Do you know how you want to be loved? What if a man loves you, but not quite the way you want to be loved? Will you stick with him, thinking that you can teach him how you want to be loved? Has that worked?
I’ve been fortunate enough in my 2.5 years of dating to have a few men fall for me. While I was fond of them and loved elements of each one, I was not in love. As that old adage goes, “Love is not enough.” We know that can mean lots of things, but let’s take just one element — being loved is not enough. You have to feel loved — loved in a way that feels like love to you. How someone expresses his love for you may not feel like love to you. I know, this seems convoluted.
Let me elaborate.
Early on in my marriage, my then-hubby and I would design a quarterly relationship retreat — just him and me. We’d drive to a hotel for the weekend and part of the activities included working on our relationship. (Too bad we didn’t keep up this practice for the next 20 years!) One of the most memorable exercises was this simple one. We each silently wrote our responses to these two questions:
- Here’s what I do that I believe shows my love for you
- Here’s what you do that I feel shows your love for me
After writing our responses, we shared. The answers were astonishing to each of us.
- I take care of our bill paying
- I prepare home-cooked meals that I know you like
- I have your vodka and tonic chilled and waiting for you when you arrive home
It turns out none of these things — and many of the others I listed — were significant to him. So I was busting my tush to go out of my way to do these things to show him I loved him, and they didn’t show up as love at all to him!
On his list of how he felt I showed him I loved him was one I would have never guessed:
You come out of your office and give me a hug soon after I announce I’m home.
I worked from home, so I was often in my office when he arrived home. I’d just call out “hello” in response to his “I’m home.” It turned out that he wanted a physical connection — a hug and kiss — when he arrived home. He was a kinesthetic type and touch was very important to him to feel connected. When I learned this, I nearly always made sure to hug him hello. If I was on the phone when he came in and forgot to hug him, we noticed we were more on edge with each other that evening.
When he learned that his periodic gift of flowers felt like love to me, he increased his frequency. He also asked about my favorite flowers, and began to select dual-toned, unusual ones, rather than just daisies, carnations and red roses. I was feeling more loved as he was going out of his way to learn what I liked and give it to me.
This exercise taught us to talk about what the other did that felt like love. And it allowed us to see if what we were doing was showing up as an expression of love to the other. And when it didn’t, we could ditch it or do it if we wanted, but not to expect the other would feel warm and tingly because of it. It also headed off those resentful arguments, like, “But I spend hours fixing dinner for you each night” when the other would just as soon open a can of soup or have take out.
It would be great if the guy you’re dating intuitively knew how you like to be loved, but the recipe for each person is different. For some women, regular calls, sweet emails, occasional flowers and cards signify love. For others, none of that is important. The key is to know what exemplifies love to you, and be willing to do the exercise above when you’ve been dating a guy for a while. You will both clarify how to show the other you care, and refine your love strategies.
And of course, be appreciative of whatever he does to show his fondness toward you. Also, both parties need to be open to refinements.
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