Saturday, April 2, 2016

Love is...

Love is...(insert all of the quotes and poems and information you've ever heard or felt here).

Love may be all or none of those things but I think that Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Langauges, is really trying to get at how each person feels love.  Not only this, but also how giving love in the way a person feels it (or not) can be the difference between a mutual love persisting or not.  As Gary writes: 

People are different. What makes one person feel loved will not necessarily make another person feel loved. By nature, we tend to express love to others in the way we wish they would express love to us. When our spouse doesn't respond positively to our expressions of love, we get frustrated. The problem is not the sincerity of our love; the problem is that we are speaking the wrong love language. If we speak our own love language but not our mate's, we will fail to communicate.

Love, then, is not enough in and of itself, if it is not communicated in a way that the receiver of that love recognizes it.  That is to say, we all have different ways of receiving love, the same way that we all have different ways of learning or receiving information; Some people really need visual information to learn, while others need to be physically involved in the learning process or it will never stick.  The same is true with love, according to Chapman.  Like teachers, lovers also tend to err when they stick to solely teaching or loving others in the way that they themselves learn or receive love the best.  If you learn from simply hearing lectures, it is easy to assume that this is how all of your students will learn, because that is your personal experience with receiving information.  Similarly, in love, if you feel love when other people touch you, it is only natural for you to feel that the best way to express your love for others is through physical touch.  

What Chapman explains, though, is that in love, there are five major modes of expressing love that trigger a receiver to feel the love that you are giving: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, and Physical Touch.  Each of us tends to feel love when it is shown in certain of these categories, while when love is shown to us via the means of a different category, it's as if the lover were simply talking about the color of the wall; it just doesn't translate for us.  

For this reason, understanding and communicating to your partner about what makes you feel love is really important, not only for your satisfaction, but also for theirs.  Imagine the confusion and stress it must cause to be giving love in the way you think another person should understand, but having that person tell you they feel unloved.  It would certainly be frustrating and hurtful to feel that the person you love feels unloved even despite all of your efforts.  We all know that loving (in any of these modes) takes a lot of courage! Your partner or yourself may feel like your efforts to show your love are unappreciated when in reality they might simply not be translating for the other person in the relationship since it isn't their "love reception style" the same as hearing lectures isn't my learning style and will never translate into useful or memorable information for me because it just doesn't.  If you give me gifts, while I appreciate them, they don't necessarily make me feel more loved.

I highly encourage you to do this exercise with the people that you love;  Take a look at the brief online series that gives the background and basics of the love languages.  If you are feeling that there is no hope, be sure to read the whole thing, anyways and to remember your unconditional love.  When we are feeling unloved or unappreciated, we often shut down or push others away.  The love languages can also be a way to open both ourselves and others up again; it may not be immediate or a joint venture to speak the love language of your partner, but if you find resistance about opening up or seeking help to better your relationships, there are ways to interpret the negativity from our partners to find out what their love language(s) is (are) and to start using those in our communication in order to get back to a place where our own love languages can be understood and expressed back to us.

Love is... complicated, complex, different for everyone, received differently by each individual, can be directed and expressed in many ways for many people...the list goes on.  Find your love language, find the love language of those you care about.  Help others to feel the love you give, and help them to know the best ways to communicate their love to you and then love can really be like "all of the quotes and poems and information you've ever heard or felt."