Standing up for unconditional love
When my mom gets angry at my stepdad’s kids, she says, “I’m not feeling any love for you right now.” I’m 16, and my stepsisters are 6 and 8. They’re really sweet, but I can see how scared they get when she says this. I tried talking to her about it once after she said it, but she flipped out. Do you have any ideas about how to talk to her?
Wait until your mom is away from your stepsisters and in an upbeat mood. Ask for permission to chat for a few minutes. Explain how you would have felt at 6 hearing those same words.
If she balks, ask her how she would feel overhearing a relative say such a thing to you. Your mom may not realize that she is teaching her stepdaughters not to trust her love because her love is based on her moods. If she refuses to consider your insights, ask another adult in the family for help.
Your stepsisters deserve to know that they are loved, even if their attitudes or behavior inspire disappointment, frustration or sadness in the adults around them. Your mother’s expression of conditional love has the potential for long-term damage to the girls and her relationship with them. I am grateful for your willingness to speak up for them.
My best friend has difficulties with her partner. I really don’t know if I should support their relationship. I feel like if I don’t, my relationship with her will be over. What advice do you have for me?
Turn off your inner bully. It taunts you into believing you must make a decision. Instead, practice compassion. If your friend complains about her partner’s behavior, ask why she tolerates it. If she says her partner loves her, take a stand. Insist that such behavior is not love. If your friend is being abused, offer to take her to a domestic-violence crisis center for help. If she refuses, warn her that you will call the police if ever necessary. Be a true friend. That way, if you lose her friendship, you will be clear that you made all the right choices to support her.
My brother has never been married and acts like he’s superior to everyone else. I think he’s unable to sustain a relationship and is just being defensive, but it still bothers me. I am in a long-term committed relationship and think he is missing out. But mostly I can’t figure out what to say to him when he goads family members about being trapped for life.
Try offering your bro a snappy response, like this: “You’re right, marriage is a proposition in which you invest all of your finances, personal security and emotional stability and only have a 50 percent likelihood of success. But since I believe in myself and my partner’s capacity for love, truthfulness and commitment, it doesn’t feel like a trap or gamble for me.” If your brother still thinks you’re crazy, so be it. He’s entitled to his opinion.
I dumped my ex-boyfriend a year ago because he refused to get married. I just attended a holiday party and found out that he is engaged with plans to get married in February. I am completely broken up over this and keep wondering if there is something wrong with me. Please help.
There is nothing wrong with you, honey. He just wasn’t the one for you. So really allow yourself to enjoy the single life and its many pleasures. Learn to appreciate solitude, revel in the joy of a household arranged to your liking and be grateful for the freedom to make plans without consulting anyone. That way when you do marry, you can immerse yourself in that delight without regret.