Oh, who hasn’t had a rough relationship with love? (Not a surprising UU Lent word, is it?) If you haven’t, count yourself as fortunate and give yourself a big hug. Wait, everyone else, also give yourselves big hugs. And now for some brutal honesty.
My issue, like so many of us, has been with romantic love. I was always a big fan. And boy oh boy was I full of it. Those happy hormones it kept pumping into me were my drug of choice. I kept seeking it out, even when I had perfectly good relationships. This here was my biggest failing, because I repeatedly did really inappropriate things in my quest for my love drug.
And, what did that do to me? It made me love myself less. And that led to the feeling that I was worthless if nobody loved me, so I did more unhelpful things to try to get the people I loved to love me or continue to love me. I worked way too hard for my Dad’s love, which spilled out to romantic relationships.
That led me to like myself less and less. My inner monologue consisted of, “No one likes you…you have no friends…you are so fat…you are a failure…” I’m surprised I could get up every morning and go to work, take care of my kids, or volunteer constantly.
Do you see a downward spiral looming? I sure do, in retrospect. I ended up with the pathetic tendency to do just about anything to get love, romantic or otherwise. I was one of those people you read about who change themselves to try to be the person their object of affection wanted.
Note: That does not work.
It never occurred to me that it’s very hard to love someone who doesn’t love themselves, and I certainly didn’t love myself. I needed to learn about other types of love than romantic love, obsession, and sex hormones.
I did it! Was it easy? Nope. I had to admit a lot of icky things about myself (see above) but thanks to a good therapist, I was able to figure out what led me to end up the way I was, and forgive my past self. I was able to see that all those past actions were leading me to current wisdom and peace.
Learning to love myself has let me love others in so many ways without having to have all that hormonal stuff mess with my mind (I still have hormones; I just recognize them for what they are).
What I Can Do Now
I can love my family without expecting anything in return (thank goodness, since one of them seems to not love me back at the moment). And I can appreciate their love without basing my self esteem on it.
I can love my friends and be okay if they go away or have a problem with me. If they want to work it out, I’m there to do so. If not, I’ll love them from a distance.
I can love people I don’t know. For all I know, my loving vibes may be helping in some way I can’t be consciously aware of.
I can love all my animal companions and enjoy their love back.
I can love my planet.
Will I have bad moments? Will I get jealous or envious of someone else’s relationship, or hurt when things don’t work out? Yep. But I’ll pick myself back up and keep going.
I’m grateful to everyone I’ve ever loved and hope you got some good out of it. And I’m sorry for those I hurt.
I’m grateful for my spouse, his patience, and his ability to love me as I am.
I’m grateful to Victoria.
I’m grateful to Brené Brown. Even if I generally find self-help books annoying, her conversational style and repetition of the same point in different ways helped me break through and shut my inner voice up. Go read a Brené Brown book.
“I know something about love.”