Sometimes the greatest lessons come from the most unexpected sources.
Two exemplary role models for unconditional love generally stand at knee level — your kids and your dogs.
Surprised? Don't be! Here's what we, as (human) adults, can learn from our pets and children to build a better and more unconditionally loving relationship with ourselves and partners.
1. Looking for trouble? Dogs can literally sniff out trouble and can also be trained to sit next to it without interacting with it. What an awesome ability! Children find trouble, but have no problem sitting in the middle of it, enjoying the situation.
Where's the lesson? When you find a problem in your relationships, sit down calmly and discuss it. Also, don't ignore the problem — get in the middle of it until you have both come to an agreement.
2. Got your back! Dogs are among the most loyal creatures in the world. They will gladly walk beside you for as long as you need them. Children expect loyalty from their caregivers. They presume that the people who love them will be there when they need them.
Where's the lesson? Loyalty is a two-way street. Walk next to your partner wherever life leads you. In return, that partner will walk beside you on your path. Mutual loyalty ensures that your paths generally go in the same direction. If they don't, look at the first topic!
3. Who's a good boy? The tail wags, the body jiggles, and tongue hangs out. What's going on? The dog is enthusiastic that his master has arrived home. The legs run, the arms wave, and the tongue wags stories about the day. What's going on? The child is enthusiastic that his parent has arrived home. Enthusiasm is contagious. In each case, the returning person will pet the dog and hug the child.
Where's the lesson? You don't need to wave your arms or let your tongue hang out when your partner comes home, but you do need to turn off the TV, put down the newspaper, or stop typing that report. Nothing says unconditional love like undivided attention, if only for a few minutes.
4. Let it go. ... It's Saturday. You have a bazillion errands, but not once does the dog go into canine rage because she is temporarily ignored. Why? Because she accepts that your agenda and hers are not in the same time zone. It's another Saturday. You have a bazillion errands plus another bazillion carpool destinations. Your kids probably never questioned whether you would be able to meet all their transportation needs all day long.
Where's the lesson? When you love someone unconditionally you will make sure their agenda meshes with yours so that everyone's needs are met, including your own. If they don't, see the first topic!
Next time you're confused about how you should react in a particular situation, simply slow down and then ask yourself, "What would Toto do?"