I’ve realised that the trick to growing up is nurturing unconditional relationships, and appreciating someone despite their flaws, mistakes and stupid ideas. Judging people solely based on how they treat me, not based on how I benefit from them. Seeing them as an end within themselves rather than a means to some other end.
People with conditional relationships never learn to see the people around them for anything other than the benefits they provide. That’s because they likely grew up in an environment where they were only appreciated for the benefits they provided. Parents, as usual, are often the culprits here. But most parents are not consciously conditional towards their children (in fact, chances are that they were never loved unconditionally by their parents, so they’re just doing all they know how to do). But as with all relationship skills, it starts in the family. For Example: If dad only approved of you when you obeyed his orders or if mom only liked you when you cooked good food, it subconsciously trains you to treat yourself as a tool for other people’s benefit. You will then build your future relationships by moulding yourself to fit other people’s needs. Not your own.
Conditions cut both ways. You don’t stay friends with a person who is using you to feel better about themselves unless you too are somehow getting some benefit out of the friendship. Despite what every girl who posts cheesy quotes on Facebook or Instagram thinks, you don’t accidentally get scammed into dating someone who uses you for something. You buy into that person’s conditions while using them to meet your own. Most conditional relationships are entered into unconsciously — that is, they are entered into without conscious thought about who this person is or why they like you or what their behaviour towards you indicates. You just see their sweet tattoos, envy their bike and false care towards you and want to be close to them. People who enter into conditional relationships do so for the simple reason that these relationships feel really good, yet they never stop to question why it feels so good. After all, cocaine feels pretty good too.
Some helpful questions
Create hypotheticals with your relationships. Ask yourself:
A“If I lost my job, would dad still respect me?”
A“If I told my wife that I wanted to start a career as a photographer, would it wreck our marriage?”
A“If I stopped having sex with this guy, would he still want to see me?”
There are a million hypothetical questions and you should be asking yourself every single one of them. All the time. Because if any of them ever has an answer other than, “It would change nothing,” then you probably have a conditional relationship on your hands — i.e., you don’t have a real loving relationship where you think you do. It hurts to admit, I know. But wait, there’s more!
If you want to remove or repair the conditional relationships in your life and have strong unconditional relationships, you are going to have to piss some people off. Stop accepting people’s conditions. And let go of your own.
This invariably involves saying ‘no’ to someone close in the exact situation they want to hear it the least. It will cause drama. A shit-storm of drama in many cases. After all, what you are doing is taking somebody who has been using parts of you to make themselves feel better and denying them the ability to do so. They will get angry, they will blame you. They will say a lot of mean things about you.
But this drama is necessary. Because one of two things will emerge from it. Either the person will be unable to let go of their conditions and remove themselves from your life (which, ultimately, is a good thing in most cases). Or, the person will be forced to appreciate you unconditionally, to love you in spite of the inconveniences you may pose to themselves or their ego.
This is really hard, of course. But relationships are difficult by nature because people are difficult by nature. If life was just all fun, then nothing good would ever get done. And no one would ever grow.
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