18-year old cancer survivor’s parents are thwarting love relationship?

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Dr. Karen

I really wanted to respond to Adrian (see letter below) because his situation reminded me of my own years ago when I was in University. It is a lengthy letter to me, but if you have the inclination, please read it and my response, and please send positive energy to Adrian…

Dear Dr. Karen

When I was 17 years old I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of lymphatic cancer. While going through my treatments I never gave up hope that I would be fine and I did turn out fine. I am currently 18 and I speak at schools about life and the meaning of positivity in it. My life was put on hold and one major aspect of it had to be held out for even longer, my love life.

I have known, cared and loved this girl for 10 years of my life. We met on a vacation and our families meet each other every year at the same place at the same time for a month. I was planning on telling her how I felt the year that I was diagnosed but unfortunately I was diagnosed 3 days before our vacation and my dreams were crushed. I made a vow that the next year when I was healthy, I would tell her and everything would be perfect. This year came and I did tell her and EVERYTHING went perfect.

I’ve loved this girl ever since I met her and I truly believe that she is the one, the one I will marry. She lives 8 hours away from me, I am in Canada and she is in the US. We’ve always kept in touch and we still keep in touch via Skype and phone. I am willing to do whatever it takes to be with her, anything. She is 4 years older than me.

I talk to my parents about her and they shut me down because it is a ”long distance relationship”. I do not care because I will stop at nothing to be with her. We feel the same way for each other but she is concerned about the period of time it will be for me to honestly be with her. I am considering moving to the states once I am done school to be with her, but for now I must finish school but there will always be time to visit her.

Dr. Karen I love this woman and I want nothing else than to see her and her smile. I cry at night because I cannot be with her right now. She was also asked by a guy to go out on a date and her parents make her think that what we have isn’t ready right now, so that she can still be happy and date guys. When she told me this the only thing I could do was to pray and release my emotions. I told her that she could date him, I just want her to be happy. I told her the saying ”If you love something so much, let it go, if it comes back it was meant to be.” I pray that my parents will allow me to go to the states in December or October, (when I have breaks) and I just want them to understand how dedicated I am. My priorities are school, my family and the girl.

Karen I need advice, please, I want nothing else than to be with her. I need advice on how to deal with this Karen, please. The only factors holding me back from seeing her are time, and my parents. It’s been really tough lately and I just pray that I could see the future.

Adrian

Dear Adrian,

Thanks for your heartfelt letter. I really empathize with your situation Adrian. When I was 19, I went through something similar with my first “love”. As the first-born child, my parents were very protective and when I announced to them I had a new boyfriend, I was heartbroken when instead of being happy for me, they seemed fearful and angry.

From my parent’s reactions, I came to the conclusion that they didn’t trust my judgment. They told me in not so many words that I was “too young” to be truly in love and that I went into the relationship too quickly without really thinking. I was basically taught not to trust my own feelings.

Yikes.

Good thing I know better now, but it has taken me almost two decades to listen to my own intuition and act from that place.

The relationship between myself and my parents suffered a great deal of strain because I stuck to my guns (thank goodness for my stubborn side!). My boyfriend made it “worse” by proposing to me after our first year of dating!

I remember crying A LOT, not because I wasn’t connected to my love, but because I let the criticism from my parents cut through me like a knife. There was little that I wanted more than their loving approval.

That was the “approval-seeking-me” back then.

Despite the years of stress with my parents, I wouldn’t change a thing. We now have a much closer relationship than ever before. I learned so much from my relationship with my first boyfriend (who became my husband). Even though we parted ways after we learned as much as we could from each other (and it was time to move on), I do not regret “going against” my parent’s advice.

Nevertheless, I’m not going to advise you to ditch your parents. What I would do, however, is to demonstrate your maturity by making sure you are acting as lovingly responsible as any 18 year old could be.

When my first love and I had to have a long distance relationship, my parents were pleased because they were certain we would break up. Instead, we grew closer. If you want it, Adrian, you’re going to have to fight for it. You have the advantage that you’ve already been through cancer. I see that as an advantage because you’ve been through a life and death situation. People having gone through cancer often have greater clarity of what is important in our lives.

And there is nothing more important than love.

Please be compassionate towards your parents. They are just scared. They want the best for you, even if they couldn’t possibly know what that is. Here’s a little exercise I want you to do to help your parents trust you a little more.

Do this every day if you can.

It is simple. Tell them how much you appreciate them and why. Appreciation never gets old when it is genuine. I’ve seen miracles happen with this exercise. If you’re too shy, start by writing it daily in a journal, but then work up to saying it via email, text messaging, phone and face-to-face. Are you willing to do this?

Lastly, temper your emotional responses to your parents’ criticism. Don’t take it personally. Know that it is just “their stuff” not yours. They are just projecting onto you their own fears and insecurities when they criticize you. See if you can just feel the love underneath all that. If they don’t allow you to see your girlfriend, just let them know that you feel sad about their decision but you understand that they need to do what they are most comfortable with….

…but then you can decide, at age 18, to go see your girlfriend anyway and prepare for the consequences.

Adrian, this isn’t easy, but you have the wisdom within to tell you what to do. Just do your best to stay respectful of your parents while also being true to yourself. They are going to ask you the hard questions – they are going to test you. If you can’t answer something you can just reflect back to them the issue they are concerned about.

Example:

Parents: You’re too young to be so attached. How long do you think “first loves” really last anyway?

Mature You: It sounds like you’re really concerned about my happiness and don’t want me to be sad or disappointed. Is that right? You know, I really appreciate you for your concern and your love. I’m sure there will be times I will be sad or heartbroken – it’s just part of life, but I also know that you’ve raised me to be strong enough to bounce back from anything like I bounced back from cancer. I just want you to know I’m not scared of being hurt.

Keep praying Adrian. Pray in the way that you already see yourselves together and happy.

This lifetime just happens once. If you died tomorrow, would you regret anything?

I believe in you.

Blessings,
Dr. Karen

P.S. When my baby sister (who is six years younger) announced her engagement, instead of admonishing her, my father said, “It’s about time”. My brother-in-law has NO IDEA what my husband and I went through to make it easy for them! My husband and I paved the way…and we’re happy we did.
P.P.S. Please comment on this post and share your wisdom and thoughts!

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