Not everyone can love you the way you need them to.
My friend Mary* recently shared her frustration with me about her mother. Every time she talked to her mom, she felt there was no real connection—no ability to have a meaningful conversation. Everything is always just fine to her mother, even if Mary knows otherwise.
Mary’s angry that there’s no depth to their relationship and that her mother always has her head in the sand, living in denial about all aspects of her life—especially the family life.
As I continued to listen to Mary express her anger and her choice to not talk to her mother for awhile, I realized that the anger was actually a cover for her deep sadness. Here's the deal: growing up, Mary was more the mother in her family and as much as she understands her mother and her mother's problems on an intellectual level, her heart is still hoping, pleading, begging for the mother she never had by trying to engage her mother in conversations in which she isn't capable of engaging.
She desperately wants her mom to change. She needs her to change so that she can experience what it feels like to have the mother she yearns for. I can’t blame her—it’s a mother after all. Aren’t mothers supposed to be there for us in happy and difficult times, love us, hold us, cheer for us and be our confidant when we grow up?
The answer is yes. If you have a mom that’s capable of that kind of emotional connection and maturity.
But when you don’t, there comes a time when you need to look at the real person in front of you and the dynamics of the relationship and be willing to let go of what you desire. At some point, you need to move toward accepting the situation (whether this is a mother or anyone else in your life). The fact is, you can’t change someone’s behavior. They need to want to change.
Oh sure, you know this. You’ve heard it a million times. And it doesn't make acceptance any easier.
However, when you step onto the scary (but brave) path of letting go, you create an opportunity to release the self-inflicted pain caused by holding onto the fantasy of the relationship being something different than what it really is.
It gives you the freedom to love someone in a different way—meeting them right where they are—without expecting more. You understand and accpet that they are doing the best they can. If you think they could do better, that’s your perspective, not theirs. They don’t see their circumstances or themselves the way you do.
You may have a more love to give, but they can only give what they're capable of giving.
From your new place of acceptance, you’re truly free to stay in contact as little or as much as you choose. You no longer get in touch just to see if this time will be different. You connect to say, "Hi", nothing more, nothing less. You know they can’t give you more than they do, so it releases your anxiety for the relationship to be anything than what it is. Some conversations may surprise you by being better than others. (Be grateful for the better ones and let the others go.)
I told Mary (as she graciously listened to me with her arms crossed, leaning back) that she may need to take some time to mourn the mother she never had. Despite her effforts to stay strong, she began to cry. I saw her mind working hard to not only make sense of what I was saying but be willing to accept it as a truth. I encouraged her to let her tears flow in the privacy of her home and write a letter to her mom saying whatever she needed to say until she felt complete. And then burn it, shred it or rip it up—anything that will release the energy that’s keeping her stuck. That way she can finally move forward and flourish in her life, cherishing the people who want to have meaningful conversations with her and celebrate her life (like me!).
If you have someone in your life you wish would change, then I invite you to consider what I said to my friend: take a deep breath and step onto the path of letting go.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Linda Salazar, founder of Your Heart Is In Your Hands, is a Relationship Coach, author, speaker and media personality working with smart, proactive, spiritually open women who are ready for remarkable relationships. Download Linda’s free report to discover your innate relationship style.