Love: So much more than 3 little words

April 19, 2012, 7:19 pm

Have you ever complained that the love in your life doesn’t say “I love you” enough? Did it ever occur to you that they might actually be saying it, but in ways you weren’t receptive to hearing? I recently read the book “The 5 Love Languages” and it really drove home that love is a lot more complicated than those 3 little words!

I found myself wishing I’d read the book a lot earlier in my life as I might have avoided several dead-end relationships!! The book made me think about how I express love, but also about all the ways people tell me they love me back. We all crave more love in our life… not just romantic love, but friendship and familial love too. So isn’t it a small tragedy to think that people are telling us they love us in ways we’re too “deaf” to hear?!

The idea that we may not be speaking the same language with our significant other has been visited many times. Books like “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” and even “He’s Just Not That Into You” have touched on ideas that we may have different styles of communication – usually drawn down gender lines. Even Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice had their troubles communicating.  I just always thought, that as I was in the field of communication for work I would automatically be a good at ‘communications’ in my personal life.

We mistakenly assume that if our partners love us they will react and behave in certain ways – the ways we react and behave when we love someone. – John Gray “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”

You can take a test on this website to find out what your dominant love language is. The languages break down as follows:

For some people, the love language is Physical Touch. It’s a gesture; laying a hand on the arm or the shoulder as they pass by or plenty of hugs! For others, it’s much more practical Acts of Service – they’re the ones who help you move or bring over soup when you’re sick. For some, it’s Receiving Gifts, whether regular small treats or big-ticket items. Some are looking for Words of Affirmation – they need to say “I love you” plain and simple. And all some people want is Quality Time. They want you to put down the blackberry, give them your full attention and carve out dedicated time and space for you.

The “The 5 Love Languages” really made me reflect on how I express affection to others, but also how I need to be told I’m loved.  Your love language is not just the one you use to express love to those in your life – it’s also the language you’re most receptive to “hearing” when it’s spoken to you. Somebody who needs to say “I love you” out loud every day, may not pick up on the fact that a partner taking out the garbage or walking the dog is just as much an expression of love as those three words.

“Many husbands and wives who had spent years struggling through marriages they thought were loveless discovered one or both spouses had long been showing love through messages that weren’t getting through.” – Dr. Gary Chapman “The 5 Love Languages”

Thinking about all of this also made me realize how useless it is to compare people: One boyfriend might shower you with big-ticket gifts but never give you the quality time you need. Another might hold your hand always, but find it more difficult to say “I love you” out loud… but the depth of feeling may be the same in each case. The book also helped me understand how my own behaviour might actually hurt somebody or make them feel unloved – when I might be sending a message that I’m “not that into” somebody when I really AM!!

That said, relationships are STILL a minefield of misread signals, crossed wires and subconscious nuances and past baggage. The book “He’s Just Not that Into You” may seem to say the opposite of “The 5 Love Languages” – if you’re not hearing the message loud and clear, then odds are he’s not that into you. Of course (even in the movie version of the book!) it wasn’t always that clear-cut.

I think there’s wisdom in the middle ground between these two books. First, establish that there really is mutual affection. BUT!! Make sure you’re open to all the different ways he might be expressing affection – NOT just the one you want to hear.

“No matter how powerful and real your feelings may be for someone, if that person cannot fully and honestly return them and therefore actively love you back, these feelings mean nothing.”  –  Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo “He’s Just Not That Into You”

And, of course, love isn’t the only emotion that comes with its own language. Indifference may be a subtler language, but trust me if he’s NOT that into you, he’s communicating that too. And there are definitely different ways of saying “I don’t love you” as well. It can be said through meanness and passive aggression, through a lack of touch or withholding.

Enlightening as these ideas are, I admit to still having moments when I really just wish somebody would tell me exactly what I want to hear – that it could all just be so MUCH SIMPLER. But I’m learning that the mode of expression is not as important as what’s actually being expressed. The feeling of security knowing somebody really does care for me is much more valuable that the wrapping it comes in… because only when we feel secure will love truly bloom… it is Spring after all!

XO Natasha