never did work out that way.
After my parents divorced, my brother went with our dad and I went with her. I was expected to be the adult, until she didn’t like what I had to say. She was dating an alcoholic, uneducated, illiterate man that she met in a bar. She wanted me to flatter him, give him hugs when he came to visit her, to treat him adoringly. I was polite, but distant. She kicked me out when I was 16 years old, thinking I would come running back to her, that I would do and say anything she wanted me to do. I never returned. I went to her sister who allowed me to move into their storage/laundry room.
I know that Mom’s family feared me going to live with my dad and brother, that it would send Mom into a tail spin. My dad was loving, but not a very responsible person. He was a hard worker, but couldn’t hold a job because he always had to be his own boss, he was evicted from homes often, yada, yada, yada. . .I loved spending time with Dad, but for short amounts of time; a great place to visit, but I didn’t want to live there. And, I wanted stability, I wanted a family to love and to love me, I wanted to be able to be a kid. I spent so many nights wishing that there had been some huge mistake and that my aunt was actually my mom. But, it wasn’t true, it would never be true. And, even being mom-like was difficult for her, there was a wall. My mom accused her of stealing me away. She pressured my aunt to get me to visit. I didn’t want to because it was very hard on me to do so, but I did it to please my aunt. When I would visit, Mom would spend all her time asking questions about my brother, she was not at all interested in anything about me. I started to believe she only “missed” me living with her because I was her source of info about my brother, because she wanted me to be her caretaker and so she could get the child support and more money and food stamps.
I was kept at arm’s length by my aunt. Enough to not go to my dad, but never enough to feel like I had a mom in my aunt. My mom refused to give the child support she received from my dad (by this point it was being directed through Adult and Family Services) to my aunt and uncle. My uncle, who had bailed out my family many many times in the past, had enough. He would have talks with me that I needed to figure out how to get that child support to them or I would need to find another place to live. I said I would let AFS know that I no longer lived with my mom, so the child support would go directly to them. It would also mean that my mom would lose the extra bit of money and food stamps she got because I was supposedly part of her home. My aunt knew that she would then be making up that loss of money to my mom because our family was just that enabling. It was a stale-mate, but at least I didn’t have to go back to live with my mom. I just wanted a home. I just wanted a “normal” family to love me. I did everything I could to get them to love me.
I put myself through college, graduated and just a few months later ran into MC. We started dating, he loved me, actually he love-bombed me. I saw all my dreams of having my very own family coming true. After we married, I started to feel that nothing I could do was enough. I was loyal, I was loving, I put his dreams and ambitions ahead of everything else. I thought if I just did enough he would love me, think of me again like when we were dating.
Do you see the pattern? Do you see the problem? You CANNOT make people love you. They will or they won’t! That is THEIR CHOICE. I’ve stopped trying to make people love me (or, at least, I am working very hard to stop). If I do something for another, it cannot be because I want them to like me or love me, it must simply be because I want to do something loving toward them, because I want what is best and healthiest for them to live to their fullest potential. This does NOT include enabling poor choices!
When I was in college, just after my Dad died, I talked to my uncle. He knows he was hard on me in high school, he so wanted me to not turn out like my parents or be the enabler that my aunt and grandpa had been. And, he saw with my words and actions that I did not want to turn out like that either. He told me how proud he was of me and how much he thought of me like I was his daughter. I have felt so close to him ever since.
When Mom died, the wall between my aunt and I came down. She no longer felt like she had to protect my mom’s feelings. I will never be her daughter, but we are closer than ever before. I do love her and want what is best for her, no matter what our relationship was, is or will be.