5 Meaningful Ways To Show Love
The best things in life are free. Just put a little bit of thought behind your actions and those we love will thank you for it.
by, Lisa Herman, PsyD, LP
I love him, but don’t feel loved back. I think of her, why can’t she think of me in the same way? What do I have to do in order to get them to love me so that I actually FEEL loved?
If you’ve ever asked yourself one of these (or something similar) question about someone you love, you are not alone. The best and most fulfilling emotion hands down is LOVE. It’s also the most fragile and vulnerable. Most people have trouble describing it because it’s so complex, deep and emotional. We grow up thinking that love is in your heart. We just “know” when we love someone.
We love our parents, our friends, our spouse, our kids. Each type of love is ever so slightly different from person to person. Everyone we love (and who loves us back) typically brings out some positive aspects of ourselves – we might even become our best self. We are most comfortable when among those who give and receive our LOVE.
If LOVE is so great, why do so many have trouble engaging in the act of loving those they say they love? A few possibilities include:
- Upbringing. Some people do not grow up within a family where emotional “talk” is the norm. They might feel love, in some ways that is meaningful to them, but maybe it’s inconsistent. Maybe it’s offered in other ways that don’t mean as much. Maybe it’s fragmented love. Bias love. Guilty love. Not every child’s personality/sensitivity is going to be a good match with their parents personality style.
- Trauma. A lot of people experience trauma in their childhoods. Unfortunately, this can sometimes change the brain in an impressionable mind (and heart) as a child grows and their defenses become so great to any future danger that the vulnerability of loving and being loved is too disruptive to their psyche. It’s a protective barrier against future harm (emotionally, physically, etc.). They might want love, but reject love at the same time.
- Lack of training. Showing and receiving love, for many, is a learned skill. Just like riding a bike or playing the guitar. Some might be open to the idea but have no idea where to begin. Teenage years is our practice time and our parents are the guides. If the kids aren’t ready for it or the parents aren’t guiding, it’s ok. The great thing about us humans is that we are able to learn more and more every day if we put our minds to it. It just takes practice (and a good teacher or book!).
True love is without judgement or competition. Ever-lasting love, by the mouths of our elders who have remained together, is known as a choice. The choice to stay together through good times and hardships. The choice to love someone when it seems as though it’s the hardest thing in the world to do. It’s harder to stand down during a fight than fight back to win (which, nobody ever really does). Love is withstanding the ebb and flow between passionate emotional rocky waters and monotonously still rivers and enjoying everything awesome in between.
Ever-lasting love, by the mouths of our elders who have remained together, is know as a choice.
Our job as psychologists is not only to help people understand themselves, gain insight, find new ways to cope, etc., but it is also to show them LOVE. It’s not the same type of love we show our family or friends, but rather it’s the type of love that allows someone to feel heard. To be validated.
Here are 5 ways you can show someone LOVE and model for them how to give LOVE in return:
- Listen. Truly, stop what you are doing, look at them and listen. Listen to hear what they are saying. How they are saying it and what their body language tells you. Hear their truth. To be heard is one of the greatest gifts that is encapsulated inside of meaningful loving relationships.
- Empathize. What might it be like to feel the way they feel? Not what might it be like for you to feel that way (or to have experienced what they experience) but what is it like for THEM? You know your loved one better than most, so the hope is you can think about what their experience might be like, for them and not for you.
- Watch. What do you see, hear, smell, find, etc. when you are not together in conversation. What do you observe or notice about them that is unique to who they are?
- Offer. Only after we listen, empathize, and watch can we offer. By offering I mean giving the other person the type of love that makes them tick. Maybe they like a certain tv show that you tape for them while they are working. Giving them a hug or kiss if they are physically affectionate might bring them joy. Giving them a compliment if that makes them feel good. See them for who they are and offer them what makes them feel loved.
- Accept. Accept who they are and know that we all have positives and human flaws. Perfection doesn’t exist in reality. Loving kindness and acceptance of ones good, bad and ugly parts will never go unfelt by the other. Don’t try to change someone; rather model for them a different path if needed.
These 5 steps are useful not only in romantic relationships, but also for parents to children, teachers to students, therapists to clients, CEO’s to employees. LOVE is versatile and meant to be given and received in many capacities. Which one do you want to focus on today? Go ahead, start loving more today.