You may or may not know of the man named Rube Goldberg, but he is most well known as the man who completed a series of cartoons depicting ridiculously complex machines used to complete simple tasks.
So, why would I make a reference to him in association with relationships?
Well, think about it. There are millions of people on this planet who seem to think that interpersonal relationships need to be exactly the same kind of ridiculous complexity that Goldberg’s machines define.
I’m not referring to just females here. There are just as many men who seem to require their significant others to jump through completely unnecessary hoops in order to be in a relationship.
And yes, this is a post – yet again – about unconditional love.
First, let me make a distinction here (I know I’ve done this before, but some of you may not understand it). I was taught, as a child, that my behavior did NOT define who I am. It isn’t even a matter of identity. It is a matter of the core self. That core self is what I lost in my marriage. I allowed my core self to be defined by someone else.
Behaviors are temporary. They are dependent upon whether or not you receive reinforcement for them. Some behaviors, in fact, persist past the point where they are useful and become hindrances to our general ability to feel successful at life. Just because a behavior is habitual does not mean it is a positive behavior.
When a person chooses to make a relationship ridiculously complex, it most often comes because the person has chosen to allow their behaviors to define their core self. They must be continuously told that they are worthy, that they are important to you (in many cases, they have to be the MOST important person to you – even becoming jealous of the love you have for your family or friends) and that you must put them first, even before yourself.
No matter what you do, these people will always be suspicious of you. They will assume that you are lying, no matter what hoops you jump through to prove you are honest. They claim that you are hurting them because they are vulnerable and open to you, yet won’t actually trust you enough to share even the most minimal aspect of vulnerability.
People, listen to me. This is NOT in any way, shape or form “unconditional love.” To unconditionally love you, they must not only learn who your core self is, but also allow you to see their own core self. It is risky, because opening yourself up to anyone else allows them to also do serious damage to your core self.
Passively accepting every behavior of your beloved is ALSO not “unconditional love.” At best, it is enabling.
Needlessly complex relationships exhaust the partner from whom it is expected. It destroys not only their trust and vulnerability, it destroys their core self. The partner doing all of the work begins to question their very sanity, because they keep returning to this person who has been hurting them repeatedly. But something in their own psyche defines these hoops as necessary, because they don’t want to be abandoned or alone.
I’m not discussing my marriage here. I know all of this is true, and that it reflects that relationship. But, I am seeing more people out there experiencing the same thing as I did. They are unwilling to call it what it is: emotional and mental abuse.
When someone uses manipulation to control the other person, regardless of the intent, they are damaging the core self of that other person. Essentially, the manipulator expects you to conform to the image they have in their head about you, rather than who you really are. They have built this perfect image, and refuse to acknowledge that no one can ever live up to that expectation.
Unconditional love doesn’t do that. When you unconditionally love someone, you accept that their core self does not have to mirror that impossible standard in your head. But, you don’t have to accept their behavior. You can unconditionally love someone, and still give them limits on how much their chosen behavior affects you. You can unconditionally love someone and still give them the consequence of cutting them out of your life because they have chosen the behavior rather than you.
Let me give you an example. I have someone in my life who I have repeatedly told that I love them, and love them unconditionally. I have no expectation that they will reciprocate that love (although, there is a level to which this person has returned my love). Unconditional love is simply the gift I have given to this person. But, this person sometimes make choices that continue to hurt them. I can give them advice, I can give them moral support, I can even be a shoulder to cry on at need. But I can’t make them choose a different path. I can’t make them stop hurting themselves. But I can, if I need to, limit my interaction with them at any time that interaction with them will cause me emotional damage.
It’s no different than choosing to limit my interaction with my parents if their choices at a given point are more harmful than I can handle. I still love my parents, regardless of those behaviors. I just do not need to allow myself to be hurt because they are in a more negative headspace.
I’ve spent too long allowing someone to damage my self’s integrity, damage that core self to choose to let someone I love hurt me after I have made it clear that their choices are creating damage in my own psyche. And you must give them that warning before closing off those options. They deserve the chance to change their behaviors.
And when two people with this kind of complex expectation of relationships get together, they can often pull others into the chaos. They can destroy anyone around them, unless the person being affected chooses to limit access to that couple.