We all just want to be loved.
I remember when I realized my marriage was really tanking. I mean, when it hit me square between the eyes and knocked me back a few steps. It was at the exact moment that I knew I wanted more out of life. I realized coexisting wasn’t going to cut it for me any longer. I wanted to start with therapy, but came up against a brick wall to that option. So, I did what I knew best, I picked up a book. And then another, and another, and another.
I read a few and got nowhere. A friend of mine introduced me to “The Love Dare,” a book with actions every day for 40 days to show your spouse unconditional love. I hadn’t told my ex I was doing it, in hopes that an outpouring of love would cause even a tiny shift in our marriage. I quit on day 13 when I was overwhelmingly discouraged. I read a few more. I went to therapy alone. And then I discovered love languages.
“The Five Love Languages” is a book by Gary Chapman that categorizes how different people feel love. The book outlines words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch as the five ways we connect with others. I read the book, took the quiz to find my love language, and found I felt most loved when acts of service were at the top of the list. I mean at the time I was managing 12-hour shift work with toddlers, and I just wanted the bed made, dirty socks in the hamper, and maybe an occasional, “hey I got bath time tonight babe.” I also needed words of affirmation, in fact I was desperate for a verbal high five. Just a quick shout out to acknowledge adulting was hard and at least the kids were fed and (somewhat) clean.
Anyhoo, you all know how that turned out. Our languages were about as different as Mandarin and Pig Latin. The funny thing is, we often show our loved ones the languages that WE wish were reciprocated. So here I was cheerleading with my words of affirmation and getting shit done with all my service this and service that, and not getting it return left me to feel lonely, pissed off, and unloved. But wow, did that book caused a huge pivot (like a Ross from “Friends” PIVOT!) in my life.
When my marriage ended and the aftermath looked a little less like a forest fire went through, I started thinking more about how I wanted to be loved. I started picturing what it would look like. I had boomeranged into another relationship by this time but realized I was repeating myself. The person couldn’t have been more different than the one I had married, but once again, none of my needs for connection were being met. Everything ended when it hit me, there would always be a fuzzy connection and I didn’t want to settle for anything less than crystal clear.
I also started noticing how my kids most needed to feel loved. And my friends. And my sister and my parents. I had started to build a business by this time, and the languages became so apparent with the new relationships I was growing. I observed the needs of my patients who came to me for medical needs, yet also were looking for kinship. People, all people, just want to be loved. And if we don’t love them the right way, they will find someone who does. I did.
Funny story, now that I have found someone who truly GETS me, my language is a little different. Acts of service are still great, guys he makes my dinner! And I need the affirmations at times. But now, I crave the quality time because of the joy I feel from someone who listens but also respects the silence, who holds my hand but gives me the alone time I crave, who tells me how amazing I am but also calls me on my BS, who knows when I can’t pile on one more to-do list item and just does the damn thing.
Take those relationships that matter – at home, with your family, your close friends, your coworkers/business partners/team members/clients – and start to see them for their language. Do they light up when you send an unexpected gift? Do you see them stand taller when you give a compliment? In fact, ask them to find out their love language so you can connect more truly (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/-yes you should do it to). Relationships don’t have to be hard (could I tell my 25-year-old self this please?!). Love each other, that’s it. Start by finding out how. And I don’t know what Gary Chapman’s love language is, but that guy deserves some words of affirmation for his insight!