The formation of our understanding of love is significantly impacted by our parents. But it is not solely influenced by them. Many people play a role in forming our concept of love, our ability to trust, as well as receive and give love. Just like our parents, other’s actions speak more loudly than their words when it comes to matters of love and acceptance.
I’ve heard countless stories of how people have been formed by individuals out side of the family system. Abuse forms a person’s understanding of love. Neglect. Praise. Harsh words. Bullying. Even bad grades can be a part of one’s understanding of love. Love is a powerful thing. We collect pieces of information along the way in the development of our own love concept.
Outside of the home I was formed by the words of others. Words of a friend who no longer wanted to be my friend because I was, “fat and ugly.” I was formed by the words of other friends, “Cari, you’re not smiling? Are you not okay? You always smile. I don’t like it when you don’t smile. You have to be happy. That’s why I like you. You’re always happy.” Love became something that was earned and kept by being beautiful and happy and love was something that could be lost by being ugly and sad.
So by the time I hit early adulthood I understood love to be a mix of good and harmful things. Love stayed, encouraged, was present, and love was also earned. Love was earned by being moral, neat, beautiful and happy.
Every person wants to be loved, to know love and to live in love, so I did what every normal person would do. I began to play the love game. I knew all the right things to do and not do, be and not be and lived accordingly.
It was exhausting.
Who else formed your understanding of love? Take a moment to reflect on how you know you’re loved. Do you have a list like mine? What’s on it?