One of the biggest problems in my marriage was the issue of unconditional love. My husband had a way of making me feel that I had to somehow earn his love. If I did what he wanted, and behaved the way he preferred, I was rewarded with affection. If I didn’t meet his expectations, there was nothing for me. NOTHING AT ALL. I may as well have been invisible.
After many years, I woke up and realized he wasn’t going to ever learn how to grasp the concept; I also decided that I deserved someone who could. Unfortunately, now I see my son struggling with the same issues. Now, at 16, it’s hard for him to comprehend that his father and I still love him when he doesn’t meet our (or his own) expectations. An even tougher job is to try to convince him of my unconditional love, despite his father contradicting my efforts at every turn. The most difficult task of all, though, is to teach him that HE can love himself even when he fails. It’s not only okay, it’s essential.
My dad was never easy to get along with. He was strict, opinionated, and stubborn. To make it worse, he was right a lot. That made him difficult to live with if you disagreed with him—especially if it was one of the rare occasions when he was wrong! The one thing I can say is that no matter how we fought, or disagreed, or had a hard time being around each other, I always knew that he loved me. Over the years, no matter what I’ve done, or whether he thought I was right or wrong, he’s been there to back me up if I needed him. He’s even been there for me at times when I never thought he would be.
(My mom has always been there for me, too; but this isn’t about her. She was much easier to live with. I guess it was from years of practice living with Dad!)
What I need someone to tell me now is HOW to convince my son there’s nothing he can do that will make me stop loving him. How do I counteract the negative programming that he’s received from half his parents for most of his life? How do I convince him that it’s important to give himself a break, even when those around him don’t? How do I teach him to accept his shortcomings and look for his successes?
I guess all I can do is to keep telling him I love him; keep showing him I love him; keep being there for him; keep trying to help him find ways to succeed; and pray every day that he survives.