“Your love is yours to give, not mine to demand.”—Anonymous
Human relationships are a tricky — and sometimes dangerous — thing. What we know about them at any point is the result of a journey that started with the earliest relationships of our lives: the ones with our parents.
We all have a life story about growing up in our families: some of us with one parent, some with two, some with more than two. Some grew up with none of the parents that were responsible for their very existence, but we all have had relationships of some sort to this point in our lives.
For me, it has become so easy to develop expectations in relationships after a 41-year résumé of dealing with others in various capacities. The question, though, is whether expectation is fair to the other person and, if so, to what extent? I suppose the answer for me lies in those earliest examples in my life.
I didn’t have a mother for the first nearly eight years of my life. The one I was assigned to at birth exited stage-left very early and our family was reduced to me and my dad. Being an only child in a single-parent household where I was definitely not the only thing my father had to worry about was admittedly a lonely experience. I didn’t know this until later, but not having a female perspective and motherly guidance in the difficulties of the first eight years of my life left a gaping hole in my emotional development that has plagued me ever since.
In later years, I came to realize that I developed expectations in relationships that were designed to fill that hole left by a parent who wasn’t there. I passed on those expectations to unsuspecting visitors who dared orbit around my soul. I was not aware of it at the time, but I now know that that was a hole that could not be filled by anyone else.
Demanding constant attention, companionship, presence and communication took their toll on many people in my life. Friendships were lost, other relationships became total-loss collisions, and even some family sought distance when I was at my worst. Something had to change.
I was at my lowest in 1999 when I finally realized that I did not possess the ability to heal myself. A friend who still loved me not-so-gently suggested I seek counseling for some lingering scar tissue that crippled my soul. I resisted at first, but I came to realize that he was the last remaining ally I had at that point in my life and that my biggest fear of being completely isolated was about to come true if I didn’t do something radical.
The quote above came out of a process of realizing that no one on this earth can make any of us whole. The demands we place on other people to fill the emptiness left in our lives by others do not translate to fulfilling relationships.
In the motion picture “Jerry Maguire,” Tom Cruise famously said to Renee Zellwegger, “You complete me!” This apparently came after a process of realizing that he really did need her in order to feel like he was a worthy human being. This concept makes for a great Hollywood moment, but I submit that it is preposterous and unsustainable in real life.
Think of it like a math problem: relationships are not addition; they are multiplication — 1×1=1, right? But, 0.5×0.5=0.25. When you multiply fractions the resulting answer is actually smaller than the individual parts. In relationships, anyone who shows up as a fraction of an emotionally whole human being and expects someone else to make them whole will only discover that this is impossible.
Quite simply, one-half of a human being, whether they encounter another fractional one or a whole person, can still never be whole. A truly successful relationship must be the product of two whole, stable, adjusted people coming together, not to complete each other, but to complement each other.
I won’t lie; being a whole person just might take a whole lot of work. A ton of soul searching. Baring your soul to a trustworthy person whose role in your life is to help you heal, repent, whatever it takes for you to make it to that place. Just remember, though, that the actual work of healing and becoming whole is yours and yours alone no matter who may be there to support and advise you.
If you are not whole and you are expecting someone else to be what you need, please realize that is likely never going to happen — especially if they are not whole either. Seek the help you need, do the work, and remember: the love and acceptance of others is theirs to give, not yours to demand.