Redefining Love

Redefining Love
Sunday October 29, 2006

Alice Miller , this explains love very well. Describes my history with my parents and wife, and my present circumstances, no one is behaving in loving ways towards me, even though I feel very deserving. I guess I will have to quite “wearing my heart on my sleave,” so to speak. I broke away from the “hurtful legacy” of both my parents and wife, only to find that I am in a world of hurtful and hurting people.
Evan Grant, Kingsville, Ont. Canada

Redefining Love
By Susan Forward
Excerpt from Toxic Parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life (1989), pp. 323-324.
Love involves more than just feelings. It is also a way of behaving. When Sandy said, “My parents don’t know how to love me,” she was saying that they don’t know how to behave in loving ways. If you were to ask Sandy’s parents, or almost any other toxic parents, if they love their children, most of them would answer emphatically that they do. Yet, sadly, most of their children have always felt unloved. What toxic parents call “love” rarely translates into nourishing, comforting behavior.
Most adult children of toxic parents grow up feeling tremendous confusion about what love means and how it’s supposed to feel. Their parents did extremely unloving things to them in the name of love. They came to understand love as something chaotic, dramatic, confusing, and often painful–something they had to give up their own dreams and desires for. Obviously, that’s not what love is all about.
Loving behavior doesn’t grind you down, keep you off balance, or create feelings of self-hatred. Love doesn’t hurt, it feels good. Loving behavior nourishes your emotional well-being. When someone is being loving to you, you feel accepted, cared for, valued, and respected. Genuine love creates feelings of warmth, pleasure, safety, stability, and inner peace.
Once you understand what love is, you may come to the realization that your parents couldn’t or didn’t know how to be loving. This is one of the saddest truths you will ever have to accept. But when you clearly define and acknowledge your parents’ limitations, and the losses you suffered because of them, you open a door in your life for people who will love you the way you deserve to be loved–the real way.

AM: Thank you for the quote from Susan Forward. Yes, it is a good definition of love. If we never got it in childhood, we couldn’t learn to love ourselves either. But it is the only thing we can try to do: to love the person we are (with our sad history, with our tragic childhood) and no longer try to fool ourselves about the love of our parents that never was there. By admitting the whole truth, we get rid of the illusions and become free to really care for ourselves.