Thursday, January 22, 2009

Signs of Love

I have a wonderful relationship with my husband. We have been married for 11 years, and I am still as in love with him now as I was the day we got married. The main four ways that we show our love for each other are:

1. listening to each other and returning a meaningful response
2. striving to meet each other’s needs

3. being trustworthy and dependable
4. being physically affectionate

When my spouse does these four things, I feel and believe that he loves and cares for me. Other people have different ideas about what they accept and expect as signs of love. Some want to be given gifts, or to be allowed certain types of freedom, or to be protected, or to know that their partner does specific things only for them and for no one else. It is important to realize and be conscious of the fact that this is an emotional contract you make with your partner. A mutual understanding and agreement about how you will show your love for one another is the most essential kind of compatibility that you should insist on in a long-term relationship.

I’ve been noticing that when my husband and I have some kind of difficulty in our relationship, or when I have some problem in any another type of relationship, it almost always traces back to my thinking that something this person is doing (or not doing) is a sign that they don’t care about me (or about my feelings). But because different people express love in different ways, I always try to find a small gap of doubt in that conclusion. Never let yourself become convinced beyond any doubt that someone doesn’t care about you. Just assume that your ways of showing love are very different from their ways. If someone is not meeting your essential need to feel loved, why would you want to be with them?

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of first thinking, “I love this person, but they aren’t showing enough signs of caring about me”, followed by “If this person doesn’t love me, maybe I’m not lovable”, followed by “So there must be something wrong with me”, followed by “If I could only get this person to show that he or she loves me, then I will be reassured that I’m really lovable.” This chain of thinking is a big mistake, and a recipe for continued frustration. Never allow yourself to think your way down this path. I’ve done it a few times, and it leads to nothing but pain. Now, I short-circuit this kind thinking right after the first thought. If anyone I love is not showing me recognizable signs of love or affection, then obviously he or she has very different ways of showing love that I do. Trying to get closer to such a person is pointless, because I won’t get any fulfillment from a relationship with someone who doesn’t express love in a way that I can recognize---period, end of story! Of course, I’m still lovable, I’m just not compatible with everyone, and I am free to show my love for others even if I’m not seeing any evidence whatsoever that they’re feeling the same way about me.

It’s been useful too, to realize that when someone is making demands on me, or criticizing me, what they are really saying is, “Show me that you care about me in a way I can recognize because what you’re doing now feels like a lack of love”. Understanding that the action itself is not truly the problem is very liberating. It gives me the freedom to think about our relationship issues from another perspective, and to envision creative solutions. In most relationship situations, people don’t really want control, they want to know that they are loved.

What are the expressions of love that you can understand and relate to? Why are they important to you?


  1. Thank you for this post...I'm going through a break up with someone who i love and feel is a good person but it seemed we just couldn't get it together. I was wondering if it was me but this article has given me a new outlook...i feel relieved after reading it.

  2. Thanks, Francis, for your kind comments. If a romantic relationship is really good, you’ll feel good about it. You’ll feel good about yourself, and you’ll feel good about the person you’re with. Please don’t settle for anything less.