Did You Get The Love That You Wanted From Your Parents?

Yeah, me neither. But I got what I needed, in the most unexpected way.

My father is a traditional Chinese man.

He grunts in response to “I love you.” He “doesn’t understand emotions” (his words, not mine) and he processes information like a computer. As a former mechanical engineer and self-taught software developer, he literally thinks in 1’s and 0’s. Right. Wrong. Good. Bad. Acceptable. Unacceptable.

Announcer: Joe Duuuuuuuuuuumars… (there, I just dated myself)

Things didn’t quite work out as planned.

As I was driving my family to campus for my graduation, already wearing my cap and gown, my father sat in the passenger seat of the car, his face cold and angry.

Finally, I stopped trying to fix everyone else and started to work on myself.

I deep dove into the world of therapy and personal development in order to save my own life and sanity. I learned how to feel and express anger in a healthy, non-destructive way. I titrated down the self-sabotaging and bad decisions. I took nine months off from all dating, sex, and relationships (that’s a story for another time) in order to go into a cocoon, completely dissolving myself and all that I thought I knew I was, and building myself into something different from a blueprint of Truth, based on love. For myself first, and only then for others — including my father.

My father didn’t love me the way that I wanted him to love me, but he loved me the best way he knew how.

He gave me all that he could. His maximum capacity for care. More than his own father or mother were able to love him. And I could choose to resent him for it, want him to be different, wish for something more… or I could accept it. I could choose to reject him and what I judged to be not enough, or I could receive it with honor, with appreciation, and with gratitude, knowing that he loved me the very best way he knew how. And I could choose for that to be enough.

We can choose to repeat a cycle of suffering, or we can choose to change it.

Today, during a quiet moment alone with my father at the breakfast table, I told him that I wanted to forgive him for what happened on my graduation day. That I love him, and that I am grateful for him and all that he sacrificed for our family. That I am happy as a therapist, with my chosen lifestyle, and with who I am now. That I accept him, exactly as he is now and as he has always been. Tears welled up and rolled down my cheeks.

Those words may not mean much to others, but they meant everything to me.

The moment I was able to see my father, not as I wished he was, but as he is, he began to see me. Not as he wishes me to be, but as I am.

That being said, strange and wonderful things may begin to happen as you do the work to forgive, heal, and learn to love yourself, first.

Then and only then will you be able to forgive and truly, freely love others. And even if you don’t get the exact results that you want outside of yourself, you’ll finally have freedom inside of yourself. Joy. And deep, unshakable peace.

Asian American therapist specializing in healing codependency, trauma (ancestral, sexual, racial), AAPI thriving, & decolonizing mental health. www.bareivy.com/