Dear Ann and Abby:
I used to read your mother's advice columns in the paper when I was growing up, and now, I sometimes read y'all today. Growing up I felt that the column was quaint and old fashioned, and nowadays I don't know what to think: unrealistic and out of touch?
Of course with all these years gone, I may be the one who is quaint and out of touch.
I certainly am led to understand that the values I grew up with such as "fairness", "honesty", "empathy" and "generosity" are indeed quaint and out of step - but that's a different rant.
The other day I picked up the paper and snorted about the bad advice given. Today, my snort wasn't as bad or as long - indeed I mostly agreed, but thought the key thought was not given.
A woman wrote in, saying that she divorced her emotionally abusive husband 7 years earlier, he remarried first, she just recently. Her adult children blame her for the breakup, and she is concerned that she will miss opportunities to see her grandchildren, because of this conflict. Abby says to concentrate on her own life. Good advice as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough... because what's missing is the truth that you can't make somebody love you.
"You can't make somebody love you." is important enough that I'm staring a new paragraph for it. You can encourage people to love you, by doing various things to be loveable. You can most definitely do things that would make someone not love you; but you can't make someone love you. And after the years have gone by, it's even harder to do the various things to make one loveable. Debating with your children, spouse, parents, family, church, neighbors will not make them love you.
Aren't our children supposed to love us? Aren't our parents required to love us? How about our spouses - didn't they promise to love forever?
If we love someone hard enough, why can't they love us in return? What if we break our backs working morning to night, trying to win their love? What if we do all the things that we know they want us to do? What if we change ourselves so completely as to be a new person? What if we walk the straight and narrow?
If I had that woman in my office, I would ask her what's she done over the past 7 years to show her children that she still loves them. While we can't force someone to love us, we can show them that irregardless we still love them. Little notes, doing things, remembering holidays, birthdays, special occasions - not asking anything in return.
By the way, this doesn't apply to EXs. While I'm sure some EXs would appreciate you coming over to do chores, give them money, hop in the sack, mop the kitchen floor, etc.; as a general rule, this is not a good idea. A betting person would find it an easy bet that it would end bad. Don't do it.
As for our children and parents, we have to get our minds used to the idea that they might not love us, they might never love us, irregardless of what we do or have done. If the past post-trauma seven years of our showing them our love hasn't worked - then bluntly not much else will. We extend the olive branch, mean it, and we go on with our lives.