The Limits of Unconditional Love
I believe true, pure unconditional love is only capable from God. I think the closest we come to that as humans is the love a parent has for their child. I also think we can try to sift through what true love is (there is the tough love variety and other sorts) and give it our best shot to love as perfectly as we can through our incredibly imperfect selves.
I remember a big aha moment in family therapy. We were having struggles with Matthew, who was then in high school. The very painful time came when our counselor talked to Tim [the author’s late husband] about whether or not he should continue to live with us. I was completely befuddled. I was a counselor too and I knew better, but I just couldn’t see it in my own life. I really thought if I could just love Matthew like my own child, give him that constancy he desperately needed, stability, etc. etc. etc., that he would come around. He didn’t though. He just didn’t. The therapist looked at me with compassion and just said that life and people don’t follow a formula. No matter what we do, sometimes people just don’t respond the way we think they should. I knew that in my head, but I was still devastated in my heart. I tried so hard to be the best mom I could, but it wasn’t enough back then. It just wasn’t where Matthew was. That brings me back to the God-thing. We still have free will. So unconditional love comes with no guarantees.
Thanks to the gender-fluid movement, referring to a person as a “they” is now considered grammatically correct even though it is a plural form used for a singular person. I like it though, because now I can write without defining a gender which helps protect anonymity. Sorry for the sidebar.
Since that painful episode with Matthew, I’ve about the limits of love, about sticking up for myself and not being a doormat. I learned that from a lot of sources, but one person in particular had a great influence of me. They are pretty rough around the edges, but with time I did a pretty good job of accepting them the way they were. Whenever they hurt me, I told them, so I didn’t repeat the doormat pattern. But I always forgave and I continued to love. I had always hoped they would learn from me as well. Maybe they would soften a bit, learn to be a tiny bit less selfish. Maybe try to care a little for someone other than themselves. I hoped it, and I know their friends did too.