“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” — Morrie Schwartz
If I think back to my earliest memories of love, it was never something you received but always an action you did because of it. I love my parents, so I take care of them and do what I’m told. I love my friends, so I help them out when they ask. I love my partner, so I do whatever I can to keep him happy. But what it means to be on the receiving end, I have no idea what that even looks like.
I Could Blame My Childhood
I watch people with their kids all the time, especially after I get to know them. I want to know how they treat their children. Are they ambivalent? Extra lovey? Are they a mix of both depending on their mood?
I don’t remember getting hugs as a child or being told I love you. Everyone in my house was cold and distant, so it’s no surprise that I ended up the same way. All my ideas of what relationships should look like came from Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel. And what I learned was, leave if he beats you up, and that if a man likes you, he’ll screw up something, you’ll break up, but then get back together in the end and live happily ever after.
My idea of what love is is a bit skewed.
I Don’t Have A Love Language
My partner and I read the book by Gary Chapman about the love languages. We even went so far as to take the test, and what I learned wasn’t a surprise to me. My partner’s love language was words of affirmation with a dash of service. He appreciates when you do things for him, but if you want to show him how much he is loved, he needs to hear it.
When I took the test, I just randomly picked answers because there wasn’t a choice that suited me. It’s nice when someone plans something for me, but it doesn’t tell me that I’m loved. It’s nice when someone says it, but people say I love you all the time and don’t mean it. I enjoy getting gifts, but all a present says is that I’m thinking of you or I’ve done something wrong, and I’m trying to make up for it.
What I learned from taking the Love Languages test was that I don’t have a love language. So how can I expect to feel loved?
When you let someone in all the way, there’s always that fear that what happened before will reoccur. I’ve been in a few relationships that weren’t the greatest. They were controlling, emotionally abusive, and physically abusive, or they just lied and consistently used me. While I know, that’s all in the past those former hurts all leave a mark, and the scar tissue that forms around your heart can make it hard to be so vulnerable again.
The problem with falling in love is that you meet someone, halfway through their life, carrying all of life’s little heartaches. My suitcases are filled to the brim with pain, loss, resentment, anger, self-deprecation, self-loathing, and depression. The mere fact that anyone would want to help me carry all that boggles my mind and yet my partner does.
The Lack of Self Esteem
I don’t love myself. I tear myself apart daily and have done so for as long as I can remember. I was different in an age where different wasn’t as celebrated as it is now. I was bullied and just sort of internalized all of the things they said about me until it became my mantra.
I am ugly because they said I am.
I’m too thin.
I’m too smart for my own good.
I’m trying to be something I’m not.
I’m hard to love.
And I believed everything that was ever said about me because I never had anyone tell me any different as a child.
For forty years, I’ve told myself that I’m a failure. I’m ugly. My body is unappealing and that I’m unlovable. And I believe it even though I have people around me who now constantly tell me otherwise. The conditioning of thirty years is a hard habit to break.
Those Who Can’t Receive, Give.
I’m a giver. I’m one of those people that will give you their last dollar when they’re hungry. The shirt off my back, take it, it’s yours. I’ll gladly put my career on hold to help you with yours. I’ll buy people stuff until I’m broke. That’s how I show my love and affection. It’s the only way I know how. I will pour out all of the love I wish I were able to receive onto others so that they never have to feel how I do.
But no matter how much I give or help, it never fills the void that comes from being able to let their love and appreciation in. I have to do the hard work on loving myself because the cliché is true. You can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself. I love my family, but because of the walls surrounding me, I’ll never feel connected to them until I rip them down and accept myself.