By: Zuleida Herba

Somewhere in my decades old subconscious, I have a memory of being somewhere in the age range of 9 years old and throwing some kind of pre-adolescent temper tantrum. (Well, actually I’m sure that I had more than one of those, bless my parents). It was the kind of tantrum where I was determined to make everyone in the house as miserable as I was.   But in this particular memory, I must have been making every one in my home a little crazy that day. The situation must have gotten to a point of no return because my mom had to step in, but I don’t remember many other details. The only thing I clearly remember is what she said to me that day. It is a thought that is lasered permanently in my psyche. She said to me, “Zuleida, you would treat strangers better than you are treating your own family today.”

The truth of that statement hit me hard, in that moment, in a very good way. It stopped me dead in my tracks and gave me pause. Was what she was saying true? Yes! I would have been more polite and loving to someone who I didn’t know in those moments. Actually, if I were honest, I would probably have stopped treating my family so badly if a stranger had simply stepped in to witness how badly I was acting. I might have snapped to better behavior quickly! So what did that say about me? Simply, I cared more about what people who didn’t love me thought then the ones that did.

love a stranger

Well, in my mind, that wasn’t cool. It represented a violation of integrity and principles to me. I wanted to love the people I loved the most, the best! But here I was, treating the people I loved the worst. I was treating them worse than I would treat a stranger on the street. And I had to think about ‘why’.

I see now looking back that at least part of the reason was that I had become comfortable with and taken for granted the safety I found in relationship with my family. Even if I could give myself credit for having a legitimate reason to be upset with my family, I certainly wasn’t handling it in a way that would bring about a resolution. If I was really being honest, I was abusing people that I loved and cared about, in order to get my way. I was not inviting them into discussion and relationship. I was hindering it.

I was nine years old at the time of that memory, but every day I meet adults in the counseling room who struggle to love the people they love the most, better than they love strangers. Let me take that a step further and say – for most of us in relationship, it can be a struggle to love those we are closer to better than we love a stranger. We will walk into a grocery store and be more courteous with the check out person than we are with our life partner or our children.   At some point, all of us will experience being in relationship with unmet expectations. Instead of sitting down to have a discussion about our needs and wants, we revert to 9 year old tantrum behavior. The problem is, 9 year old tantrum behavior on a 20 or 30 something is not only unbecoming, it can cause really deep damage to the relationship and the parties involved.

When you find yourself face to face with frustration in relationship, it may help to remember to do a little mind reversal. Begin with asking yourself, have I treated this person well? Have I treated them as well as I would someone I wanted to make an impression on? Have I been polite and respectful as I approach them, or have I taken them and the safety I feel with them for granted? If the answer is the latter, it may be time to make a sincere apology and start fresh with a new concept of how to love your loved ones better than you love strangers.

If any of this information connect with you and you are looking for additional help. Life Counseling Solutions is here for guidance and support. Call today to schedule an individual counseling service at 407-622-1770 or click here to book an appointment online.