So the other day my friend was telling me about her and her ex-boyfriend, and how they are trying to become friends. We all know that is a daunting task, but I am a big believer that it is SO worth the while, if you care about them (and yourself and your healing!). Anyway, she was mentioning something that he keeps saying to her that is driving her crazy, and is hurting her. She told him to stop. When I suggested she think about his words from his point of view, and that maybe he didn’t mean them negatively, she said she felt that all the way through their relationship she was the one that was trying to understand him from his point of view, but that he never took the time to understand her.
So here we are in this predicament. “I do all the work, and they don’t, so I’m just gonna stop doing the work, to protect myself.” This is a super common reflex, or effort to set healthy boundaries. And, I don’t want to knock it down necessarily, because sometimes this is absolutely what you need. However, why do we feel the need to stop showing love, when the other person doesn’t give it in the same way we do? If we truly love them, it should not matter what we receive in return. And why does it feel like giving “love” with no return, is weakness?
There a tons of definitions of what love is, but some common understandings of it are something like:
-love is accepting someone for all that they are, and all that they are not
-love is giving, selfless, and unconditional
-love keeps no record of wrongs, it does not boast
Love is not actually dependent on the other person. That being said, it doesn’t mean show up over and over for someone who isn’t showing up for you, but there is a way to walk in love, regardless of the circumstance, regardless of the other persons’ reaction, regardless of if it’s going how you want it to or not.
So why do we do this? Why do we stop loving, when someone gets hurt? Or stop loving when someone isn’t giving us the commitment/time/affection/attention that we want? Or is that love at all?
Here are some of my thoughts:
Vulnerability is only a weakness, if you believe your fears as truths.
Loving someone, regardless of their actions (unconditionally), is not a weakness, if you do not fear. But if you are worried they will abuse you, leave you, hurt you, manipulate you - then that very love and vulnerability, does become a weakness. It does put you out there to get hurt.
In my friend’s case, she expressed that she was afraid he would never “choose” her. But if she truly knows that if he doesn’t choose her, it will be best for both of them, and that it will happen in the timeline it will happen - then she can fully trust. And she can continue to walk in love regardless of his wishy-washy-ness.
Often, we are afraid of someone leaving us, so we don’t want to fully put ourselves out there, because then if they leave it will be extra devastating. But what if we were simply not afraid of them leaving us. We would put ourselves out there, and even if they left, we would have an understanding of them because we love them, and chances are we would support them. And in that way, we provide the love and support to another human we care about, that is truly beautiful.
Today I borrowed my friends’ pants (lol) and I had a moment where I was worried about spilling on them. Let me preface this story by saying my friend, whose pants they were, is a spill-er. Constantly dirtying things by being a (beautiful, fantastic) spazz. So I took a breath of ease knowing that, if I spilled, she would understand. And of course I was very careful ;). Silly example, but let’s think about it. Let’s equate her giving me her pants (when I gave her nothing in return), to giving someone love, or being vulnerable. She didn’t give me her pants worried about when I would return them or if I would ruin them or mad at me for taking them without giving her anything; she simply gave them away. Some might think of this as reckless, like I could take advantage of her and abuse that privilege - right? So it is vulnerable. However, her doing this is only a weakness if she believes in her fears. So in this case her fear would be something like, fear of me damaging the clothes, or not doing anything for her in return, or taking advantage of her niceness. But the thing is, my beautiful friend, does not believe those fears to be true! Yes, it’s in part because she trusts me, but I’ll venture to say, in the bigger scheme of things, it’s because she trusts herself to be ok if the pants get damaged, or to communicate to me if I start taking advantage of her and deal with it accordingly. She knows she can handle whatever repercussion comes of it. So the fear, is not a truth, it’s just a maybe thing that might happen one day. And she’s ok with it.
Same thing in love. If you can see your fear, and acknowledge that a) it could happen and b) you’ll be ok if it does, that vulnerability is FREEDOM, rather than weakness. Love becomes POWER, rather than an open wound.
*A reminder that love is not “do everything for someone else”, or something like that. Love is more like, accept someone and try to understand them regardless of if they are doing that for you. Love is care and support for a human, not for what that human gives to you. You can very well, love and care for someone from afar, so be careful that this “love” does not exhaust you. Love is powerful, not destructive. Love is your connection to yourself. YOU are worth it, regardless of what other people do with it.