People who love you don't always understand you.
Updated: Jan 19
I don't know about you, but somewhere I got the idea that if you loved someone enough, or they loved you enough, you would understand each other.
This is such a nice idea, and it's a difficult one to let go of.
The truth is that there will be people in our lives that we love, and who love us, and they will never understand us.
We look at others through the lens of our own values. This is totally normal. What can help us is to remember in those moments of feeling not understood and supported is that the other person is looking at you through their values too.
If they deeply value tradition, security, and history, watching someone they love move away, work virtually, and decide not to have children is going to feel uncomfortable and confounding. And the other person may feel very constrained by the constant questions like, "What do you do again? Is your job really secure? Why do you live so far away?"
(Don't know your values? here's a worksheet for you)
What feels like criticism is actually just human nature- trying to fit what we see into our worldview.
We look at each other's behavior and try to make sense of it through our own past experiences. Because we are all different individuals, this isn't always successful.
It can be particularly painful when one of the parties has unresolved trauma or is unwilling to do their own inner work. In these cases, understanding and acceptance may never happen. It is not from lack of love- it is from lack of ability. When a person is stuck in past pain and not interested or able to move away from that, it is almost impossible to make progress.
Over the years of working with clients, the dynamic I hear about most often is between parents and adult children. The child feels misunderstood and unsupported, and the parents don't understand why the child is doing what they are.
And then there are the traumatized parents who never had the resources to heal and their children feel unloved.
In both of these cases, the parent is doing all they know how to do. It doesn't meet the needs of the child, and that is painful.
And if the adult child can not learn to accept that fact, they may find themselves trying to please a parent that will never be pleased, or becoming self-critical because they do not have their parent's understanding and approval.
Sometimes this dynamic gets internalized as perfectionism because it is virtually the same behavior- trying to attain something that is impossible to attain. A desire for a type of love that the parent is not capable of giving.
And so what to do with this pain?
There are two parts to the strategy I have seen work.
The first is to accept and grieve that you will not get what you want. This includes forgiving your parent (or whomever this is in your life) for not being what you want them to be. Accept that they are simply not capable of it. It is not because you are bad or unworthy. They just don't know how to love in that way.
Secondly, look around in your life for the type of acceptance you crave. Can you find it from other family members or friends? If/ when you choose a partner, look for someone who understands the parts of you that need to be seen. Find a community that shares and supports your interests online or in person.
And the really powerful thing? You can parent yourself. You can offer yourself the freedom or structure you crave. You can revel in the joy of choosing your own way without needing anyone else's approval or understanding. You get to design your life. If you make your life choices guided by your true values, and not in capitulation to someone else's, things have a good chance of turning out well.
So yeah, this was a really long-winded way of saying you do you, and it's really ok if some of the people you love don't understand your choices.