If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.
– Barbara De Angelis, relationships coach
The first part of the quotation sounds like the basic material of any relationships coach. The second part, the part that most omit from the equation, allows the whole thing to make sense. It drives home the part about loving yourself.
I relate to most of the quotes I use because they conform so well to my own experience, either personally or through observation of others. This one describes much of my life.
My childhood was totally without love. It was without hate or rancor too. It could better be described as a business arrangement between my parents. One set of grandparents–the ones I saw often–exemplified the same business arrangement. My other grandmother, a widow, loved her children and grandchildren, but lacked the means or skill to express her love, so it went largely unnoticed.
When I married the first time, I made the best business decision I knew how to make, based on my experience growing up. My wife, who left me and our two children a decade later so that she could further her career, succeeded in the teaching profession, reaching the position of school principal before she died of cancer caused by excessive and persistent overwork.
Not long after her death, my new wife and I suffered a huge financial loss, so were unable to provide my now-twentyish kids with what their mother had led them to believe they deserved from me, in the sense of financial benefits. In turn, they made the best business decision they could, they dissociated themselves from me totally. I have not seen them for 15 years, or my grandchildren ever.
Working my way through my grief at being alienated (albeit illegally and by lying to their own kids about my being dead) I learned a very important lesson, how to love myself. That lesson showed me that I have value and worth as a human being, something I had not recognized before as everyone who knew me treated me as a business contact. That’s how it works, people who treat others like business associates gather friends who treat them the same way.
Knowing how to love and respect myself gave me the insight to be able to love others. Lo and behold, I no longer resented others because of the love they withheld from me. They wanted to love me because I loved them.
What’s more, the more love I gave to others, the more I received back. It was the goose that laid the golden eggs. Only the gold turned out to be love, not financial wealth.
My conclusion is that the resentment I had for others I should love–perhaps including my own children, but I’m not certain–vanished when I learned to love myself. I thought I loved them but maybe they sensed resentment. I certainly didn’t know how to show them love very well then.
As a side benefit to my new life, I no longer feel lonely, even when I am alone for a long period of time. As another benefit, people come to me with their offerings of love because they know what they will get in return. It’s a good deal both ways.
Now I see a world of lonely people who have business arrangements as relationships, who don’t know how to give or receive love fully, who have troubled children even though they tried their best to raise them well, who can’t keep a marriage or “significant other” relationship for long because “the business” changes.
Money is the most important thing in their lives, though they tend to think of it in terms of possessions–“he who has the most toys when he dies, wins.” They think I’m simple because I’m happy without being rich. They don’t even appreciate that they are rich without being happy.
I don’t know how to explain it to them.
No one should have to go through hell to get to heaven, as I did.
There are important lessons to learn and we need to teach them. Those of us who know. We may fail with some, but we will succeed with many if we keep trying to teach them. We will regret our failures, but only until we consider our successes, those we love and who love us in return because of what they have learned and received from us.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow happy, loved and successful children into happy, loved and successful adults and parents of their own children.
Learn more at http://billallin.com