Conditional assumptions are based on a syllogism like this:
“If you loved me, you’d pick me up at the subway station after work (or do the dishes, or show more sexual interest, or get home earlier, or help me when I’m tired, or spell me with caring for the kids, or fix things in the house, or finish school so you could get a real job).”
Some other variations:
“If you were a real friend, you’d initiate more often (or just spend some time with me rather than always having something else to do, or take more interest in my problems).”
“If they valued my work here, they’d get me a nicer desk (or give me a raise, or give me a better secretary, or ask what happened when I was sick last week).”
It’s possible to love or care for someone and still not meet his or her needs. Disappointing others does not make one uncaring, and caring doesn’t obligate one to never disappoint. No matter how much someone loves you, that person is still responsible for taking care of his or her own basic needs. That person is still responsible for saying no, setting boundaries, and protecting his or her own limits. “If they cared, if they loved me,” is a setup to make you feel righteous and make the other person feel bad. Truthfully, it’s a strategy for manipulation. But the result is rarely what you might hope. In the long run, making others feel bad doesn’t reinforce them to do what you want, it makes them want to run away, to avoid you.
Exercise: List the times you have disappointed someone you loved or cared for. Remember the times you have had to make difficult choices, when you decided to take care of your own needs over someone else’s. As you think back, notice how little your choice had to do with how much you loved, but rather how much you needed, or how much you were afraid, or how much energy you had.
1. “Disappointing someone doesn’t mean you don’t care.
2. 2. “Our biggest task, no matter how much we love, is to take care of ourselves.”
3. “His or her needs are as legitimate as mine, and we can negotiate.”