Author Topic: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally  (Read 4455 times)

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Hope

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How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« on: May 29, 2010, 09:11:16 PM »
My sister and bil have had a difficult time with their ds/dil beginning about the time of their engagement.  They were treated quite disrespectfully leading up to the wedding and at the wedding.  After the wedding, their ds/dil distanced themselves and at one point dil yelled at my sister over the phone that she "would never see her grandchildren" (this happened before she was pregnant with their only child). 

About four or five long years later, they followed the advise their priest gave them and their situation took a turn for the best. 
This is what their priest advised:

1. Love them the way they are – do not think about how it would be better a different way.  Overlook the things about them that you don’t like.
2. Expect nothing.  Don’t expect visits at holidays, return phone calls, answers to your calls or emails, etc.
3. Offer your friendship and realize that it’s up to them to accept or reject it.
4. Appreciate whatever they do for you – no matter how small.  Don’t focus on how they could have done more or better.

My sister/bil realize that they will never be treated with the love and kindness that their dil's parents are.  Even though they live about 12 hours apart, they bend over backwards to run to their ds/dil's rescue when they need help.  They are very generous with their time, labor, love, and gifts.  They have taken those four rules to heart and don't expect anything, but when their ds/dil offer any type of acceptance or love, they are very grateful.  Their relationship has been restored and my sister/bil have accepted the situation as it is.  They are just thankful to have their ds/dil/gc in their lives.

At first when they told me about this new attitude/approach, I thought it was so one-sided that it couldn't be a healthy relationship.  Maybe sometimes your only choice is to choose a less than healthy relationship or no relationship at all.  I was wondering what you ladies thought about this.  I really value your opinion.

Hugs, Hope



Offline Pen

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2010, 09:47:03 PM »
Hope, this approach is how my DH handles our situation with DS & DiL and it works for him. He's always saying "Let's be grateful for what we do have with DS & DIL instead of comparing what we get with what DIL's family gets." When I listen to him and follow the same advice it works for me too, mostly. There are days when it catches up to me and I mourn what was and what might have been. When I feel envious or hurt, or my sense of justice flares up, I'm miserable. I feel sorry for myself as well as petty and whiney, which just makes it worse.

It's a trade-off, I guess, and the pay-off is time with DS, DIL & GC. To get it we must let go of our need for fairness and our expectations. It's so difficult; I'm impressed by your sister and her DH for making it work. Thanks for sharing their story.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

RedRose

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2010, 06:07:49 AM »
I also beleive this priest's advice would good for a dil who needs to get along with mil and fil.


1Glitterati

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2010, 07:53:59 AM »
I wouldn't know unless I was there myself...but if I was only offered entrance into their lives when they needed something...I'd call that being used.  I don't know if I'd be okay with that.

Although...it does give me something to think about with my own ils.  I can honestly say that they are taking what they can get.  They see the kids more now.  Sometimes it's just social...but I'd be lying if I didn't say there were times we let them go because it benefits us.

Some things have happened recently where we've had to be in greater contact and even ask for help (DH ended up in the E.R. and they had to pick the kids up for us. [It wasn't life threatening, and it's something they've been through themselves...so they didn't need to be there.])  I've also made some gestures of kindness to my mil lately.

Honestly?  I don't want to do it.  I don't want to let them back in because I don't want to be hurt or betrayed again.  I WANT to keep my distance, and that's getting harder and harder to do.  I just don't want to open myself to that again.  I'm afraid if they did it again that I would snap and just TELL (not ask, not consult, not give a choice) dh that we are selling the house and moving away.

Offline luise.volta

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2010, 09:37:07 AM »
Thanks, Hope - To me, it's great advice if it works. That's always the test. It's wonderful to hear about wins!! I just love that! Kudos for counseling at its best!  :D

Most of the questions on my other site are about "how to have it not be how it is." The truth is that people are how they are until they aren't...(and don't hold your breath.) We can put a lot of energy into resisting that.

Unfulfilled expectations can do us in for sure. Some of the factors at play, as Pen wrote, are each person's tolerance and how much must be tolerated. Some of us can laugh off humongous disrespect and others of us drop in our tracks at the slightest nuance of rejection. (I'm raising my hand here...) Misdeeds can range from a hateful look to situations requiring 911 or some other kind of intervention. Actions (real or imagined) and reactions (normal or pathological) can cloud issues. Human dynamics are a sticky wicket.

I think that's one reason we come here. We can get a different read on situations that baffle and/or paralyze us. We often find understanding...and when we don't...compassion makes up for it. We can sometimes step out of isolation and for many of us, that mitigates overwhelm and promotes healing. Sending love...



 
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline Pen

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2010, 10:18:17 AM »
It would be nice if indeed everyone behaved in this manner, DILs and MILs and everyone else involved. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we can only change ourselves (she says, with wounds still fresh from banging head against wall again.)
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline luise.volta

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2010, 10:31:36 AM »
Too true, beloved Pen - and changing ourselves is no walk in the park. One minute I want to be tougher and the next I want to be more sensitive. The answer may be...to just be. I wonder...

Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

1Glitterati

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2010, 11:34:43 AM »
Just be happy with what you get.  Don't expect anything. Wow, what an attitude, this should work both ways.  My son & dil have expectations from us.  They expect me to babysit while they work, but not to have to give us any extra time with gc, they expect us to help them out when they need it, but not to help us if we need it, so this sounds like I should just do, do, do, & not get anything in return?  When you work, do you not expect pay?  so when I work, watching my gc, I shouldn't expect pay?  Son & dil can't afford to pay me in money, but there are other ways. I love the job of watching my gc, but there are lots of people who love their jobs, & they still expect pay.  You can't have everything in your life your way all the time.  There has to be take AND give.  I consistantly go out of my way for son & dil, go above & beyond.  I have adjusted my expectations, I expect way less than I think I deserve.  I think it is sad when one is told not to expect anything from their loved ones, be it parents, grown children or in-laws.  Do you not expect your spouse to be faithful to you, do you not expect to be paid for a job well done?  There are expectations in any relationship.

Anna...I know you and I don't always see eye to eye...but you are right about the colored above.

If your son and dil are willing to take that much help...they have to be willing to give back in return--even some stuff they don't like.  If they want everything on their own terms...then they need to find their own paid daycare...and btw...I would NEVER expect someone to sit for me and not pay them.  That's wrong, and there's no way around it.

When I want things exactly on my own terms...I make sure I'm taking care of my own stuff my own self.  That way I don't have to answer to or consider anyone else.  My brother used to borrow lots of money from our parents...and would always get mad when they asked him to do something like mow the lawn or snake a drain.  I was like dude---they bought you, you owe it, now shut up and do it.

You can't have it both ways.  YOu can have it one, but not both.

Offline luise.volta

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2010, 12:38:25 PM »
It seems to me that there are two (if not more) edges to this; lowering or even erasing expectations is one thing but self-respect is a factor as well, isn't it? Wouldn't it be easy for thoughtless folk to interpret the quiet, (smiling?), acceptance of callous selfishness as an indication that mature, fair conduct is not required? Or put more clearly, isn't thoughtlessness being rewarded? This is a tough one... :(
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2010, 01:39:59 PM »
I used to have this thing where I expected the best from everyone and I'd feel very let down when they didn't live up to my expectations.   The best thing that ever happened to me was taking up my career in law enforcement, now I expect the worst and am pleasantly surprised most of the time :)


Offline luise.volta

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2010, 02:39:20 PM »
That sounds pretty healthy.  8)
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline Scoop

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2010, 05:39:56 PM »
I think these are very wise words.
1. Love them the way they are – do not think about how it would be better a different way.  Overlook the things about them that you don’t like.
Love them the way they are.  They can't *be* any other way.  If you can find it in your heart to love them exactly how they are, without thinking about how they "used to be", *YOU* will be happier.  If you think about how it would be better a different way, you are only making yourself sad.

2. Expect nothing.  Don’t expect visits at holidays, return phone calls, answers to your calls or emails, etc.
Expect *NOTHING*.  That means that if you help them, you can’t expect them to help you in return.  Maybe they will be ‘paying it forward’, instead of ‘paying it back’.  If you have expectations that are NOT being met, it’s your OWN fault, because YOUR expectations are YOURS.
Part of my problem with my MIL is that she rags on my DH every time they speak, why didn’t he call her, why didn’t he call her SOONER, why couldn’t he speak LONGER, and it makes the phone calls unpleasant for him.  So he calls her LESS.  What if she were to expect NOTHING and just be happy to hear from him?  I bet their conversations would ultimately be more pleasant and more frequent.

3. Offer your friendship and realize that it’s up to them to accept or reject it.
I think the key here is friendship.  Maybe try and stop parenting and try to be DS’s friend.  Treat him like you would a friend.  You know that your friends are busy, so if they don’t call, you don’t get upset.  And when they do, you pick up where you left off, without recriminations.

4. Appreciate whatever they do for you – no matter how small.  Don’t focus on how they could have done more or better.
If you appreciate the small things, they might get bigger and better.  If you always fuss that it’s not enough, and if you even THINK it, they’ll feel that from you, you’ll never get more.  Again, if you focus on how they could have done more or better, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment.  It’s YOU doing it to YOURSELF, not THEM doing it to YOU.

Offline luise.volta

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2010, 06:02:23 PM »
Aren't perceptions tricky? Like..."She made me cry!" (The same thing might have "made" someone else laugh!)   :o
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

GingerPeachy

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2010, 09:40:35 AM »
Yes, expectations play a big role in relationships. Only God loves us the way 'we' want to be loved.   Everyone else will let us down at some point in life.
I found this verse when I was feeling hurt at behavior by my DS and was deciding how to act towards him and his family 'from now on'. 
Ecc 11:6
In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand:
for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.  (Be not weary of well doing. You don't know which of your works are most agreeable to God.)

To me, I saw the 'withhold not thine hand' as picture of me extending my open hand full of love to them.  They have the decision to take it or shun it, but I choose to give. 

Offline luise.volta

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Re: How to Love Adult Children Unconditionally
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2010, 02:43:16 PM »
Hi, GP - I agree that we can't really love unconditionally. That's just my take, of course, but I think we're too human...and we probably all have a place where we will draw the line. If we haven't reached it yet, we may look (and feel) like we love unconditionally.

I got to that place with my "ex." He fessed up to a three-year affair and I moved on. I thought I loved him unconditionally but I was mistaken.

The religious references make a good point but we need to always remember that there are many faiths (and also the lack thereof) on a forum like this. Many individuals from varying countries and backgrounds.

And by the way, I also think our dream of unconditional love is often why those of us who are dog lover's got that way. It seems to me that those little four-footed angels know how to do it. Anyone agree with that?
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama