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what my mother taught me about Love

I had a very nice birthday present this year. On the day, my parents moved back together. They have been separated for about 7-8 years due to many many years of disagreement, fighting, and an inability to live together in peace because of this.
But apparently they didn't stop loving each other.
I asked my mother what had happened. How come they suddenly want to be together again?
She replied that the feeling was always there, it never went away. We always loved each other, but in the past, we were not able to accept each other as we were. But now, we have matured, we have somehow aged, and now we accept each other as we are.


I have thought about this a lot lately, actually since last summer, when they announced that they were going to unite again.
To love somebody AS THEY ARE.
Why is this so hard in a romantic relationship?
Why is it nearly impossible to accept the one we are in love with, as he or she actually is?

We accept our friends as they are, we love them and let them do what they want. We don't feel betrayed or jealous.
But (speaking from a female, heterosexual position) we often cannot accept our men as they are. We are jealous if they flirt with another, we wonder where (the hell) they are of they don't call or come home. We hate it when they burp and we want them to stop being slobs. We expect them to behave in a certain way; to respect us, treat us a certain way, etc.
As soon as we enter a romantic relationship, automatically a set of rules apply. But why?

I guess it's fear. We become vulnerable when we love someone. We are easily hurt, and therefore, this fear makes us apply rules to the love, so as to protect it, and ourselves.
But then we bite ourselves in the ass, too. As we apply rules to our man, he will do the same to us, and our own freedom becomes compromised. We cannot behave a certain way anymore, because then we might create conflict.

My parents didn't change in themselves. They only stopped reacting to each other the way they always did. My father is no longer annoyed when my mother goes on and on about this and that. My mother does no longer get hurt when my father doesn't answer her immediately. Instead of constantly reacting and fighting, they just accepted that they cannot ever change the other person. This, I believe, is the key- we cannot change someone else. We can only, only ever change the way we percieve something.
Of course, we can also choose to change ourselves. But this needs to be from our own desire to change- if we change ourselves because our partner wants us to change, then we commit a crime towards ourselves. We compromise who we really are in order to please someone else.

If we cannot live with the other person, then it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to either change our own situation by leaving the relationship, or to stop reactiong with anger to how the other person is. If we do not love somebody AS THEY ARE- then we should really ask ourselves if we actually love the person wholeheartedly. Or if we love an illusion, something that we want to create, and see possibilities of in the other person.

We are in a relationship with another person, but our main responsibility is ourself, not to create the perfect partner by nagging and fighting.

For as long as I can remember, my mother was angry at my father for different reasons. There was always something making her unhappy. She told me hundreds, if not thousands of times, that she would leave him unless he changed this or that. And I always said: Go ahead, leave him then, because he won't change. He has always been this way!
And she kept this back-and-forth-unhappiness dance for about 20 years. Nagging him to change, threatening to leave. He didn't change. He just got angrier and angrier.

One day she did it.
But they somehow kept their strong heart-connection. She still did his laundry, he still fixed things in her flat. They went for holiday each summer together, they spent each christmas and new years together. But the nagging and anger continued, year after year, and some periods they just didn't speak at all- other periods they were best friends.

Until this summer. I had noticed a slight change in their behaviour towards each other. I noticed that when my father reacted angry, my mother didn't react back with anger. And I noticed, that when my mother was nagging, my father almost didn't seem to have heard anything.
I was amazed- usually I knew exactly what triggered them to fight and disagree, and I was, as always, prepared for fighting- but it didn't happen.

And then, one day, in early August, they announced their reunion. I was stunned- and very happy for them.
So they moved in to the new apartment on my birthday. I asked my mother what the trick is. Again she said:
"Accepting each other as we are. Not trying to change the other person."

Why could they not just have done this 33 years ago? How come we walk into a relationship blindly, seeing only what we are in love with and "choose" to see, and ignore the WHOLE reality of another person? They are who they are, living their own separate life. They don't exist to please us- WE exist to create our own reality, take responsibility for our own happiness and evolution. At least in my parents case, it would have saved them hours, days, weeks, months and years of constant fighting, crying, and slamming with doors.

A few days ago I saw one of my best, oldest friend's mother. She is very happy in her relationship- finally, after many years of being single and struggling with love, she, too, had come to the very same conclusion. To accept him as he is- because she does not want to change the way she is- and if she accepts him as he is, she will recieve the same "treatment" from him.
She even quoted the Bible- "Love seeketh not itself to please" and said that love is just love, it does not require anything but itself. To accept the one we love is all we can do.

Last week I saw the movie "Frida" again, which tells the story of Frida Kahlo's life with the painter Diego Ribeira. She knew from the start that he could not be faithful; he kept sleeping with other women, but as they decided to get married, he did tell her this. He could not be failthful- but he could be loyal to her. She went into the relationship with open eyes, knowing that he would sleep with others- she agreed to love him as he was.
Frida came to a point where it was unbearable- her limit was reached when Diego slept with Frida's sister. She then ended the relationship- she could not bare it anymore- he had gone too far. But she, Frida, left him- she was sad, she was destroyed, but she knew that this had been the condition, that this was the man she had married.

Towards the end of Frida's life they did get back together. They could not live without each other. Kind of like my parents, except in Frida's case, a million times more passion and drama. She accepted him as he was- she had no choice- because in her heart, she deeply, truly loved him. And if we really, deeply, truly love someone- then we love them, as they are.
If we have the courage to love someone as they are, despite their faults, weaknessess, warts and stink- there is a big chance that we will be blessed with the same in return. Can there be a greater gift in life, than to be loved, truly loved, exactly as we are? With all of our faults, ugliness and fear?

Real love is not based on illusion. Real love sees everything clearly and loves the beauty as well as the ugliness. The whole picture! It does not feel jealousy or betrayal. It accepts both sides of the coin.

I always rebelled against my mother. I did not want to be like her- I despised her Catholic thinking. But what she taught me about love lately, is the biggest gift she, and anyone, ever gave me. To understand that nothing changed, except her own perception of reality, and how reality changed, because of her inner shift of perspective.


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