Too Full to Love

I visited a new Chinese buffet last month. So many options! I ate until I was full beyond reason. Somehow I hoisted my body up into the car (maybe airlifted, I don’t know, I was delirious with sugar and salt) and made it home to my friend, the couch. I sat there completely satisfied and useless to society as I absorbed and rehearsed all the deliciousness I consumed before consciousness left me.

Commercial buffets are ungracious by nature and that’s okay for the most part. Gratitude is given in the form of a cash transaction. But if my aunt had made a buffet, as she often does for holidays, and we didn’t thank her, she’d be quite upset. A simple thanks is nice, but genuine thankfulness with a description of why we’re thankful is even better. “These potatoes are HEAVEN!” It makes her light up with pride in her accomplishments. It makes her feel appreciated and loved, especially when we speak her language.

How often are we loved to the point of such fullness that we sit there and forget to be grateful? Love is a complex matter and different for all people. Feeling full of love is one of life’s best experiences. It makes us want to return the love with gratitude and acts in kind. But returning our most appreciated type of love doesn’t mean our partner is getting full. People feel loved by many different acts. Some appreciate a good cook. Some like physical tenderness. Others need quality time or in-depth communication. Gary Chapman’s book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ expands upon this skillfully and helps to better define how to love your partner in the way they need so they can feel full too…but that’s not my focus today.

I had a long relationship void of the fullness of love. To a large degree it was due to her not meeting my deepest needs (it wasn’t sex, although that’s a fairly common and normal need), but after many years I was able to pinpoint my empty feelings to a couch. I spent tremendous resources discovering what made her full and then cashed them in whenever possible. But I didn’t understand why I wasn’t receiving, nor did I fully comprehend what I did need. There she sat on the couch, full of love, content, secure, with remote in hand and convenience at her side. In his book, Chapman explains the error we make when we try to re-gift love based on our needs, not our partner’s. As the years went on, even her attempts to return her type of love faded. Suffice it to say, my responses were increasingly poor.

Did I make her too comfortable? I wondered. Should I have played hard to get or been more neglectful? No. When I tried these things, they just made her angry and there she sat even longer until I gave in. Over the years that hand that once lovingly stroked my head now lay dormant. Focused on children or a new TV show or a book, I truly believe she forgot who I was until the very end when she fought frantically for something too late.

I don’t think it’s possible for a person to be loved too much. Maybe suffocated sure, but truly loving acts aren’t selfish and should be observant and selfless enough to see when others require space. Am I too full of love to get my butt off that couch and love back the way my partner needs? Have I become too sedentary to take the time to discover the desires of her/his heart? These are concerns that drive me every day to be a better partner. And I let them continue because I don’t want the new her to feel how I felt; alone in a house full of unfocused love.

I’m still deeply afraid of feeling unloved again. I pray someday that fear can be put to rest.

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