How do You Know You’re Loved?
One of the most common mistakes people make in relationships is to relate to other people as if what’s important to them in a relationship is the same as what’s important to the other people. According to Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages,” that simply isn’t true.
Some people love being told they’re loved, liked or valued. Others want to see that they’re loved, liked or valued in the form of gifts. Others like it expressed in actions. Others prefer to have their affection expressed physically.
If what’s important to you is being told that you’re loved, it’s only natural that you’ll assume the same is true with your loved ones. Yet if their definition of love is a lot of hugs, it’s entirely possible that they won’t feel loved at all, no matter how much love you feel like you’re expressing.
It also works in the reverse. You can feel like someone else doesn’t love you, like you or trust you simply because they’re not expressing love, trust or affection in the way that your brain is programmed to understand it.
So, how do you know you’re loved? It’s an interesting question isn’t it?
I had a conversation the other week with some friends of mine who’d hit a bit of a rough patch in their relationship. He complained that no matter what he did he couldn’t seem to get things right, he loved his partner, but somehow she wasn’t “getting it”. She still found fault and complained that he didn’t show her he loved her.
“But I tell her I love her nearly every day” he protested, “it’s not my fault if she doesn’t believe me.” They were both getting frustrated and communication between them had degenerated to a bare minimum to make life function without arguing and falling out with each other.
This set me thinking and I was talking to my husband about it later in the day. We decided to have some fun and take time to write down all the things that made us feel loved by the other.
My list went something like:
When I get home from work and you’ve laid the dinner table with flowers and a candle and I can smell the dinner cooking.
You’ve made the effort to make sure the house is clean and tidy when I get home.
When you come up to me whilst I’m clearing up in the kitchen and give me a spontaneous hug and kiss.
The way your arm goes round me and pulls me to you for a cuddle every night in bed.
The way you listen and let me talk things through if I’m upset about something.
When you pay me compliments and tell me I look lovely, even when I think I look a mess.
When you organise surprise treats for me.
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His list went something like:
I come home from work and you’ve cooked my favourite meal. (You can see a theme here!)
My shirts have been ironed and are hanging in my wardrobe.
You make the (healthy) chocolate dessert I like.
The way you appreciate the things that I do and let me know how much you value them.
You always hold my hand when we’re out together.
The way you snuggle up to me in bed.
That you listen and offer suggestions, but you don’t criticise.
This set us thinking about times when we hadn’t felt in tune with each other. Picking up on my first two points, my husband asked me how I felt if I got home and there was no dinner and the house was a mess.
I realised that I felt he just didn’t care enough to make the effort for me, even though he knew I’d had a long day at work. Ah! Light bulb moment – “so that’s why you get a bit stroppy with me?” YES!
A lack of spontaneous hugs and kisses was “telling me” that he didn’t love me and so my defensive shields went up!
Our brains tend to operate in quite black and white terms, especially in the way it gives meaning to external events. My gut response to lack of dinner/untidy house was “he doesn’t care”. And of course, your gut is where you process all emotions!
Looking at my husband’s list, it was quite an eye opener for me to read that ironing his shirts told him that he’s loved! It certainly gives new meaning to ironing his clothes – it’s now less a chore, more an expression of love.
I also realised why he’d look so hurt when I told him one time that he’d got something wrong and he’d made a bad mistake.
I suggested to our friends that they might try this exercise. It was very revealing for them. He found out that telling his partner he loved her wasn’t doing it for her at all. She wanted a cup of tea in bed in the morning – to prepare meals together without having to ask him – for him to make the effort to put his clothes away and make their bedroom a tidy, welcoming space. There were other things too – but we’ll keep those private!
The upshot was, that once he realised how to let his partner know he loved her, he could make sure he did the “love behaviours” more often and avoid their opposites – like leaving his dirty clothes on the floor!
Simple things, they cost nothing except time and a willingness to be thoughtful about the other and show love, yet the difference it made was astonishing!
Even if you feel you have a great relationship now, it’s worth doing this exercise with your partner or significant other. You may be pleasantly surprised what you learn and how it can help deepen you relationship and the connection you have with each other