Unconditional love

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by New Leaf, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    "Unconditional love"- I have heard this concept bandied about and have been pondering it's meaning. Of course we love our children with all of our hearts, but my troubled adult children like to think that unconditional love means no matter what they do, or what choices they make, they will be able to come home, live under our roof with expectations that it is our duty to do whatever it takes to be of service to them.

    I like a statement in an article I read that says when we allow our children to spread their wings, we are loving them unconditionally. When we react to their consequences of bad choices by rescuing them, essentially enabling them, we are NOT loving them.

    I have scoured the internet and read so many articles to try to educate myself and learn a different response. I do not think we entered into the "enabling syndrome" out of "codependency" (whew that is some deep psychological study). We got sucked into the vortex by the grandchildren clause, wanting them to have some kind of stability- yadayadayada and before we knew it we were living a very unstable existence in our own home. I definitely do not need to keep my daughter around me to put her on any guilt trips or prove my own "superiority" (yes, I actually read an analysis of codependency that shared that view).

    We were simply trying to help.

    Unfortunately, we ended up deep in the face of the hurricane. Surrounded by a maelstrom of negativity and degradation. Smacked upside the head so much by the craziness, had our hearts ripped out, before we knew it, we were caught up in the whirling, swirling, dizzying pattern, the eye would hover for a bit, a seeming respite, then the other side would hit again and hard. YEARS have gone by. We are only now recovering from the vertigo. We have been unwitting participants.

    Unconditional love in the definition of an addict is, "You are my parent-you must love me, no matter what, I mess up-you help me, I mess up again-you help me"- times infinity. It is a cold miscalculation of a term that has deep spiritual meaning-a miscalculation whose equation does not end up as a plus for anyone.

    I read another blog where a writer described a new theory where tough love and loving detachment were said to drive addicts into deeper addiction, that there has to be a "better family and community response to help the addict attain sobriety." Bah! Balderdash! (This kind of ruffled my feathers a bit, having dealt with adult children who just do not care how they behave, who they hurt, what family members have suffered through; both up close and personal, as well as from afar-the worrying when they decide to disappear and not contact anyone, etc.)

    I am reminded of the old adage "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

    This is my spin on the term:
    Unconditional love. I gave birth to you, I will always love you, BUT; I will not allow you to take me down a destructive path with you again.

    The Bibles definition of love-
    Love is patient,love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    This is a perfect love that I would like to hope we all strive for. Being imperfect, we often fall short.

    The problem with addicts is that they hold everyone else in their lives accountable to demonstrate love, everyone else but themselves.

    I will be contemplating unconditional love and developing my attitude towards it's meaning and my response through it to my troubled adult children.

    One thing I have learned is that there is something vastly unhealthy going on here. It is unhealthy to continually try to help someone to the detriment of myself. This is not a self-loving reaction. Self- loving is very different from being selfish. Selfishness is a grandiose perspective of self that overrides and undermines others needs.

    Self love is essential to our very being and survival.

    If we do not love ourselves, it is not possible to love anyone else.

    I need to continue to do a lot of soul searching, so that I am strong enough to resist the next impending tornado.

    Thanks so much for providing this site.

    Please forgive my rambling-it is a way for me to deflect the waves of hurt that come crashing upon my shores....

    hugs to all
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  2. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    New leaf, you are wrestling with some very key concepts here, I believe. You are learning new ways of thinking and behaving. The feelings are still often very different. There is a vast ocean between our thinking and our feelings and there can be a big tug of war between the two. For eons, decades...I operated out of feelings especially with my own children and family members...those closest to me...out of my love and responsibility. That is what a good parent does. I was a very good parent.

    And I was a very good wife. My feelings tugged at me to stay with my first husband, an alcoholic...I never wanted to be divorced. He is my children's father and a good person. The slide started slowly and I didn't see it: first I compromised, then I accommodated and then I enabled. With my Difficult Child first I parented, and then I pushed and pulled and waited and then I enabled. It doesn't happen overnight. But as the years go by we try and try and try...and that turns into enabling. Without our realizing it.

    You surely don't divorce your child. One day I woke up and saw what was happening...as I grew and studied and learned.

    First, I saw that I was his biggest obstacle. And that was enough to make me learn more and start behaving differently even though the feelings nearly killed me, it hurt so badly to say no more to my precious son.

    And then I started seeing that I was my own biggest obstacle and that is when even more work began. That was a good day for me because I started putting myself first for the first time in my life. I am the oldest of four with one disabled sister who died when she was 23. I grew up fast and I could take care of everybody. I didn't need any taking care of. The silver lining with this phase for me and for my son was that my focus and energy shifted from him to myself. I had work to do...not on fixing him but on fixing me...the only person I can have a prayer of fixing. Problem had been...I didn't think I needed fixing...until I saw that I did.

    We still love. We love so much. But we start seeing where we are hurting not helping. Them and ourselves. And once we see it, we can't not see it. And then we start to work for change.

    We're here for you. You are doing good work I believe.
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    Last edited: Sep 16, 2015
  3. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    It does sneak in and bite us on the tush.
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  4. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    I think this applies to all our difficult kids, not just addicts...although mine may or may not fit that definition. But I do see that he expects unconditional love - the addicts definition. He has SAID as much...almost those very words...that if we didn't accept him EXACTLY as he was...not expecting him to change his ways in any form, that was not unconditional love. To him our showing that love was expecting nothing and giving and forgiving everything. What love did he show us? Disrespect and theft and lies are not love.

    He never showed us that. Or at least, he stopped showing us that years ago.

    I see myself so much in this passage. My first marriage was brief - two years - and too long. I was as good a wife as I could be. I wanted to be married. I wanted to have what my parents had. Instead, with my alcoholic ex...I compromised, I accommodated, I enabled. I allowed him to dictate our lives, what I did, even, to some extent, where I worked. I made excuses for him. I remember coming home from work ever day with hope for a nice night...and every day being disappointed. I worked, he didn't. I enabled to the point of putting our son in daycare when he wasn't working! He actually left me, pretty much as soon as I put my foot down. I vowed to never be treated that way again. And I never have allowed it - except for by my son.

    Jabber is a wonderful, wonderful man. HE doesn't disappoint me. After 16 years, I can count the times he's hurt my feelings or let me down on one hand. I don't think I ever understood how much our son ruled our lives. Frequently, I find myself saying, "Oh we love that - we haven't done it in years! Why? Our son didn't like it, so we didn't do it." We compromised. He didn't like this and that...fine...we'd change enough to make him happy. We accommodated. From doing things he liked to do to cooking food we didn't even eat just for him...we accommodated. The rules bent and bent and bent - and became enabling.

    I didn't see it as wrong. I saw it as love. I saw my giving chance after chance after chance as just what a mother does. I saw it as hope: This time, everything will be different. This time, he'll do things right.

    Sorry. I'm rambling. I had a dream early this morning that I got a text begging me to come get him...demanding I leave right that minute and come save him. I hate the dreams I have about him...when they are so vivid and I remember them so well, they often come true - at least in some fashion. So I'm a bit freaked out today.

    Recognizing that I have enabled him, doesn't make me not want to rescue him.
  5. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    I had to bite my tongue (literally) to not ask my son to come home yesterday. We are mothers we love our children we do what we do born of that love. It is not until we clear the forest that we can look back and see what part our "loving" had to do with where they are today.
  6. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    My son brought this up once telling me that I didn't love him unconditionally. I asked him what he meant by that and he said "If you loved me unconditionally then you would help me out when I need it. You won't help me so that means you put conditions on loving me"
    I told him that my loving him has nothing to do with helping him. I told him that I have never withheld my love for him, that I have loved him through all of the chaos he brought into our lives. I told him that people can love and be angry at the same time. He just could not grasp what I was saying.

    I suppose I didn't help his thinking in this regard when I helped/enabled him for as long as I did then suddenly cut him off.

    That blurry line between helping and enabling can be difficult to see. We help them because we love them, we don't want them to suffer but they grow to expect it and it's at that point that it becomes enabling.

    I had a very good relationship with my mother and father(step). When I was diagnosed with cancer they moved in with us for three months while I went through surgery and treatments. It was all I could do to go to work each day. My mom took care of the cooking and cleaning so that I and my husband could focus on me getting well.
    The time came for my parents to leave. My mother and I discussed it a couple of weeks before. We acknowledged to one another how hard it was going to be. She had settled into the role of taking care of her baby and I had settled into the role of the child needing to be taken care of. We had reached the point where the line between helping and enabling was blurring and we both saw it. The day they left we both cried, it was hard, but necessary. I was a 30 year old woman who felt 5 years old.

    I think it must be like this for our Difficult Child that they revert to a child that just wants to be taken care of. The difference is, they for whatever reason are not accepting their own role as an adult. I think this is why they think we don't have unconditional love for them because again, they cannot see themselves as an adult. Of course when we try to direct them they snap back into "adult" mode saying they don't need us.

    Yup, it's the craziest roller coaster ride of emotions to be on when dealing with a Difficult Child.
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  7. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    What a time you have had dear cyber friend with health issues as well. I do hope and pray for you that you continue to have good health. Thank you for the time you take to help others through your experience.

    I am trying to opt OFF the roller coaster! Not easy! I have realized through comments made by my daughters boyfriend (grandbabie's daddy) that their definition of unconditional love is twisted towards enabling them to continue status quo. The other morning he called as I was getting ready for work "We need to find this and that and I need to come over and look for it, etc.etc."
    Sheesh- you didn't know this the night before? I am realizing that the old "drop everything and help us" attitude is still in place. This continues the frenzy into my life and it is evident that these people have no concept of the chaos they bring upon others.

    So I told him, "You need to learn to make better plans and to be considerate of others."
    He went on about how we "kicked out my daughter and grandchildren" to which I replied "We did not kick them out, she chose to leave and the door closed." He then went on about how his family "loves" each other no matter what, drugs, domestic violence, been through it all and are still there for each other. I told him that there is a time when enough is enough, that we are not rugs to be tread upon, that our helping has not been helping, they need to make better choices and focus on taking responsibility and caring for themselves and their children.

    This unconditional love that they expect from us has nothing to do with their own decision making.

    They have NO accountability for themselves and how they love and respect us as parents.

    Trying to stay strong and continue soul searching and self work to get through this latest chapter.

    Each passing day brings it's own challenges and I pray for strength and for the well being and blessings for my family.

    Thank you so much for your loving support!

    Trying to focus on bringing back the joy in my heart. I hope for all that you are able to accomplish that too, in spite of the troubles you are dealing with.
  8. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    No it's not easy but the important thing is you realize you want off.

    You handled this really well.
    I always love the saying "Poor planning your part does not constitute an emergency upon mine"

    It is so sad how warped their definition of unconditional love is.
    Bottom line, we don't put conditions on our love, we still love them through all the chaos they bring into our lives but we do put conditions on how we allow them to treat us.

    This is a good place to be. Try each day to do one good thing for yourself.

    Thank you New Leaf. I'm doing well and my health is really good.

    ((HUGS)) to you......................