Yet We Insist on Doing Them Over and Over Again.
Love hurts everyone — whether you believe that love is something you get or something you give.
What differs is why we get hurt.
People who want love get hurt because they feel they didn’t get enough. People who give love get hurt because they feel their love doesn’t get appreciated.
I’ve been lucky to receive love. But none of it lasted for long. My experiences led to a post on why I’m not the guy a woman should date. The response from a friend was, “Ha! So this is why men run when we give them unconditional love.”
And that got me thinking: why do people run from unconditional love?
The thing is, I’ve also given unconditional love. I’m the kind the kind of person who believes love is something we do. In return, I’ve been hurt deeply. I’ve been pushed to the sidelines. I’ve felt used, like I was not worthy of being loved in return.
But I’ve realized that my definition of “unconditional love” was messed up. People like me, we offer so much that our partners and friends either begin to have unreasonable expectations from us or feel so suffocated that they leave.
The deepest scar I’ve had came from a toxic relationship, one where I gave love “unconditionally” but got nothing in return. Yet, as easy as it is for me to place the blame squarely on her for ‘using” me, I must admit that I set the playing field up for her beautifully. Because what I thought was “unconditional love” was in fact, the very stuff that pushed me close to the edge of insanity.
Here are five things I said and did that burned me badly enough to teach me that they have no place in love.
#1. “I’m responsible for how you feel.”
What I did: I took it upon myself to keep her in the “right frame of mind.” Each time she felt low, I tried to hug her and hold her hand. If she was happy, I tried to add to the joy. If she didn’t want me around, I would be around her more to show how much I loved her.
What it led to: Such actions created expectations with damaging consequences. Over time, she expected me to drive twenty miles to meet her whenever she felt low. It felt like the movies in the beginning. Then it became unsustainable. And things began to go south. She accused me of not loving her anymore.
It was draining. But I had started it.
What I learned: Others’ feelings are a result of their actions. The ownership lies with them, not with you. Let them ferry themselves through.
This doesn’t mean you abandon them. You can offer to listen or celebrate depending on their mood. Then respect their answer.
The next morning is a better time for a conversation, especially if they don’t want to talk. If they don’t want to celebrate, you can go out with them another time. If they’re bored, you can leave them to indulge in something they find refreshing.
You’re not being cold-hearted and selfish. Giving them space is a sign of respect, an element that’s essential in every healthy relationship.
#2. “I have to show you how much I care.”
What I did: To show that I care, I poured my affection on her. I tended to her wounds, shared the burden of her anxieties and tried to feel everything she felt. I “worried” if she was out of reach for even ten minutes.
What it led to: I had entered into a relationship with her because she was independent, not because she needed a nanny. It felt like a charade. With each passing day, I hated what I was turning into? And many times, she hated the care I showered because it got in the way of what she wanted to do.
What I learned: According to Martha Beck, love has no such range of meaning — anxiety, worry, care, overjoy. It’s pure acceptance. The more you care, the more you get in the way of loving them. You let their emotions affect you and make your emotions affect them. The result is an emotional rollercoaster that nobody enjoys.
How they currently feel is not permanent. Let them express themselves. Stay calm enough to avoid judging them.
“If you were physically injured, bleeding out, would you rather be with someone who screamed and swooned, or someone who stayed calm enough to improvise a tourniquet?” — Martha Beck
#3. “I know what’s best for you.”
What I feel: A dear friend decided to switch careers. This made me anxious because she’s quite young. So I covertly tried to persuade her against it. After all, I didn’t want her to get hurt.
What it led to: After our conversation, I remembered how I felt when my ex-boss tried to manipulate me to keep me in the organization. I remembered how I felt when my mother tried to convince me to do something on my own because she felt I wasn’t cut out for it. It pained like a knife stab. Why was I subjecting someone I loved to what I condemned?
What I learned: You don’t know what’s best for them. Accept it. By trying to make them see things your way, you deprive them of a wonderful journey to self-discovery.
Life is a journey of the soul, not the body. Souls have an eternity to discover their true potential. When you love someone, you’re okay with not being around when that happens.
Share your opinions without letting emotions get in the way and let them think about it. That’s where you draw a line.
Don’t try to live their lives. If you try to turn them into someone you think they can be, you don’t love them for who they are. Nor do you live your own life.
#4. “I’ll change myself for you.”
What I feel: I put my life on hold for my ex. Friends, music, writing, reading, riding… everything. I made her friends my friends, I took decisions that she wanted me to take. I did everything with just one person in mind — her.
What it led to: A deep void. I remember feeling empty when she went on a vacation and didn’t answer any of my calls. To distract myself, I rode my vintage motorcycle. The feeling of freedom made me weep under the helmet. I read a book after what felt like an eternity and felt like my mind opened up. Eventually, I started asking for more time on my own, and I got accused of not loving her anymore.
What I learned: When you turn into someone they want you to be, you stop being the person they fell in love with. You’re no longer a complete individual who complements their life, but someone who needs them to fill your void.
This need doesn’t just suffocate you, but them as well. Pleasing others doesn’t just drain you in the long run. It’s also unfair to the person who loves you for who you are.
#5. “I hope you’ll appreciate my love.”
What I feel: I thought her all the time. I waited to speak to her. I love her harder than I could. All in the hope that she would appreciate my “unconditional love.”
What it led to: Expectation and disappointment. I could see that she didn’t love me, but the idea of having me around. It hurt. I hoped that if I stuck around, a day would come when she would realize how much I loved her. That day never came. Eventually, she found someone else.
What I learned: Love is something you give. Whether you get it or not is the other person’s prerogative. Love is pure acceptance. Hoping to be appreciated is an expectation. They cannot coexist.
This doesn’t mean you give love to takers. You give it to someone worthy, someone whose life becomes better (even a little) with this beautiful gift you share.
Love in the true meaning is difficult to practice. Bigly difficult. To let yourself be vulnerable, to melt your ego (not suppress it), to be someone they need without thinking about what you get in return.
It’s tough. Yet, it’s beautiful. This love changes you. It teaches you to accept people for who they are. When you do, you learn to accept yourself for who you are. When you become kinder towards them, you grow kinder towards yourself.
Love doesn’t just elevate their lives, it also elevates your own.
Sometimes, love for others begins with love for self. Sometimes, love for self comes after you learn to love others.