I grew up surrounded by love.
In my home. In my immediate family. In my extended family.
There was never a shortage of people telling me they loved me, giving me hugs, acknowledging my presence, wanting to spend time with me, and asking me about my life and my feelings.
I also grew up surrounded by a certain amount of dysfunction.
And while I won’t put the details of my family’s business out there, I will say that the things I witnessed growing up and the stories I’ve heard over the years had just as much of an impact on me as the love that was shown. Maybe even more so.
After years of lessons disguised as failed relationships, I’m finally starting to realize that how I viewed love was so intimately tangled up with my family and how I was raised. From the men I gravitated to to the amount of effort I put into connection to the level of toxic behavior I allowed myself put up with.
Or how I’ve watched myself go down similar dead-end paths and engage in some of the same unhealthy relationship habits since I first fell in love at 13 years old.
I’ve longed to find the kind of all-encompassing, sometimes overly involved but always undeniable love from another that I received so freely as a child. But in doing so, I’ve also subconsciously been drawn to the same level of dysfunction that often went hand-in-hand with that love.
A few years ago, after a particularly rough period in my current relationship, I took the leap and started therapy.
It was the first time I gave myself the freedom to explore how my past was influencing my present, and decide what lessons from both I wanted to take into my future. It was the first time I allowed myself to accept that how I saw love and showed up for love and wanted love to show up for me was full of contradictions and expectations and blame and mistrust. And that while not all of that was my fault, I was the only one who could control how I show up going forward.
Last night, a quote from biologist turned entrepreneur Riana Lynn popped up on my Instagram feed. It gave words to the feeling I’ve been working for years to cultivate in my own relationship.
These words just might change the way you look at love:
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Yes, I want to create a life that exceeds what my parents and grandparents had. I want to be more financially stable. I want to be able to own more and pass what I’ve earned down to my own children. I want to travel more and see more of the world and experience all this life has to offer.
I want to prove to them that the immense sacrifices they made to give me the beautiful life I currently have were worth it.
But more than anything, I want to love more and love better than my parents and grandparents. I want to learn from the mistakes they made. I want to recognize the dysfunction that’s been passed down from generation to generation and be the one who breaks the cycle.
I want to learn how to communicate better. I want to be able to trust fully. I want to love without feeling the need to accept betrayal or disrespect. I want to be able to take care of myself and still let someone take care of me. I want to know when it’s worth it to stay and work things out and when it’s time to leave.
When I’m old and grey and can no longer earn a living or travel to far away places or buy more crap, I want to be able to look at myself and the person sitting next to me and know that the relationship, the life, and the family that we created was built on love.
The healthy kind.
The mature kind.
The respectful kind.
The trusting kind.
The kind that sought to know better and then did better.