The Capacity to Love

Not everyone is able to love freely. Life can do funny things to people, and sometimes the damage is deep. This applies to all people, whether they’re family, friends, or romantic interests. When someone can’t or doesn’t love us the way we want them to, it’s very painful, but it’s part of life. If it’s a family member, a parent or a child or sibling, it can be brutal. It’s so hard to separate out what belongs to us, and what belongs to other people, to recognize that a person’s capacity to love is not a reflection on you. If your mom or dad couldn’t love you well due to their own limitations, the timing of your birth into their still-forming lives, or their own history with neglect, that’s a wound that will need some serious healing. As a kid, it’s impossible not to take that personally, not to take it to heart. I hear from people every day who were abandoned by one parent or the other, sometimes both. Who were told they were worthless, an accident, a burden. Any parent who can say that to their child is very damaged, indeed.

If you grew up in an environment where you doubted whether you were loved, where you didn’t feel secure or valued or protected, it’s very likely you’ll be drawn to interactions with the same dynamic as you go out into the world. Most people will choose what they know over what they don’t but there are times when learning something completely different would serve a person well. When you find yourself working too hard, bending over backwards to be enough for someone, that’s a burning red flag because real love doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t diminish you, it emboldens you to be more of yourself, to open more and share more and learn more as you evolve. True love is the most liberating thing there is. Conditional love is not love. It’s control. If you do X, then I’ll love you. If you show up the way I want you to, and you give me what I want, then I’ll love you. Hmmm, really?

When you love from your heart, you give. Not because you want to get, although receiving love is lovely, but because giving comes naturally. When we love someone we want to see them happy. I see so many people enter into relationships projecting all over the place. Jumping in head first, swimming in hormones, having decided this is it!! Attributing all kinds of things to their partners that may or may not be there, instead of allowing the person they’re just getting to know to  reveal what’s there. When we’re attached to an idea, like the idea of being in love, or the idea of a particular person being in love with us, it’s blinding. There’s no way to see what’s real, what’s right in front of you because you’re already ahead of yourself. That isn’t loving someone.

When we love and it’s real, we’re seeing the other person clearly, and we’re saying yes. Yes I see you, and I love what I see. Or we’re seeing clearly, and we’re saying no. No, this doesn’t work for me, after all. I see you, and I accept you as you are, but I know myself well enough to recognize this won’t work, and I respect you enough to tell you. Love is the foundation of freedom and acceptance. It’s not a choke-collar and you won’t have to chase it down like an overly excited puppy. Sometimes we get so attached to the idea of being loved by someone, we lose touch with what is. If a person is feeling what you’re feeling, you’ll know it. It won’t be a mystery. If someone wants to be with you, they”ll find a way. You’ll hurt your heart more if you lie to yourself about that. You won’t be waiting for the phone to ring and you won’t have to sell yourself, or obsess about every little thing you said or did. True love gives you permission to relax. It’s an embrace. If someone can’t embrace you, you may need to take your beautiful heart and move in another direction. If it’s a family member, you may have to love them from afar but your heart is precious. Don’t give it away lightly, and don’t ever sell it. If a person can’t see your beauty, walk in the other direction. If your heart wasn’t protected as a kid, you get to protect it now, as an adult and that’s a privilege, don’t you think? Wishing you the strength to walk away from anything that makes you feel diminished and the intuition to walk toward the people who see you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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