One of the key components to a lasting, healthy and happy relationship of any kind, is a foundation of trust and acceptance. This applies to our familial, romantic and personal relationships. The people with whom we feel closest are also the people with whom we feel we can be completely ourselves. This seems so obvious, and yet, we screw it up all the time. We start putting our shoulds on other people. For so many people there’s confusion between control and love, and if you’re dealing with someone who has a harsh inner critic, you can bet that voice is going to reach out and give you a lashing on a pretty frequent basis, too. What we have within us is what we spread around us.
Love requires our vulnerability. It’s a paradox. If you want to love, you have to be soft. You have to be willing to expose the parts of you that aren’t so pretty, that are still raw, and in order to be soft like that, you have to be really brave. Most controlling people did not become that way in a vacuum. A person who longs to control circumstances and other people has been hurt. It’s natural to want to protect your heart after you’ve been disappointed, but you can’t defend and open your heart simultaneously.
Most people believe in their own stories about themselves and other people, and controlling people do this to an even greater degree. In order to justify the need to tell you what you should or should not be doing, they have to build a construct that supports the idea that they know more about what you need to be happy than you do. For many people, “I love you” means, “I love you when you do what I want you to do”; it’s conditional. If love can be withdrawn that way, it isn’t love.
When we go and sit by the ocean, we don’t think, “Wow, the ocean would be so much more majestic if it were just a little bigger or bluer. If those waves were crashing just a little differently.” We don’t look up at the sun and think, “That’s great, but too bad the sun doesn’t shine with a little more pink or gold or orange.” We just take these miracles as they are. People are no different. We all long to be seen and heard and understood as we are. We long to be accepted and known. That doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do, or areas that might need a little more of our kind attention. It just means we long to be embraced with all our beauty and all our flaws. When someone who purports to love us can only seem to find our faults, it’s very defeating.
Fear and love do not play well together. When we’re trying to control someone else, even if we’re doing that because we think it’s in their best interest, we’ve really become confused. We humans are solitary creatures in many ways. We have interior worlds that other people can know only if we let them. I will never know what the right thing is for someone else. Obviously I can recognize if someone I love is putting himself or herself in harm’s way, and I can try to hold up a mirror with concern and compassion. If someone I care for is struggling, or feeding destructive habits, I can try to get them support and help, and offer my shoulder, my ear and my heart, but short of those situations, we each have to find our way.
Sometimes we need the struggle to break free of an old pattern, just like the butterfly needs to struggle to get out of the cocoon. The struggle strengthens the wings. Without that effort, it would never fly. When we try to jump in and tell someone we love that they’re crazy or they’re making a mistake, or they’re screwing up their lives, when we try to save someone from misery or pain, we may be robbing them of an experience they needed in order to grow and open. When we try to manage another person’s path, that’s a marker for us to step back on our own.
The same applies when we chase people down for their love, time, affection or reassurance. If a person is telling you they need space, you really have to respect that. If a person is telling you they are not where you want them to be, you really want to be able to take that in, for your sake and for theirs. It’s not loving or accepting to refuse to embrace the reality of someone we say we love. People are where they are. They want what they want. They have the tools they have. The more we open to reality as it is, the less we suffer and the less we cause those around us to suffer. Reality is not always going to meet your expectations or longings. Things are not always going to unfold like the picture in your head. In fact, most of the time they won’t.
Whenever possible, accept where you are on your journey, and accept where other people are on theirs. Work when you need to work. Give those raw places within you your kind attention. Learn to listen to yourself with an objective ear, instead of pushing away thoughts that frighten or disgust you. You are not your thoughts. You don’t have to believe everything you think, as the saying goes. You don’t have to act on every feeling you have, but you do wan’t to know yourself. You really can’t be at peace if you’re rejecting essential components of who you are, and you can’t love other people well if you’re unable to embrace them and meet them where they are.
Wishing you strength, bravery, clear-seeing, and a lot of love,