Linda: One afternoon’s back-to-back appointments demonstrated that different individuals can need strikingly different things in order to feel loved. In the first session, Claire sobbed that she didn’t feel loved by her husband, Matt. He, in turn, expressed bewilderment and frustration, stating that he just couldn’t understand why she was carrying on this way. After being questions further, Claire, still sniffling, said, “You never tell me that you love me.” Matt had been under the impression that making a good living and supporting the family, along with all of the other actions that he took were sufficient to demonstrate his love for his wife. He knew how much he loved her and assumed she knew it too. He was introverted and shy and unaccustomed to speaking openly about his feelings. During the session, with awkwardness and effort, he finally did manage to say, “I love you.” The words were music to Claire’s ears. She hadn’t heard them for years.
The next couple came in grappling with the same issue. Jeanette stated that she did not feel loved by her husband Patrick. She said, “You are always telling me that you love me, but I wish you’d show it with your actions. I hate having to pick up after you all the time. I wish you would pick up your socks, put your dirty dishes in the sink and stop leaving your wet towels on the bed. You say you love me, but you don’t seem to hear a thing I say!” Words were definitely not what she was looking for. She wanted action.
We all have specific ways that we want to experience being loved. We tend to give what we want to receive: we can’t help being subjective. Wise lovers remember to ask each other, pay close attention, and generally act on the input they receive.
Happy couples live with an awareness that things are always changing, and they remain alert to those changes. They never put the relationship on cruise control and continually nurture the relationship. They take good care of it. They live in the important questions. One of the participants said, “I try my best to be a better person today than I was yesterday. I ask my wife all the time, “How can I be a better husband to you.” His wife replied that she’s run out of ideas by now for how he can be a better husband because he has asked so often and acted on all that she offered to him.
In Gary Chapman’s small jewel of a book, The Five Love Languages, he describes the most popular ways people enjoy having love shown: words of affirmation, acts of service, touch, gifts, and how they spend their leisure time. When I sat with my beloved to ask him how I could best love him, we had to add a sixth method to Chapman’s offerings. My husband said, “Let me go.” He’s introverted and loves his solitude. We have a busy, action packed life, carrying a lot of responsibility. He loves to go away on retreat for days at a time and speak to no one, have no expectations of him or any structure, and to follow the natural flow of the wisdom of his body moment to moment. I heard his request for how he wants to be loved by me, and vowed to become “the guardian of his solitude.” I now encourage him to have abundant retreat time, assuring him that I can handle everything in his absence. Since I’ve learned his love language, our relationship has moved into a higher zone of well-being, for which I am deeply grateful.