Yes, You Do Need to Teach Your Partner How to Love You
The memes are wrong. You do need to teach your partner how to love you. And they need to do the same.
I once dated a guy who took great pride in how much money he could drop on a single date. There was the night he took me out for a $250 dinner (not including the tip) and then dropped another $60 on movie tickets after — and that was after driving us an hour and a half from the town we lived in to get to the restaurant and theater. Don’t get me wrong — it was a really nice date. But I’m the kind of woman who can be happy with a picnic in the park with deli subs.
I told him multiple times that I didn’t need the extravagant dates. I wanted his time and attention. I wanted to go for walks in the park, sit on the couch and watch movies while we ate popcorn, or spend a few minutes on the phone with him before we went to sleep at night. I wanted to sleep in on lazy weekends and snuggle together before getting up and having a late breakfast.
There were a lot of other things that contributed to the demise of that relationship, but his refusal to hear me and my requests didn’t help.
But the key takeaway from that story? I told him what I needed.
People aren’t mind readers
There are a variety of memes out there on this idea. They say things like how you shouldn’t teach your boyfriend to be your boyfriend, or that you shouldn’t have to tell him to bring you flowers or plan dates. And those are nice little fantasies. They’re the kind of things I would have bought into when I was a teenager who still dotted my i’s with hearts.
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But now I’m a grown woman. I’m 41, divorced, and have survived more than one abusive relationship. And I’ve learned many lessons from the last couple of decades of dating and relationships, and perhaps one of the biggest is that people are not mind readers.
They don’t know what you want if you don’t tell them. They can’t give you what you want if they don’t know what you want.
Consider this: when you go out to eat, the waiter doesn’t just bring you a plate of food and expect you to eat it, right? They bring you a menu, give you some time to look it over, then ask you what you want. Then they bring you a plate of exactly what you asked for. You’re not angry they didn’t know what you wanted until you told them.
Dating and relationships are no different. The only way our partners can know what we want is if we tell them — but you don’t need to wait for them to ask.
Getting to know you
After decades in a relationship, you should know your partner well enough to know how they need to be loved. To be married for 60 years and still not know how to love your partner would be a bad thing. But the memes you see and the ideas being perpetuated by them give the impression that someone should instinctively, from day one, know how to love you.
But again, let’s think about something here. If you’re still learning what someone’s favorite color is, or how they like their steak, is it really reasonable to expect that you would know that physical affection is the best way to show them love or that acts of service mean more to them than anything? Of course not!
These memes also imply that all women want the same thing. They talk about planning dates, bringing flowers, texting, showing you off, etc. But who says all women want those things? I, for one, don’t want to be “shown off.” I’m not a show pony, and I don’t want all the details of my relationship on display for the world to see. Some people don’t want texts, they want phone calls. Others prefer spontaneous dates where they see where the day/night takes them instead of some meticulously planned and timed date.
Do you really want your partner bringing you random flowers because he thinks that’s what all women want? Or do you want him to bring you soft pink tulips because he knows that those are your favorite flowers?
Teach your significant other how to love you
You don’t need to get out a chalkboard and a ruler to teach your significant other how to love you. But you do need to be willing to have open and honest communication with them about what you need.
Tell them what they do that you enjoy, and what they don’t do that you would also enjoy. Be honest about what they do that isn’t working for you — whether it’s simply that it doesn’t have any effect on you, or it’s something that you truly don’t like.
Just as children only learn how to eat, dress themselves or use the potty because we teach them, people learn how to love us because we teach them. We tell them what matters to us. We tell them what makes us feel loved, special, cherished, or treasured.
If we don’t tell them? They don’t know. And if they don’t know, then we can’t get upset with them when they don’t do those things for us.
We’re not talking about offering university credit for a semester long course where they take notes for an hour a week on you. What we are talking about is not playing games.
Not sure what to teach them?
What if you don’t know what you want? Sometimes we don’t fully realize ourselves how we need to be loved. If you don’t know what you want, then of course you’re going to struggle to tell someone else. But all is not lost.
If you’re not sure what you want, try asking yourself these questions:
· What words or actions have made you feel adored in past relationships?
· What things has your significant other done that make you feel loved?
· When you see other happy couples, what about them do you envy or wish you had?
· When you watch a movie or TV show or read a book, what do the characters say or do that you wish your partner would say or do?
You can also try approaching it from the opposite side: What things definitely don’t make you feel loved? It might be easier to explain what you don’t want, and then explore what’s left to find what you do.
What the memes should say
While I don’t agree with them as they are, a little alteration would make those memes right.
You do need to teach your partner what you want. But you shouldn’t have to keep teaching them.
The idea that if they love you, they should just instinctively know what to do to show you that love is misguided. But the idea that if they love you, they will do the things you tell them will make you feel loved is not misguided.
If they really love you, they will remember and act on the information that you love Ghirardelli chocolates, enjoy foot rubs, or enjoy a bath with candles, soft music, and a glass of wine. They’ll remember and act on the knowledge that you like to be woken up gently, cooking you dinner makes you feel special, or you prefer quiet nights at home over expensive late nights out.
Those are the real signs of love. When someone takes the time to listen when you give them the information and then uses it, that’s how you know they love you.
Don’t hold them up to some unreasonable standard based on a meme. Don’t expect people to just know. Be a real person, in a real relationship, and tell your partner what you want, what you need, and what you’re looking for.
That’s how you get a healthy, happy love story that lasts a lifetime.
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