(How to get) Closure and: the Trouble Around Manifestations of Love

It was rather lately that I unburdened (potential) relationships in my life from the challenge of proving to me (and to the rest of the world) that I deserved to be loved. This might sound plain and obvious, but I have not been aware of this expectation of mine until I found myself in a place in my life where I could finally let go of it. Before I often struggled with lots of frustration and tension in close relationships and felt like I needed to be chasing after something that was withdrawn from me over and over again. For now I’d say that I am mostly cured of this perception, luckily.

In a relationship, at times you might feel not loved or cared for enough or even disrespected.
Maybe because the other person promised something they didn’t live up to, or violated some agreements that you had or – seeing it as broader concept – they didn’t fulfill expectations you had.

You might feel justified for expecting certain acts of love (commitment, thoughtfulness …) because you ‘put in’ as much and more yourself. There are several pitfalls in this, once because you can never argue on what kind or intensity of affection you deserve from a certain person, because feelings are not evolving from being argued on, they exist or they don’t; besides requiring them probably doesn’t nurture them – affection grows by liberty, not by force.
The other thing is, that most people measure the love they receive in certain manifestations of love, meaning specific acts or modes of behavior (usually of care and thoughtfulness, even if culturally ritualized and not an actual sign of choice and thought – e.g. giving presents for anniversaries). So quite some problems evolve from not distinguishing between the need for affirmation by manifestations of love in general on one hand – and the usually unconscious expectations on how these manifestations shall look like on the other hand; or vice versa, taking the absence of these specific acts/behavior as a manifestation of not-love, and therefore (since you are in a relationship that is supposed to be build on love – usually considered as mutual affection, care, respect, commitment etc.) as showing disrespect, unreliability, breaking commitment or even as a ‘revelation’ of the other’s ‘real’ feelings/intentions: making you or even ‘tricking’ you into being in a relationship where you are not loved – thus to say: betrayal and degradation.
So far in the drama. The problem is: there are many reasons why someone wouldn’t behave as you’d expect, even in a lovers’ relationship, even considering things you would never have regarded as being up for debate, or unclear, or hard to accomplish. Some of them just being: the other person failed; they might have wanted to meet this expectation, but they didn’t accomplish to. That can be bad, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they intended to let you down or that they cannot live up to it in the future. Or one other reason being: they didn’t know you were expecting this – because manifestations of love can actually look different for different people, maybe because they reject main stream culture’s indoctrination on how relationships and love should be managed and expressed, or also because this specific thing just doesn’t come naturally to them. Maybe their love manifests in totally different ways, that you might need to find out about, too. So if you didn’t tell them and if the two of you didn’t agree on that, it can of course be hurtful (and as said before, since these expectations are usually not obvious to ourselves as such, we most likely will discover them when they are not met), but it doesn’t have to mean the other person doesn’t love you (on their own terms) or intended to hurt you.
Things often get complicated when people request their partners to do something, but really mean it to be an act of natural manifestation of love. That’s a contradiction. You can (and if it is crucial to you: should) let the other person know what you expect from them and you can ask them to do that – and they can decide to do it for you because they love you, so it is not a natural manifestation of their love that they would intuitively choose in the first place, but embracing it would still be an act of love; also they might adapt and explore it and discover it as a way of expressing love which works well for them, too. But you can never force a certain thing to become a natural manifestation of love. That is ok, as long as you are clear about that for yourself. If it is crucial to you (let’s just stick to this easy example) to exchange presents for anniversaries, discuss that with your partner and if they are willing to do that to make you happy, even if they wouldn’t care about presents themselves, that should be fine and seen as an act of caring about your needs and supporting you in them, even if it is a kind of compromise to them. But then you cannot argue with them about giving you a gift ‘just because you are asking for it’. If you still feel unsure about their love, then you might need to look for manifestations of their love in other places, maybe they can also tell you if you ask them. But the problem is really not the (lack of) anniversary gifts then.
So this was the part on troubles around manifestations of love.

Now, of course if you feel there is a lack of love, commitment, care, thoughtfulness, passion etc. in your relationship, it of course can mean that there is; at least compared to what you expect, what you are looking for and what you want to go with. That can be true. It doesn’t need to mean there is none of all that. It doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t love, appreciate, care about you in their own understanding. But you have to be clear to yourself about what it is you are looking for in that relationship and on how far you are ready to compromise on that.
Staying in a relationship where you don’t feel valued, loved, appreciated enough over some time can be really damaging to your self-esteem and how you perceive yourself.
No matter how someone else treats you or how few possibilities of change you see – you are always worth everything, you are always worth being loved and you always deserve to get all the love, affection and passion you long for. And you always have power to change things.
Though you cannot require to get all that from a certain person and the one you are with in that relationship might not be able and/or willing to accomplish that.
A lot of us, when feeling mistreated in a relationship, want to fix what that did to us by trying to ‘reinstall’ the respect, care, thoughtfulness in the acts of our partner: when they act loving enough, when they live up to the expectations they failed to meet before and when they try hard to exceed them, we will take that as the manifestations of love we lacked before, we will re-believe in their love and the crack in our emotional foundation will be closed again. I’m not saying this never works. But if it’s a repetitive thing, on the long run, I can hardly believe it to work, ever.
We need to stop running after that then. We need to confront ourselves with the expectations we have and that the other person might not be willing and/or able to fulfill them. Even if they love us on their own terms, even if they say they will make things work. For me it would always be helpful (I don’t say nice, I say helpful!) if the person I’m in a relationship with tells me “I cannot give you this and that”, “I do want to commit to you, but only up to this and that level” or “I cannot promise you xyz, my reliability is limited to xyz and I am only able/willing to put xyz amount of time/thought into relationship work”. Yes that sounds cruel, but if it’s within what I can compromise on I’d be happy not to figure this out on my own and if it is outside of what I would compromise on, it would break my heart, but it would do so on the short, not on the long run and I could move on – so altogether I see it as decent and respectful and therefore as loving to tell me. (Though people I know are very rarely capable and courageous enough to do that.)
Sometimes it happens like that (I wasn’t always good at dealing with this, but I appreciated it by the time I could process it); sometimes friends help you to get to the point where you see clear.
But in the end you have to confront yourself. Is this really what you want? Is there still a way of changing the relationship and finding a place where you can meet each other’s expectations and needs?
The answer might be no.
If you give yourself that answer, you can stop running after salvation in the other’s actions.
You can recognize this relationship doesn’t treat you the way you want to. It doesn’t have to be anybody’s fault. It doesn’t need to mean you don’t love each other; just that you cannot give each other what you need.
It means you can let go of chasing that idea. You can let go of trying to fix things that are not fixable. You can relieve each other and most of all yourself from the burden of unfulfilled expectations.
You are lovable, you deserve all the respect, love, care, affection, passion, thoughtfulness in the world.
You can acknowledge that and be confident to find that, in some or the other way you will find it.
But for now you can let go and walk off to take care of yourself.
You do not need anyone’s permission for that, you don’t need to wait for anything anymore.
You have the power to take care of yourself.

Love can mean to let each other go. To relieve and to release and allow to grow again, growing out of the limitations you put on each other.

Taking some time, you will be able to look back in love and gratefulness for what you gave each other and what you learned from each other; while you will always love yourself for liberating yourself and moving on.

Closure
means acceptance for what could not and can never be changed
without remorse
but with respect and gratefulness
taking the course of your life back into your hands
to finally move on

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