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Flexibility and freedom in love

April 14th, 2004 · No Comments

Kris Hasson-Jones commented on my post Show me love: leave me sushi:

The intersection between “how I notice the love I’m given” and “how my partner shows love” is precious and fine, but it’s also something most people (IMHO) need to learn. We’re stuffed full of what businesses want us to buy in order to show love, with the ideas of the people who make movies about what is a romantic and appropriate way to show love. We’re corrupted by all that jazz about “if you loved me, you’d read my mind” (which I consider to be one of the most dangerous ideas in modern society).

Both aspects can be changed: I can change how I interpret what my partner does, so that I feel loved, and I can also ask my partner to do some of the things I particularly enjoy as loving acts.

One question I’ve had as I’ve lived life is:
What do I do if the way I want to receive love is different from the way the other person wants to give me love?

I think in our families we often learn to adopt whatever way our parents love us as the definition of love. Maybe it’s cooking special food – or eating food – or pouring out praise or buying gifts or giving back rubs. We accept this definition often without question. Or else we can feel unloved and neglected with our needs unmet by our parents. If mom and dad think making a cake means love but you wish they would write you a poem or give you a hug, it can leave hurt feelings or at the least, crossed wires of communication. It’s all too easy to smother someone with what you think is lavish affection and thereby strangle the relationship by not paying attention to the recipient’s desires.

This happened a bit in my relationship with Ted. When we had only been dating for a few months, I was on break at my home on the West Coast while Ted was taking intense grad school exams on the East Coast. I put together some care packages to send to him. I’m not quite sure what I put in them. Maybe some cookies I had baked. Or cute ones I had bought also. Tea.

What I do remember about the care packages was Ted’s reaction to them. He said that he wasn’t that excited about what I had sent to him but he did enjoy my affection for him. He’s not a cookie connoisseur. My sweetheart lacks a sweet tooth. What he wanted was me, more than a deluge of bakery goodies. He appreciated the care more than the care package.

At first I felt a little hurt. I do like to bake and I’d be happy to bury a boyfriend with all kinds of cookies. Food was a way I learned to show affection in my family. But then I realized it was good for me to learn to love him in a new way. In the way he wanted to be loved. It was better to communicate about our relationship than to continue in ways that one of us didn’t want.

Since then I’ve learned more what Ted likes. He’s learned more what I like. We’re still changing and growing as people and still learning how to give love to each other. And we accept what the other brings as a gift and treasure it for the intention behind it whether or not we feel it is a perfect fit.

As Kris Hasson-Jones wrote, the intersection is indeed “precious and fine” between how I want to receive love and how my partner wants to give me love. Culture does dictate some standards like roses, rings and candy. These purchases may help stimulate the economy but also help ensure that men and women have certain expectations for each other. (I’m not sure whether these stereotypes increase or decrease the risk of rejection in relationship.) “Show me love” often seems to mean “spend money on me”. In this post I was having fun playing with the example the Japanese couple’s love illustrated by the man saving his wife’s favorite sushi for her. (I hope she liked that expression of affection.) But I appreciated Kris Hasson-Jones’ insight.

It is true that we are told by the media, commercials – and the economy – what we need to do to define love (spend$, say the right words at the right time). When in reality, only the two in love can know for themselves what it is that they know as love. Some people who come together probably have an easier time finding that fit – perhaps they speak the same “love languages” as I’ve heard it called. And for others, they have to work it out and risk rejection: change the way they give and receive affection. As Kris Hasson -Jones aptly stated Both aspects can be changed: I can change how I interpret what my partner does, so that I feel loved, and I can also ask my partner to do some of the things I particularly enjoy as loving acts.

I think that in love there should be freedom to ask for what you would like from your lover. But also there should be flexibility to accept what your lover wants to give you. Love allows both.

Tags: marriage