These words may sound familiar as part of a traditional marriage vow to proclaim your commitment to the one you plan to love forever. It was also the name of a popular Canadian cartoon I read growing up by Lynn Johnston chronicling a family who sticks together no matter what.
Interestingly, Lynn divorced twice saying:
“ people want to know a lot about it, and it’s nobody’s business but mine.. they’re sad because it was a fantasy. And I was sad for them because I wanted to give them a real family behind the family in the strip that was together and communicated…could see each other through all the ups and downs.”
There’s an underlying message we’ve been fed: no matter what happens remain loyal because this means you love someone.
I never gave much thought to what it means to love unconditionally – turns out it’s one the most misunderstood concepts of all time. I grew up in a family where my parents have been happily married for 50 years, and my grandparents on both sides celebrated the same milestone. In other words, I was shown firsthand how its possible to love through the good times, and bad – certainly there were challenges to face, but what if there was one ingredient I was given I wasn’t aware of, yet I was still missing something?
Some have said loving unconditionally is impossible because its just unrealistic. Others think it’s possible, but hard work, and there’s those whose wacky ideas about what love means it’s “my conditions or else”. The reality is the only experience of love you can ever know is your own. Love is subjective, and the contrast of what it’s not is what gave me the greatest clue to experience it more fully beyond the harmony of simply ‘sticking together no matter what’.
How far will you go trusting your own sense of what love is supposed to be, and not everyone else’s version of love?
There’s a collapse of 2 beliefs into one that creates a lot of our own struggles in love. It says “no matter what shows up that’s not working for me (not just with a partner, but includes friends, and family) I’m sticking this out, and this mean I love you.”
• I have to worry about you because I love you.
• I won’t say something because it will hurt you even if it’s true for me.
• I will put up with your nasty behavior because you mean a lot to me, and I understand why you are this way.
Worry, and the frantic, self-destructive energy it brings comes from fear. Concern, and the caring energy it brings comes from love. One feels disconnected, and out of control, the other feels like a desire to know a loved one is safe. Not the same experience.
Often what we call love is really fear:
• tolerating disguised as loyalty
• worry disguised as concern
• jealousy disguised as commitment
• control disguised as caring
• selfishness disguised as need
• ownership disguised as love
The one condition you must not give into is being treated by anyone where you are made to feel unworthy, inferior, less, or worse. This is judgment, and no one deserves anyone’s judgment, nor do you have the right to judge. It was the one thing I wasn’t treated to growing up that I didn’t realize – until I was judged, and the contrast of how this prior friend was treating me didn’t resonate with my own well-being.
One of my best friends told me that I said something that profoundly changed how she was handling the pain of her nasty divorce. I said that her ex-husband was giving her a gift (putting her down, blaming her, making her feel guilty), and she was choosing to accept it by reacting to it. She didn’t have to accept this gift. You can notice it, but don’t choose to receive it. It’s a gift you don’t want or need!
If you choose to be in relationship with anyone who dishes this energy out, this becomes the love you are accepting you deserve deep down, and love will continue to elude you. Or you will be in constant conflict trying to fight off what isn’t true, and why bother wasting all your energy on someone else’s lie?
The love you deserve is part of you to begin with. You may not be tapped into it fully. Most of us aren’t. It is a divine light – an inner truth, beauty, and goodness that makes up your being.
How you allow yourself to be treated, and how you treat others is your life’s work to uncover, and re-connect back to. It’s a long journey home with lots of ups, and downs that become your lessons. We all have them on our path to discovering unconditional love.
You must recognize when it’s constructive for both sides to say “No, this way of treating me is NOT OK, and here’s why. I don’t deserve this.“ Be brutally honest, and the truth of any situation will emerge for you both to face head on.
Difficult conversations need to be out in the open, which requires a space of non-judgment. Fear disappears here, and the vulnerabilities you want to express can be shared. If the energy of judgment is present, there will be no space to share your truth, and it will define the level of connection you have with someone.
No one is better or worse than another, but ignorance can keep you in a false bliss or continuous suffering.
It’s so much easier to avoid our fears these days. It’s so much harder to deal with the aftermath of what shows up when you face one another’s authentic thoughts and feelings, and communicate the truth of what’s really bothering you. The internal pain.
It’s not the other person, it’s you noticing what isn’t working that you trust whole-heartedly because it comes from the love within you.
Our frantic world of exciting movies, tv, entertainment, social activities, and all the external stuff that $ buys can be a lovely distraction, and illusion for a busy, seemingly happy life. We all want the simple fix. The fast solution. The answer that only lies within.
As you well know, $ doesn’t buy love. It cannot replace inner, and outer connection with loved ones, nor give you a sense of internal peace, and joy. It cannot create the sublime intimacy we yearn for of being loved for who we are. It can give you choices. It does create opportunities.
It can give you great pleasure, fun and excitement, which is all fantastic – assuming you are with the people you love, and who love you.
Finding like-minded souls who want for you what you want for yourself and vice versa is challenging because no one gets you like you do. But when you find those who do – who reflect back your own essence of love, and you do that for them – that’s how you can grow together through the ups and downs.
This kind of giving, and receiving can be done with no expectations. No attachments. The freedom here is breathtaking, easy, and light.
In this lifetime, you are fortunate if you can meet one such person because you first must do the inner work to discover this love in yourself, and what you deserve in order to give, and receive at this level.
The further you are from accepting the love within you, the more you will rely on the mind-numbing activities of unhealthy spending, eating, and the perfect clean & organized home to appear having it all together.
You can believe in the fantasy of love being ‘for better or for worse”, and this means you love someone unconditionally – or you can see the truth in that if anyone chooses to make you feel worse, inferior, less than them – is that love? If you dish that out to others, what kind of love are you giving?