January 27, 2013

Learning to Love: Why It’s So Hard.

Photo credit: Franco Folini

Most would would do anything for love.

I just read the blog Jennifer Spesia wrote on domestic violence and I was encouraged by her courage to speak out and finding the TED talk that made it all real, for anyone.

It made me ask myself why learning to love is so hard, and why so many of us struggle to find the understanding and honest support of another human being when it is what most of us all long for, whether in a partner, a parent or a friend.

Domestic violence, child abuse, incest and rape are common and happen where least expected. I know many who have been victims as children. And it happens to men and women, boys and girls.

The newest phenomena of abuse is bullying by one person or one group over another. We’ve all been teased at some point, by someone, about something. How often have we been the brunt of a joke and our only out in being the punch line is to find a way to laugh when really we want to cry?

Do we chalk it up to human nature? Honestly, I still believe most people are good, and most of us would do anything for the feeling we get when loved.

But maybe that’s part of the problem, a willingness to go to any lengths to have that primal need filled.

I have my own experience and those of others. What I know is most families are dysfunctional, some more than others. All have the victim archetype because all children, by the nature of their vulnerability, are victims. But some remain victims while others become survivors.

Some meet the same person over and over, caught in a pattern.

Some learn and as they say in 12-step rooms, you go through it till you grow through it.

I am not a parent but I swear I think and believe it is the hardest job there is. The joy is unparalleled but so is the pain, and there is no preparation for being a parent. Many do their best at any given moment. And all of us have issues that children have a way of bringing out.

Love is imperfect.

We mistake love for guilt. We mistake love for degradation. We mistake love for martyrdom and manipulation. And then the tender child we are grows up looking for what we learned as love from our parent in others.

My family was as dysfunctional as any but I know deep in my heart that my parents did their best for who they are and were at any given moment.

What I realized along the way is that I lacked self-respect.

What I realized is that between my alcoholism and schizophrenia, between men who treated me poorly, in my struggle to become whole, I developed it. Being crazy is one thing but not having a strong ego, lacking in self-love, self-respect, and having no self-esteem, makes life something beyond challenging.

But I learned.

I learned from the men I loved and mistook their poor treatment of me as love what love is not.

I learned by having jobs I hated, being in subservient positions in the workplace, to hold my head high.

I learned in AA, from my girlfriends who supported me, that being needy is okay. I learned by being loved and giving love what love is. I learned most of us have trouble loving others because we don’t love our self.

I lived with three other men before I married my husband. And they were all different in many ways…the first one I played house with in college; the second had 20 years on me and by the time he left I was psychotic [need I say more]; the last one seemed nice on the outside but put me down every chance he got and did things I am ashamed to mention here.

In fact, with the last man, I knew before we shacked up it would not last.

Yet four years later we were in couple’s counseling and I saw me through his eyes and I did not like what I saw.

I learned.

So why is learning to love so hard?

Because the taste of it greets our need unlike any other and because we all have patterns we cannot see that hold us tight in the motherly love we knew.

Ed: Bryonie Wise


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