Don’t laugh but the idea for this post came about as I watched my dogs frolicking in the grass. You know how dogs are they love attention, they crave it and thrive on it. I love my dogs, they bring me great joy and many hours of pure entertainment. I’m not the lovey dovey type when it comes to my dogs, I love them, I spoil them, I enjoy them, I play with them, I pet them but I have my limits. There are things they aren’t allowed to do, like get on the couch or sleep in bed with me. They really want to do those things, they are very tenacious in their quest to do those things but alas, I’m not having any of it. So, do they know that I love them even though I’m not expressing my love the way they want to be loved?
I know what you’re thinking “oh great, here we go another “men are dogs” comparison…relax, that’s not where this is going. I got to thinking about how we all seem to have a “love meter” we use to measure whether or not we’re loved. I listen to all the stories – both good and bad – about whether the love tank is being filled or not, I can’t help but wonder about how we love, how we express love and how we feel loved. You’d think that would render a simple answer but it’s really complicated if you think about it. How many times have you been in a situation where you think you’re expressing love and you learn your partner feels unloved? We all have different gauges and different drivers that cause us to feel loved versus unloved; while at the same time different expressions and methods of expressing our own love. Fascinating, isn’t it? If it were simple there would be one universally acceptable way to express love and that would be that.
Often in relationships, we feel as if we’re on a different planet, speaking a different language and getting nowhere. Is it possible that you’re being loved even if you’re not being loved the way you think you should be? Is our expectation of love and how others deliver it to us, unreasonable? I think the answer is yes and no. How’s that for clarity? I think that at times, our vision of romantic love is skewed by fairy tales, romantic novels and new relationship euphoria. Is it possible that your idea of how you should be loved is, for example…words of praise and sex every night but her expressions are dinner on the table and watching football on the couch with you? Do you think “yes it’s nice that she does those things, but if she loves me she should know…”? Well, should she? Perhaps. We often start thinking that we’re being taken for granted, “I do all these things for her, all I ask for is _____ and she can’t/won’t”. I believe Gary Chapman calls this the “5 love languages“. Are we trying to figure out what our partner’s language is, or are we just desperately trying to find someone who speaks our own?
When in a relationship I require attention – I’m not going to lie – I enjoy the feeling of being adored, snuggling, sweet messages and being told that I’m beautiful…never gets old. Those things TOTALLY work for me. A few years ago I was in a relationship with a guy that didn’t understand that about me. He expressed his love through gifts and doing anything I needed him to do. If I needed an oil change, he got it done, If I needed my car washed, he got it handled. It was all very sweet but my problem was that I couldn’t get him to snuggle with me, he would never tell me that I’m beautiful or that I looked amazing (even if I didn’t), that just wasn’t in his DNA; yet there I was snuggling with him, telling him how amazing he is and feeling really unappreciated. What was wrong with him? Why didn’t he reciprocate those actions? Well, probably for the same reasons I never jumped up and got his car washed when it needed to be. It just wasn’t an expression that came naturally to me and the same was true for him. Does that mean he didn’t love me? Knowing what I know now, the answer is no. He absolutely loved me, he loved me to the best of his ability. We had no idea that we weren’t meeting each other’s needs because as luck would have it, neither one of us is a mind reader.
I think it’s important to step back and really try to understand how your partner needs to be loved. They probably show you everyday by the way they express their love to you. If she’s a cuddle bug and quick to offer words of encouragement and praise, chances are those are the things she requires to feel loved. If she showers you with gifts and drops everything to be with you chances are a thoughtful, unexpected gift and a bit of quality time will go a long way with her. We don’t have to change who we are and what’s important to us in order to be happy in a relationship but we do have to try to understand who the other person is, what it takes to meet their needs and try to accommodate that every once in while.
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