Synopsis: This important and possibly uncomfortable mini-love-lesson starts with explaining how real love is protective; alerts us to a common protection ‘blind spot’; explains overprotection is anti-protective; a prescription for self appraisal with self-love; and more.
Real Love Is ProtectiveHealthy, real love automatically involves the high valuing of the loved. Therefore, protecting that which is highly valued follows naturally.
Real Love helps us naturally to see after the safety and well-being of those we really love, safeguarding them if we can, from whatever might harm or destroy them including ourselves. By the way, false forms of love usually are not very protective.
In the Chicago slums where I spent some of my growing-up time, there was a sort of adage. It went like this, “It’s okay for me to fight my family and friends, but if you try to fight them, I’ll destroy you!” In my old neighborhood, expressions of love were seldom tender but they usually were often strong and clear, at least when it came to the love that protects. Of course, violence is not the best way to be protective; I’m just giving an extreme example of a verbal, protective attitude.
Our Protective Blind SpotJust about everybody wants to protect their children from bad guys and bullies, but what if the bully is you? We don’t like to think about it this way, but there may be some part of how you go about your life that could be harmful to someone dearest to you. If you are going to be really effective at ‘protective love’ won’t it be good for you to start by evaluating your own, possibly harmful effects on those you genuinely love? Now, maybe you already do this kind of self-evaluation. Great! Maybe you even overdo it and worry about every single, little thing you do and how it might negatively effect someone you love. That has its own love effectiveness problems. You can be so worried about your effect on a loved one that the excessive worry will sabotage your effectiveness itself.
Let’s look at just a few of the more common ways we can be blind to having a harmful effect on someone we love.
Overprotection Is Anti-Protection!Years ago it was discovered that lots of parents did not let their children go play in the dirt because they were protecting them from germs and the evils of dirtiness. It turned out that this was setting the kids up for not being able to fight off certain kinds of possibly serious infections. Ordinary dirt was just what little kids needed to help their immunity mechanisms develop. Sometimes overprotection has a spoiling effect. Bartley knew his parents would always bail him out of any trouble he got into, until his seventh arrest. It was only after that and six horrible months in jail that his judgment began to improve.
Of course, a lot of overprotection efforts really are self protection efforts. Here are a couple of examples. Bill would not let his wife go inside bars with her sisters because something bad might happen to her there. Actually he later admitted he was just afraid she would get attracted to somebody coming-on to her, and that person would treat her better than he did. Doris handled all the family finances and did not want her husband “to have to deal with money issues”. She died unexpectedly and he found out their accounts were overdue and all their other monetary affairs were a mess; Doris had been denying her inability to keep up the accounts – to herself and to him.
Overprotection tends to block people’s growth and their strengthening processes which makes overprotection anti-protection. Joe was vehemently against his wife taking a promotion offer. It would take her out of an all-female department and force her to mix with a mixed gender, upwardly mobile work staff. She would be part of lower-level, white-collar management and he was blue-collar with little likelihood of advancing as far up the ladder as his wife might go. It turned out that he trying to block her, cost him a lot more marital problems than supporting her job improvement would have.
Sometimes it is hard to know the difference between real protection and overprotection. It is something to keep working on, with love. So, ask yourself if you are doing things that might ‘protect’ your mate, children, family members, friends or other loved ones from the very growth challenges that might be good for them to have. Sally worked very hard at cleverly keeping her husband away from finishing his degree. She said it would take a lot of time, and cost too much money, and she was sure some of their friends would start judging him as “uppity”, and she didn’t want him to lose those friends. Then it came out. Secretly she was panicking that if he finished his degree he would start looking down on her and run off with somebody better educated.
What Are You Modeling?Do you ever find yourself, kind of automatically, saying or doing something a loved one says or does? Or conversely, maybe they are saying or doing something you say or do? That is because loved ones kind of can rub off on each other. What we model and the examples we set can automatically get subconsciously incorporated. Some of what you are modeling may be very good and some not so good for those you love. You may want to protect your loved ones from those ‘not so good’ ones. If you are modeling fits or rage, hate, racism, abuse, neglect, addictions, poor self love, anti-love actions, etc. protection is called for.
Romantic RageHave you bought-into the myth that tells you love can lead to justifiable rage against those you love if you feel betrayed by them. Many murders of a spouse or lover result from this kind of belief about how love works. (No, Wrong, Untrue) Many battered mates or children, judged to be disobedient or violating some rule, also result from similar thinking. Along with this goes a sort of understanding that ‘if I love you, I own you, and because I own you I can hurt and harm you, if you don’t behave the way I insist you behave. Love give me that right.
My understanding is that healthy, real love of every kind, including romantic love, does not motivate or lead to hurting and harming those you love. It is only various forms of false love that do that. Love is protective not harming.
Protection and AffairsHaving a secret love affair, sex affair, one night stand, cheating, etc., even if you hide it really well so you “protect your mate from getting hurt”, is usually a really poor way to do protective love. We have a lot of problems with love/sex affairs in our culture, as do other cultures, but not all cultures. In some parts of the world it is understood or expected that spouses who have strong sex drives will have sex with a number of other people, and is OK as long as it is not done deceitfully or destructively to already established love relationships.
For a great many people in highly monogamous-oriented societies that seems both impossible and incomprehensible. Still, some manage to live honestly with love while swapping, swinging, doing open marriage, etc., and things go okay or even go better than good. Some even make the ‘secret affairs approach’ seem to work tolerably well. However, secrets, lies, deception, and the like, even if not discovered, tend to have corrosive relationship results. Truth expressed, even if disruptive, usually is far more protective in the long run than are lies. This is especially typical if the truth expressed is mixed well with lots of love.
Protection and AddictionsSubstance abuse and addiction, and certain behavioral addictions and abuse syndromes are super-destructive to just about everybody in the addict’s or abuser’s immediate life. Spouses, family members, especially children, friends, co-workers and sometimes strangers are all harmed. The problem is the addict or abuser seldom sees how bad their effect on others actually is. Defensiveness, dodging and denial almost always reigns for quite a while, sometimes until somebody is dead.
Compounding the problem is codependency and the patterns of enabling. What is usually needed for all concerned is a loving confrontation with the uncomfortable truth. That usually is the only way to avoid causing or supporting serious harm being done. However, remember confrontation with out expressions of sufficient love tends not to work.
Self Appraisal with Self-LoveNone of us is perfect. We are made so that we always can improve. To improve it often takes self appraisal, which does not mean ‘beating up’ or ‘being down’ on yourself’, or in any way being negative. In all probability there are some ways in which you have some negative effect on those you love. Just try to accurately evaluate what trends and behavior patterns you might exhibit which would be good to protect your loved ones from. Then work on it with forgiveness and tolerance, i.e. with healthy self-love for yourself.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
♥ Love Success Question
Are there things those who raised you did that you wish they would have protecting you from, and are you perhaps subconsciously programmed to do something like that also?