Family Love or Love for Family: How Do We Love?

Certainly, our family and friends are essential to us

Photo: Unsplash/@omarlopez1

Photo: Unsplash/@omarlopez1

Certainly, our family and friends are essential to us. For centuries, humans have relied on strong family bonds not only for survival, but also for their overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Communities have been formed and societies have been built based on such bonds and on common values and beliefs. Given that February is the month when we celebrate love and that our love for one another seems to be expressed effortlessly, it occurred to me that it might be a perfect opportunity to reflect upon this important emotion, because family LOVE is essential to the foundation of our relationships. To confirm the validity of this theory, I decided to consult with family and friends. 

I was reminded that acts of love are mainly developed by our own cultural and family traditions, gender-role expectations, and society values. Such expectations are deep-rooted in our relationships, and, if mishandled or unfulfilled, can affect their spirit.

Love can be expressed in multiple ways. Many would agree that making meals for our loved ones, for example, qualifies as a decent way in which we demonstrate our love to one another.  But few wonder if the way we demonstrate love is the way others wish to be loved. In other words, whose expectations are we fulfilling through acts of loveours or our loved ones’?  Some people might want emotional support, while others wish for more tangible acts of love. For some it might depend on their current mental, emotional, or physical state. How do we decide how we are going to demonstrate our love for others?

Understandably, when we do discover we haven’t demonstrated our love for others the way they wished we had, we feel disappointed. This makes us want to “try harder” to ensure we meet such  expectations the next time around until we “get it right.” Unmet expectations might lead us into a cycle of emotional imbalance, which at some level, damages not only our harm our own health but could also disturb our loved one’s well-being.  But how much family love is too much family love? How much effort should we expect of ourselves? Where do we draw the line? Should we be setting boundaries? If so, how will we decide what should they be? If not, how do we ensure that we take care of ourselves and not jeopardize our own mental, emotional, physical, and/or financial well-being? 

Because our love for our family and friends is central to who we are, monitoring our health is imperative. The fear of disappointing someone might lead us into exceeding our limits. Filling up our daily schedules with extended-family obligations and jeopardizing our own well-being is not in the best interest of the family as a whole. Some think that making sure we have scheduled time for ourselves is as important as being available to family. But when you can’t always do both, how do you decide what’s best? For those in relationships, this can become even more complicated because making sure that we make time for our spouses is crucial for a healthy relationship.

So how do we make sure we cover all our bases? How do you do this? For some, the matter may be one of time-management; however, prioritizing is an important factor that some of us may be overlooking. Can we do it all? Can we have it all? Maybe not. 

Culturally, many of us have been taught not to be selfish. Traditionally, this has meant that one must not put oneself first over others’ needs.  But what are the limits of this behavior? Some haven’t applied any limits. As a result, this has created resentment and passive aggressive behavior among family and friends, which isn’t healthy. It’s counterproductive. 

Perhaps opening the lines of communication with our loved ones might be helpful in reaching resolution. Or maybe we don’t want to compromise our loved ones’ needs and expectations even if we are compromising our own. Sometimes we don’t know we are putting our well-being at risk until it’s too late. In reality, most of us are prepared to risk our personal well-being before we are prepared to disappoint our loved ones. While some consider this act a demonstration of true unconditional love, others might wonder whether our imbalance and uncandid behavior compromises the very relationship we are attempting to protect.

Consider these thoughts an invitation to reflect upon your individual love and the love you offer to others, against your overall welfare to ensure optimal alignment and balance between love and joy. Giving is an act of kindness, but loving yourself is equally important. Your family and friends would most likely agree because they love you.

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