This is the question I left off with in my last post WAY back in September.
How do you let others love you?
Years ago I read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. Actually, no I didn’t. I read “The Five Love Languages for Singles” (insert groan here). If you haven’t read the book I do recommend it… kinda.
The book outlines five ways to express and experience love which the writer calls “love languages”: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch. The theory is we all respond to “I love you” in 5 varied ways. Not just in the romantic setting, but in all of our relationships.
For instance, my mother couldn’t care less if you bought her an expensive gift you put a lot of thought into, but make her dinner? Whoa – that’s speaking her language. Her primary love language is acts of service. Her whole life has been in service to others so when others devote time and effort to her she feels loved.
My primary love language? Physical touch. I respond quite happily to all the languages to be honest, but a hug is my go-to. I give plenty of them. Well, I used to. I used to be able to “show” my love with hugs etc. but as time has gone by I find this love language is not as available anymore. Maybe it’s being single and having to explain “No, I’m not making a pass at you, it’s just how I love others” or maybe it’s just society has become a colder, more aloof place. I don’t know.
I do know it has changed how I let people love me and how I love them.
(Let’s stop and rest on this for a second. That word: Love. We use one word to describe something complex and beyond just sexual/relational desire. The Greeks have six words for love. I wish we did, too. Needless to say, when I say letting people love me and my loving them romance is the least of my meaning.)
What do you do when your love language has been rendered uncomfortable?
Pack it all up and look for another way. I “get” what Chapman is saying with the love languages, but to be honest isn’t real love about letting others love you their way?
How do I let others love me? Authenticity.
And I’ll be the first to admit I am HORRIBLE at this. Completely dreadful. As I’ve written previously, my life from the get-go has been a battle to be loved and accepted. I have fought to be included my entire existence. And let me tell you, that’s not attractive. Most of all, it’s not authentic. I don’t know where I got it in my mind that I was so unattractive inside and out. That I had to put on a show to be welcomed into friendship. But I did and I suffered under it.
(The wonderful thing about getting older is you start to care less what other people think of you. When you do, you become naturally more authentic. You look back at all that effort and striving and fighting and all you remember is being tired. Exhausted. I love this stage.)
Yet still, holding me back is the real sharing of burdens. I’m great with the surface. “Yeah, I could use a few more regular clients.” I’m not good at expressing the deep stuff. The “oh-my-goodness I don’t think I’m going to make it another week in this situation” problems. You know what I mean. The dark stuff. The terrors of doing life alone. The devastation of rejection. The fear of “it” being too late – whatever “it” is. The “maybe I’m not good enough’s” and the “please somebody love me’s.” I’m not going to just throw out my stuff to anyone, but I’m learning who I can trust. Who is really invested in my friendship and slowly they get to see depths.
How do I let others love me? In light of past rejection and betrayal? I’m not sure yet. I know there is trust involved. And not just a little bit of wisdom. I walk gently. I gauge the way a person has treated me in the past. And I risk. The hardest part. I choose to risk and allow them to love me. And to risk and let myself love them back.