“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me straight in the face, soon after I got married. At that point, I had been married for a few months. I didn’t even know if I wanted kids, much less when I was having them.
Caught off guard, I said, “I have not decided if I want kids.” I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who had difficulty conceiving for a variety of reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to be like them and regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on churning out babies.
This would be my life for the next few years, where I received varying forms of “When are you having kids?”, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.
Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t — the people who previously tried to persuade you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, now tell you to have “just one more.” It seems like you just can’t win. 😒
The problem with asking, “When are you having kids?”
I can understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the path that we’ve been told is the way of life, which would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.
This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren.
So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer.
The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.
1) Happiness can come in different forms
Firstly, everyone has their path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t want kids. Some people think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see having kids as a burden to their carefree life. To presume that everyone should have kids, especially when the person has never said anything about wanting kids, is rude and disregards the person’s preferences and choice in life.
Take for example, Oprah Winfrey. She chose not to have children and has dedicated herself to her personal purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show which ran for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for humans worldwide. As she says,
“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah
There are other people who chose not to have kids as well.
- Betty White, actress and comedian, chose not to have kids as she’s passionate about her career and focused on it.
- Chelsea Handler, talkshow host, doesn’t have kids as she doesn’t have the time to raise a child herself, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.
- Ashley Judd, actress and politican activist, chose not to have kids as there are already so many orphaned kids in this world, and she feels that her resources can be better used to help those already here.
And then there are others who chose not to have kids, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei, Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids. Not having kids has not prevented them from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy.
2) You may well cause hurt and pain
Secondly, you never know what others are going through.
Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles.
- Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.
- The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.
- Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.
For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.
And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.
While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,
“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”
3) Not everyone is in a position to have kids
Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.
Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.
Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.
Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.
And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.
4) Some couples could still be thinking
And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.
For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.
For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with just my husband first, before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obssesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.
Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.
“So, when are you having kids?”
“[This relative’s] baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”
It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.
It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.
The decision to have kids
Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.
It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.
Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.
It will be the couple.
And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violence, abuse, and anger.
We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,
“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”
Stop asking couples when they’re having kids
So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.
The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.
If they don’t have kids, it’s either because
- they really don’t want kids,
- they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
- they want kids but they are facing some struggles.
For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”
The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.
Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.
If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.
Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths, and there’s nothing wrong about any of them.
For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.
In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂
Some of the links below are affiliate links which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase at no cost to you. This post is not sponsored.
A few weeks ago, a friend told me she’d found a book called 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week by Tiffany Shlain. The title intrigued me and luckily it was available to download from my library, so I started it that night and finished reading it the next day.
As I was reading the book on Sunday, I decided I was going to try a weekly digital detox starting that day and then every Sunday for a month.
I’m already pretty conscious with my phone usage (my phone is always on do not disturb mode with time limits for social media apps), but I’d never thought to take a full day away from my digital devices.
When you’re constantly plugged-in to apps and devices designed to steal your attention (Netflix has said their main competitor is sleep), you start to lose track of reality and your identity outside of technology.
I thought this was the perfect experiment to see if it would have a positive effect on my mindset. After implementing weekly digital detoxes every Sunday for a month, I’m sharing the lessons I’ve learned and how I made it work without getting bored.
What A Digital Detox Looks Like
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The book 24/6 is based on Tiffany Shlain’s experience of taking one day a week off from technology. Inspired by her Jewish heritage, Shlain calls them “Technology Shabbats”. She combines a screen-free twenty-four hours with Shabbat rituals like a special Friday-night meal with family and friends.
Her family (kids included) goes screen-free from Friday night to Saturday night and limits all smart technology like cell phones. They even use a landline to make phone calls and a record player to listen to music (I knew I wasn’t going to implement these things with my experiment).
What most inspired me to try this idea out was the author’s description of her Saturday routine. Here’s what her family’s Tech Shabbat’s look like (I’ll share mine later):
- Friday afternoon – pick up fresh fruit and flowers from the farmers market
- Friday night – host friends for dinner (make the same meal every Friday to take out the guesswork)
- Saturday morning – journal, read
- Saturday afternoon – music (listening and playing), cooking, excursions to the library, bike ride, basketball, yoga, scheduled activities, errands, etc.
The Benefits of a Digital Detox
Why would you want to go tech-free once a week? Here are some key benefits to this weekly practice:
More time for hobbies
Unplugging gives us time to grow and learn new skills. Often we avoid doing this because we think we don’t have enough time, but really we don’t have the attention span to even try.
Shlain talks about her own struggle with impatience and how unplugging helps her to practice patience. When we practice unplugging, we can develop our character strengths and work on improving our weaknesses.
When we unplug, we’re able to give our attention more generously to the people around us. It also gives us the opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves without distraction or comparison.
“By giving you a complete day off each week from screens, from obligations, from being available, letting you reflect and connect, tech Shabbat becomes the ultimate technology to make you the most creative, present, and productive version of yourself.”
My Digital Detox Routine
My usual Sunday routine would involve watching YouTube for hours, scrolling through social media, and browsing the internet aimlessly. Though I didn’t follow the detox as intensely as Shlain does, here are some rules I set for myself:
- No checking email
- No social media
- No YouTube
- No computers
- Only use phone for texts or calls
- No TV during the day (one or two episodes at night was okay)
Here’s a monthly recap of what my Sunday schedule looked like:
- Started the 24/6 book on Saturday night and decided I wanted to try it the next day
- Went for a walk in the morning
- Read for most of the day
- Did a family dinner over Facetime
- Watched an episode of Tiger King
One thing I noticed is that I had a hard time falling asleep. I was expecting the best sleep of my life, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
- Made pancakes for breakfast
- Spent most of the morning reading Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
- Meal prepped (I did use my phone so I could follow some recipes)
- Cleaned my apartment
- Went for a walk
- Family FaceTime dinner
- Watched an episode of Too Hot To Handle (a terrible show, don’t watch it lol)
- Did a facemask and took a bath
I went to bed around 10:45 after reading. I woke up early the next day (Monday) and actually felt motivated to get things done right away.
Apparently I forgot to write down what I did on this day. Oops!
- Went for a walk
- Read The Bend in Redwood Road by Danielle Stewart
- Meal prepped
- Spent too long on Pinterest + Amazon trying to find a kitchen corner shelf
- Cleaned my apartment
- Family FaceTime dinner
- Watched an episode of Into the Night on Netflix (such a good show!)
- Went to bed at 10:30
I definitely broke my detox this day by spending way too long on Pinterest and Amazon on my phone. I was feeling inspired to find a corner shelf for my kitchen and that led to overthinking which one to buy. That night, I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep until 5.
- Made pancakes for breakfast
- Read The Bend in Redwood Road by Danielle Stewart
- Visited my mom for Mother’s day with my sister (we sat 6-feet away from each other on the grass)
- Cleaned my apartment
- Meal prepped
- Worked out (I used my iPad to follow a workout)
- Visited my boyfriend’s mom for Mother’s day (again, we sat 6-feet away from each other outside)
- Watched one episode of Girls
I felt tempted to go on social media this day, but spending time with family (at a distance, of course) kept me occupied. Looking back, I could have probably created my own workout without needing to follow a video. I didn’t have any issues falling or staying asleep this night.
What I’ve Learned
After a month of this challenge, here are some key things I’ve learned or experienced from unplugging once a week:
It gives me something to look forward to
Taking a day away from the online world feels like an escape and an excuse to get away from it all. I knew on Sundays that my day would be calm and relaxing, and that made it something to look forward to every week.
I can stay occupied without technology
I’ve read more books in the past month than I have in a long time. It definitely made me realize that I can keep myself occupied without relying on technology. If you’ve ever wanted to take up a hobby or learn a language, this would be the perfect way to do it.
I’m more productive on Mondays
Since I wouldn’t stay up late on Sunday night watching Netflix or scrolling through TikTok, I woke up on Monday mornings in a good state of mind. I felt like I had more clarity and motivation to get started on my to-do list without procrastinating.
I’m more motivated to be efficient
Knowing that I couldn’t do any kind of work on Sunday made me more efficient during the week. Instead of telling myself I could do a few things on Sunday, I got them done ahead of time so I could fully embrace my tech-and-work-free Sundays.
Would you try a weekly digital detox?
Based on what I’ve learned and experienced from this monthly challenge, I definitely plan to keep doing these Sunday digital detoxes. I think I’ll even try to go the whole day without watching TV to see if that makes a difference.
I hope this post has encouraged you to try your own digital detox one day a week for 24 hours. If you want more ideas for making a digital detox work, I highly recommend the 24/6 book.
The post Digital Detox: What I’ve Learned From Unplugging Once A Week appeared first on The Blissful Mind.
We sit silently. My friend stares deeply into her empty glass, occasionally shuffling the ice around with her straw. “Wow,” she says. I sit and wait for her to say something else. What started out as a festive night somehow became a long, deep discussion about love, what it consists of, and how rare it actually is.
Finally, I say, “Wow, what?”
“I’m just thinking that I’ve never experienced that.”
“Well, maybe you just haven’t met the right person yet,” I say — the totally cliche thing that every friend says in this situation.
“No,” she says. “I mean, I’ve never experienced that with anyone. My parents, my family, even most of my friends.” She looks up at me, her eyes glassy and wet, “Maybe I don’t know what love is.”
The Conditional Coolness Economy
When you’re a teenager, being “cool” is traded like a currency. You accumulate as much coolness as possible and then you find other kids with a lot of coolness and you bargain to share that coolness to make each other even cooler.
And if at any point you come across a kid with far less coolness than you, you tell that nerd to fuck off and stop being such a loser and dragging your coolness down because the other cool kids might see you, like, actually talking to each other.
Your coolness balance determines the level of demand for a relationship with you. If you suck at sports and sports are cool, then there will be less demand for your friendship. If you’re awesome at playing guitar and guitars are cool, then your coolness stock will rise appropriately and people will like you again. In this way, high school is a constant arms race to cultivate as much coolness as possible.
Most of the bullshit and stupid mind games teenagers play are a result of this coolness economy. They fuck with each other’s heads and brag about shit they didn’t do and think they love people they actually hate and think they hate people they actually love because it makes them appear cooler than they are and it gets them more Snapchat followers and a blowjob from their prom date.
These high-school-level relationships are conditional by nature. They are relationships of I’ll-do-this-for-you-if-you-do-this-for-me. They’re relationships where the same person who is your best friend one year because you both like the same DJ is your worst enemy a year later because they made fun of you in biology class. These relationships are fickle. And shallow. And highly dramatic. And pretty much the entire reason why nobody misses high school or wants to go back.
And this is fine. Trading in the coolness economy is part of growing up and figuring out who you are. You have to participate in all of the bullshit in order to learn to rise above it.
Because at some point, you grow out of this tit-for-tat approach to life. You start just enjoying people for who they are, not because they play football well or use the same brand of toilet paper as you.
Getting Stuck on Conditional Relationships
Not everyone grows out of these conditional relationships. Many people, for whatever reason, get stuck in the coolness economy and continue to play the game well into adulthood. The manipulation gets more sophisticated but the same games are there. They never let go of the belief that love and acceptance are contingent on some benefit they’re providing to people, some condition that they must fulfill.
The problem with conditional relationships is that they inherently prioritize something else above the relationship. So it’s not you I really care about, but rather your access to people in the music industry. Or it’s not really me you care about, but my fantastically handsome face and witty one-liners (I know, I know — it’s OK).
These conditional relationships can get really fucked up on an emotional level. Because the decision to chase “coolness” doesn’t just happen. Chasing coolness is something we do because we feel shitty about ourselves and desperately need to feel otherwise.
So it’s not really you I care about, but rather using you to make me feel good about myself. Maybe I’m always trying to save you or fix your problems or provide for you or impress you in some way. Maybe I’m using you for sex or money or to impress my friends. Maybe you are using me for sex, and that makes me feel good because for once I feel wanted and seen.
Draw it up however you’d like, but at the end of the day, it’s all the same. These are relationships built on conditions. They are built on: “I will love you only if you make me feel good about myself; you will love me only if I make you feel good about yourself.”
Conditional relationships are inherently selfish. When I care about your money more than you, then really all I’m having a relationship with is money. If you care more about the career success of your partner than you do about her, then you don’t really have a relationship with her, just her career. If your mother only takes care of you and puts up with your little alcohol habit because it makes her feel better about herself as a mother, then she doesn’t really have a relationship with you, she has a relationship with feeling good about herself as a mother.
When our relationships are conditional, we don’t really have relationships at all.
We attach ourselves to superficial objects and ideas and then try to live them vicariously through the people we become close to. These conditional relationships then make us even more lonely because no real connection is ever being made.
Conditional relationships also cause us to tolerate being treated poorly. After all, if I’m dating someone because she has a rockin’ bod that impresses all my guy friends, then I’m more likely to allow myself to be treated like crap by her because, after all, I’m not with her for how she treats me, I’m with her to impress others.
Conditional relationships don’t last because the conditions they are based upon never last. And once the conditions are gone, like a rug that’s pulled out from under you, the two people involved will fall and hurt themselves and will have never seen it coming.
What Unconditional Love is
This transitory nature of conditional relationships is usually something people can only see with the passage of a sufficient amount of time. Teenagers are young and just discovering their identities, so it makes sense that they are constantly obsessed with how they measure up to others. But as years go on, most people realize that few people stick around in their lives. And there’s probably a reason for that.
As most people age, most of them come to prioritize unconditional relationships — relationships where each person is accepted unconditionally for whoever he or she is, without additional expectations. This is called “adulthood” and it’s a mystical land that few people, regardless of their age, ever see, much less inhabit.
The trick to “growing up” is to prioritize unconditional relationships, to learn how to appreciate someone despite their flaws, mistakes, bum ideas, and to judge a partner or a friend solely based on how they treat you, not based on how you benefit from them, to see them as an end within themselves rather than a means to some other end.
Unconditional relationships are relationships where both people respect and support each other without any expectation of something in return. To put it another way, each person in the relationship is primarily valued for the relationship itself — the mutual empathy and support — not for their job, status, appearance, success, or anything else.
Unconditional relationships are the only real relationships. They cannot be shaken by the ups and downs of life. They are not altered by superficial benefits and failures. If you and I have an unconditional friendship, it doesn’t matter if I lose my job and move to another country, or you get a sex change and start playing the banjo; you and I will continue to respect and support each other. The relationship is not subjected to the coolness economy where I drop you the second you start hurting my chances to impress others. And I definitely don’t get butthurt if you choose to do something with your life that I wouldn’t choose.
People with conditional relationships never learned to see the people around them in terms of anything other than the benefits they provide. That’s because they likely grew up in an environment where they were only appreciated for the benefits they provided.
Parents, as usual, are often the culprits here. But most parents are not consciously conditional towards their children (in fact, chances are that they were never loved unconditionally by their parents, so they’re just doing all they know how to do). But as with all relationship skills, it starts in the family.
If dad only approved of you when you obeyed his orders; if mom only liked you when you were making good grades; if brother was only nice to you when no one else was around; these things all train you to subconsciously treat yourself as some tool for other people’s benefits. You will then build your future relationships by molding yourself to fit other people’s needs. Not your own. You will also build your relationships by manipulating others to fit your needs rather than take care of them yourself. This is the basis for a toxic relationship.
Conditions cut both ways. You don’t stay friends with a person who is using you to feel better about themselves unless you too are somehow getting some benefit out of the friendship as well. Despite what every girl who posts cheesy Marilyn Monroe quotes on Facebook thinks, you don’t accidentally get suckered into dating someone who uses you for your tits because you’re unconditionally loving yourself. No, you bought into that person’s conditions because you were using them to meet your own conditions.
Most conditional relationships are entered into unconsciously — that is, they are entered into without conscious thought about who this person is or why they like you or what their behavior towards you indicates. You just see their sweet tattoos and envy their rad bike and want to be close to them.
People who enter into conditional relationships enter into them for the simple reason that these relationships feel really good, yet they never stop to question why it feels so good. After all, cocaine feels pretty good, but you don’t run out and buy a bunch the second you see it, do you?
(Don’t answer that.)
Create hypotheticals with your relationships. Ask yourself:
- “If I lost my job, would dad still respect me?”
- “If I stopped giving her money, would mom still love me and accept me?”
- “If I told my wife that I wanted to start a career as a photographer, would it wreck our marriage?”
- “If I stopped having sex with this guy, would he still want to see me?”
- “If I told Jake that I strongly disagree with his decision, would he stop talking to me?”
But you need to also turn around and ask them about yourself, too:
- “If I moved to Kentucky, would I still keep in touch with Paul?”
- “If John didn’t get me free tickets to concerts, would I bother hanging out with him?”
- “If Dad stopped paying for school, would I still go home and visit?”
There are a million hypothetical questions and you should be asking yourself every single one of them. All the time.
Because if any of them ever has an answer other than, “It would change nothing,” then you probably have a conditional relationship on your hands — i.e., you don’t have a real loving relationship where you think you do.
It hurts to admit, I know.
But wait, there’s more!
If you want to remove or repair the conditional relationships in your life and have strong unconditional relationships, you are going to have to piss some people off. What I mean is that you have to stop accepting people’s conditions. And you have to let go of your own.
This invariably involves telling someone close to you “no” in the exact situation they want to hear it the least. It will cause drama. A shit-storm of drama in many cases. After all, what you are doing is you are taking somebody who has been using parts of you to make themselves feel better and denying their ability to do so. Their reaction will be angry and they will blame you. They will say a lot of mean things about you.
But don’t become discouraged. This sort of reaction is just further proof of the conditions on the relationship. A real honest love is willing to respect and accept something it doesn’t want to hear. A conditional love will fight back.
But this drama is necessary. Because one of two things will emerge from it. Either the person will be unable to let go of their conditions and they will therefore remove themselves from your life (which, ultimately, is a good thing in most cases). Or, the person will be forced to appreciate you unconditionally, to love you in spite of the inconveniences you may pose to themselves or their self-esteem.
This is really fucking hard, of course. But relationships are difficult by nature because people are difficult by nature. If life was just all fun and fellatio, then nothing good would ever get done. And no one would ever grow.