Reality Check: Demonstrations of Love

Dr. Wm. Glasser says that all humans need love and belonging. Some people need a lot; others not so much, but everybody has this genetic need. We have other genetic needs too, but for now, we’ll just look at love.

When you love someone, how do you show it? Conversely, how do you know that you are loved? What do you perceive to be demonstrations of love?

Romantic Ronnie delights in showering Rhonda with flowers, perfume, and jewels. They really can’t afford it, but for Ronnie, love means “live for today” and nothing is too good for his Rhonda.

While Ronnie is bringing home yet another romantic trinket, Rhonda worries about the bills. But buying things for her seems so important to Ronnie that Rhonda doesn’t tell him that she’d find it more romantic to use that money to pay off the electric bill.

Next door, practical Pete bought Paula a new set of tire chains and membership in an emergency car association for Christmas. He knows how Paula fears getting stuck in the snow. Because he loves her, he wants her to feel protected when driving.

Paula appreciates the thought that Pete put into this gift idea. It goes nicely with the battery charger and the winter parka that she received last year. However, Paula thinks it would be nice to occasionally receive something a little frivolous, like a bouquet of roses. Or even one carnation…

Early in their relationships, both women were delighted by how their lover chose to demonstrate love. Rhonda felt pampered by Ronnie’s extravagance. Paula felt comforted by Pete’s focus on her security.

However, as time went on, their perceptions of what love looks like changed.

Different people have different ways of showing love. For Pete, a loving gesture is checking the air pressure in Paula’s tires before she leaves for work. For Ronnie, a loving gesture is buying yet another “You’re the greatest!” plaque.

These different perceptions of what “to be loving” looks like can result in dissatisfaction. If one person perceives an action as loving but the other perceives it otherwise, both are unhappy. What do you do?

You know we can only control our own actions, right?

If your mate (or others in your life) don’t seem to express love, look again. For some like Pete, love means doing useful things for the people they love. When your son stops by to take out your garbage, for example, that may be as much a demonstration of love as if he brought you flowers.

You have the choice to perceive an action as loving or not (within reason, of course.) And choosing to interpret a wide range of actions as evidence of love may help you be more aware of and grateful for the love in your life.

When you want to show someone that you love them, keep their wants in mind.

What if you don’t know what they want?

Asking, followed by listening to the answer, is a wonderful way to gain information. If Ronnie would ask Rhonda, “What would you like?” he might be shocked to hear that she’d like the electric bill paid. If Pete asked Paula, he might be amazed to hear, “I’d occasionally like to receive a flower.”

If you focus on the other person, then you will be better equipped to demonstrate your love in ways that they perceive as loving.

How do you demonstrate love?

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