Valentine’s Day is soon approaching. How can we miss it with so many shops using this as another marketing model for us to spend money on our loved ones? However, have a thought for those who do not have a loved one, for whatever reason. For some people, this can be a tipping point to bring on feelings of insecurities, loss and many mental health issues. It has also made me think about the different forms of love and how we can all share a love for someone in whatever form that may be.
A love for your partner, is a very different form of love to the love you feel for your children. Love for parents, brothers or sisters and friends also take different forms. Love grows from the experiences you have with people. For some people love may be unconditional, it doesn’t matter what happens you will always love them, but for others the love only lasts while certain conditions are met. Love is not simply two dimensional, and varies from individual to individual. Certain forms of love cannot always be understood by others. For example, victims of domestic abuse, be them male or female, often return to their partner because they love them. Partners who have cheated, are forgiven by some. Why? Quite often because of love.
Truthfully and honestly there are times when I have not liked my children. When all you are trying to do is your best for your children, including getting them to tidy their rooms or put in boundaries, such as, ‘you’re not having your phone until you have done your homework’, insults can be fired in your direction and they probably don’t like you too. Does this mean I do not love them? Of course not! At that moment in time I do not like the behaviour they are exhibiting and a cooling off time is needed to get everyone back on track, but they have to be forgiven. Talk about the event when you are all past the problem, listen to their feelings and acknowledge that they weren’t happy with you, but also emphasis why you said what you said. It doesn’t mean you are not going to ‘fall out’ again, but at least there will hopefully be a better understanding from both perspectives.
Friends too, especially as children growing up, are always falling out. Brothers and sisters too, can argue for hours! Underneath it all though is a love and the majority of time friends make up and brothers/sisters move on to something else with the argument forgotten. As a child you are learning what is socially acceptable behaviour. Some children have less of a ‘filter’ than others, and say whatever comes into their head, regardless to how it makes others feel. Girls are proven to show more empathy towards others than boys generally, but this is not always so. They have to go through these social struggles to learn about the world. It is normal! The important thing is for them to learn from these experiences and for them to feel the love and anger, but to know that saying sorry and owning responsibility for things are part of growing up when it is needed.
As we get older fall outs with others do tend to get less, however, the fall outs are often bigger, and it takes longer to get back on track when they happen. No one likes to feel it is ‘their fault’ why a relationship has broken down, and everyone needs to remember there are always ‘two sides to every story’. Love and anger are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but often collide in relationships. So what happens then when love is not enough?
I want to concentrate here on partner breakdowns rather than other relationships simply for everyone to remember the children that can be involved. Children do not choose for their parents to break up and it needs to be acknowledged that they may be suffering from a loss, similar to a bereavement, especially if a parent is now no longer in contact, or is very sporadic in their visits. The relationship breakdown is between the two adults, and although it may be better in the long run if there is unhappiness and arguments for the separation, this is a big deal for the children involved.
Just because it has become quite normal, and many children come from split families, it doesn’t mean that it is easy for all children to cope with it. Some children probably do not understand why it has happened in the first place, and for some they may feel that it is their fault. Children do not always make life easy for their parents, and they may now feel responsible if they have split up. They may feel anger towards a parent that has left them, from a sense of rejection. They may feel anger towards the parent who is left at home, especially if there are rules to follow, and blame them for the other parent leaving. Every parental separation has its own reasons and it is important to talk about why it has happened with your children, when you feel you are able to. Usually the separation has nothing to do with either parent’s love for the children, and this should be emphasised. This can be very difficult when there is a lot of hurt and anger for the adults involved. If this is something that you know is difficult for you to do, then acknowledge this, and find your children some other support to help them through this time.
Looking after everyone’s mental health is important, and it is not a weakness that a relationship has broken down or to acknowledge that it is difficult to cope afterwards. Love does not always conquer all! There will be days when tears are shed, and voices raised – different emotions will be felt. Ask other family members and/or friends to help you out when needed. Show your children that it is okay to rely on support from your nearest and dearest. It is okay to show them that you are sad and angry at times about what has happened, as this allows them to also know that feeling these feelings are okay.
On 2nd February the mental health charity, Time to Change, dedicated the day to, ‘Time to Talk’. This was a day to encourage people to help others who may be suffering from mental health problems. Also, 200,000 older people say they haven’t had a conversation with friends or family for a month (ref Age Concern)! There are many reasons why it is important to talk, not just on one specific day, but every day. A lot of people do suffer in silence, but with someone else simply asking ‘how are you?’ or making the point to try and start a conversation it can help to share a problem. So, pick up the phone, visit a relative or friend you haven’t seen for a while and have a chat with them, go for a walk or lunch with a work colleague. In our busy everyday lives it is easy to forget that others may not be as busy or as happy as you, and they may appreciate a thought for them. So if you do nothing else after reading my blog this month, make the effort, show someone you care. It really can make a difference.