The first love we experience as humans is often the love of our parents. We come into the world and find ‘Dada’ and ‘Mama’ to be our first words. We can’t even smile yet, but we stop crying when our mom takes us into her arms. And when we can smile, we get so giddy as soon as our parents walk into the room.
About nine months ago I met the most precious human being in the world. My nephew, Benjamin. I see this love he has for his parents every day (and the returned love from my sister and brother-in-law). This unconditional, vulnerable, no questions asked (potentially because he can’t ask) love.
So what changes as we grow up? As we get older, we begin to gather from our experiences and our observations that love can hurt. These observations may come from our parents or our older siblings and their first high school love. Whatever the source, we begin to see that this unconditional, no questions asked, vulnerable love is terrifying. So we try our best to protect ourselves. We begin to ask the questions “Do you care about me?” “Would you do anything for me?” We begin to create a boundary around us to make us less vulnerable. If we let fewer people in, we won’t get hurt.
But what about this unconditional, vulnerable, no questions asked love? We are obviously still capable of this. Eventually a lot of people have children and develop this love again. If we are all still capable, then why must we shut it out?
What made me think about this evolution of love as we get older was (of course) a post I saw on social media. When people get (let’s be blunt) dumped, people start saying that they shouldn’t have gotten so close or they wish they hadn’t cared so much. The post I saw read, “Pro tip: Sometimes you just have to care less to see if they’ll care more.”
Please god no. Listen carefully: Love is not a game. You can’t trade caring back and forth. There are no set rules. An individual does not “win” or “lose,” you should both win or lose. Games always have an ending, we don’t play on forever, so why would we want to think of our love as a game?
I am young. I have had long-term relationships and am in one now, but I am still young. Some of you may even say that I don’t know what love really is or means yet. In my opinion, anyone lucky enough to have a relationship with their family knows love from a very very young age. It may just take us some time to understand that love in our romantic relationships. Either way, I will likely have my heart-broken many times in the future, whether from my boyfriend, from the death of a loved one, from losing my best friend or maybe from… I don’t know… my brother moving to Alaska for a year. I don’t know all the answers or even a fraction of the answers. But I do know that blaming myself for ‘caring too much’ or thinking that there was a way I could have won the game is precisely the wrong way to handle the situation.
If you care, you’re doing it right. If he or she didn’t care, that is on them.
Personally, no matter how hard I may try to care less about something, that is not in my nature. I will love my lazy dog even when she pees on the carpet, I will love my nephew even if he cries with me and wants to go back to his mama, I will love Trevor even if he screws up a few times and I will love my brother when he leaves for a year. I will always be vulnerable. This may hurt me eventually, but I prefer to look at the potential it gives me in my relationships with other people. Caring less isn’t the solution. If you’re like me, all you can do is recognize the people who don’t care enough and decide whether they are worth your while.
If only we could all go back to our first few years on Earth. We could remember how incredible it must feel to be in such a deeply unconditional, vulnerable, no questions asked kind of love. But for now, we can only try our best.
P.S. Shout out to Alesia for the photo for this post. Our best friend love is one of those – don’t talk for weeks/months and then just pick right back up where we left off. Love you!