True Love Is ‘As Is’
What do you do if you’re in a relationship with someone who keeps “changing the rules”?
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who keeps “changing the rules”?
It doesn’t matter if it’s a romantic relationship, or a parent, sibling, boss or friend, the thing these attachments have in common is that you find you never quite “meet the standard” and are frequently confused as to what the standard is; basically, no matter how hard you try, you end up feeling like a disappointment. In a work environment, these kinds of “flexible goals” can leave you always scrambling and give your boss or company an excuse for holding you back. In a personal relationship, the idea that you must constantly work for “approval” can leave you exhausted and demoralized.
“Trauma bonding” is a term used to describe these types of entanglements; psychologists believe we actually become “addicted” to the cycle of trying to please, not unlike the study in which rats were given intermittent treats and shocks when they pressed a button. At first, the rats were only given treats and that made pushing the button an easy decision. Then, an occasional shock did not deter them, because hey, they usually got a treat!
Eventually, however, the button stopped giving treats and only dispensed shocks; but guess what? The rats could NOT STOP PUSHING THE BUTTON in the vain hope that they would be “treated” as they had been initially. This is the same mechanism at work in an abusive relationship; we crave the “treat” so much, that we will endure the “shock”, even long after the “treats” have stopped coming.
These sorts of relationships are harmful, no matter what the format. “Love” only given with ever-changing conditions is not love at all. It is worth mentioning again that a work environment that uses this kind of paradigm to keep employees “hungry” is toxic and detrimental as well. But what about the most important relationship in your life? Is this a place where you feel loved, accepted, nurtured and encouraged? And no, I’m not talking about your marriage.
I’m talking about your relationship with YOURSELF. Do you constantly change the rules about what you need to achieve in order to accomplish baseline self-acceptance? Do you dispense more “shocks” than “treats” in your self-talk? This is a critical question to ask yourself because all of your external relationships are in some way a reflection of the relationship you have with YOU.
Let me give you an example: do you want to lose weight? It doesn’t matter if it’s five pounds or fifty (or 500, for that matter!); if you are withholding self-acceptance until the time you meet this goal, you are on a very slippery slope. Just like in a relationship with an external abuser, the temptation once you meet your goal to “change the finish line” will be great. In other words, if you don’t love yourself AS IS, the chance that you will love yourself with five fewer pounds is not amazing.
Don’t get me wrong: if you need to lose weight, by all means, lose weight. But DO NOT make that the standard you have to meet for self-love and self-acceptance. Losing weight means your jeans are a little less snug and therefore you are more comfortable, but it DOES NOT mean you are a kinder, smarter, wiser, WORTHIER person.
Does that make you flinch a bit? This is exactly how we find ourselves ensnared in abusive relationships — we believe their “hype”. That only if we were thinner, tanner, liked Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, we’d be WORTHY of love.
But again, here’s the secret of true love: true love is AS IS.
So what does this mean? That we can be loutish, lazy, physically unhealthy imbeciles and just relish that and have a complete sense of entitlement that others should love us this way as well? And that we are further obligated to love all the loutish imbeciles we know?
Wait, here’s another little secret for you: If you use words like “loutish” and “lazy” to describe yourself, there is an awfully good chance you are neither. Very few people deliberately choose to be these things; therefore, they are likely just cruel taunts you are employing to convince yourself of your unworthiness. If someone actively chooses to be “lazy” or “loutish”, the very acceptance of the behavior will likely make it either so entirely charming or repellant that there can be no question as to where you or they stand; absolutely NO ONE is all good or all bad, and the belief that this is even possible is very dangerous not only to self-acceptance, but also healthy relationships.
Another example: I am notoriously a “bad sport”. I never stay to watch my kid practice sports, I skip all nonessential school events, and I throw fundraiser materials immediately into the trash (and NEVER send fundraiser material out myself). I am not going to lie and tell you everybody loves this about me; but I will tell you it is a quality I completely accept in myself and make no apologies for (well, no sincere apologies).
None of us is meant to be this perfect, pristine being in whom no one can find any fault. That is actually a ludicrous premise. We are quirky, flawed and sometimes in need of shedding a few pounds; this in absolutely no way makes us less than lovable.
You are lovable AS IS. Without 6 pack abs, without a 6 figure salary, without meeting every standard 6 ways from Sunday. And the good news is, the only person you need to convince yourself of this is YOU.
I am not telling you not to have goals; I’m definitely not telling you not to kick unhealthy habits or toxic situations. I am telling you that the minute you stop putting off loving yourself until the undetermined day in the future when you meet some “standard” that will DEFINITELY turn out to be fluid once you get there, you will be free. Free to be your best and happiest self, today and what could be more lovable than that?
Yes, you are a work in progress. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” So change your mind about yourself; change the idea that you need to be anything other than who you are.
When you love yourself AS IS, two incredible things start to happen: other people will also love you AS IS, or they will drop out of your life. More importantly, loving yourself AS IS makes it possible for you to start making changes you want to make, not because you NEED them in order to gain approval, but rather because you love yourself SO MUCH, you would not withhold anything that would add to your own happiness.
Go ahead, love yourself AS IS and gain the freedom to become anything you want to be!
More from Kara Post-Kennedy on Medium:
No, You Don’t Know What Love Is–but We All Want To
What men think is that ‘real love’ struggle might just be a dysfunctional, codependent, or abusive relationship and not…
No, We Cannot ‘Agree to Disagree’
Your white, hetero male privilege is showing. For the rest of us, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The story was previously published on The Good Men Project.
About Kara Post-Kennedy
Kara is an executive editor and columnist at The Good Men Project; a blogger at YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND (http://karapostkennedy.blogspot.com/) and Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kara-postkennedy/) former Editor in Chief at OTV Magazine and current managing editor at Heart and Humanity magazine. a Mom. You can follow me on Twitter @kpk_newbf