Do You "Love" Differently from Your Partner? Here's What to Do About ItNone By Sharon Salzberg
In our 5-part series, Sharon Salzberg, a world-renowned meditation teacher and author of the new book Real Love, answers your questions about how to truly connect with others.
Question: My husband and I express love differently from each other. How can we better honor the other's love languages and needs if we don't share some of the same ones?
Expressing a desire for a more direct and clear expression of love is a chance for two people to grow closer. One person is revealing a need that only the other person can fulfill. In doing that, they are vulnerable to being rejected, mocked, or even not fully heard. Yet for a relationship to get close and continue to remain strong, these are the kinds of discussions that people who love each other must be brave enough to have.
Maybe you are the kind of person who feels love when someone brings you flowers, but your partner does not do that. Instead, every week, your beloved takes your car to get washed. This might be something your beloved values, but if you’d really rather have flowers, this is something you must express. The person who washes your car has the best of intentions in making this gesture, and feels great expressing love for you. Unless you tell them, this well-intentioned gesture will waste hundreds of dollars and oceans of good feeling.
Bringing this up can be awkward, since no matter how you phrase it, it may feel to your partner that you are rejecting a loving gesture. They may feel hurt by the fact that you have hidden this from them. And they may be angry for the weeks or months or even years of effort that they have put into performing this action that meant more to them than it did to you. This can be a good conversation, though, if you make sure to come from love as you speak, and are as sensitive as you can be in this delicate territory. Once the awkwardness between you has faded, this can be a creative discussion where two people can get to know each other better. After all, if you can communicate something to the one you love exactly as they want to hear it, you have strengthened the bond between you and made you both happy.
If your partner says that flowers every Monday is what makes him or her feel loved, put that in your calendar. Remembering this will not be natural at first, but it will become so over time. As you continue to fulfill this lovely expression, it will become more a part of your life. And if your loved one responds with gratitude, it will be one of the happiest actions of the week.
I also think it is important to continue to have this discussion with those you love. We all change. In love, we can see the changes in each other over time, yet we often do not adjust our behavior to reflect what we see. Perhaps after a few months of flowers every Monday, the significance of this action has started to fade. The flowers seem perfunctory rather than special. Then it is time for the recipient to initiate the conversation about love languages, so the two of you don’t end up speaking past each other in love.
Sharon Salzberg is a central figure in the field of meditation, a world-renowned teacher and NY Times bestselling author. She has played a crucial role in bringing meditation and mindfulness practices to the West and into mainstream culture since 1974, when she first began teaching. She is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA and the author of ten books including NY Times bestseller, Real Happiness, her seminal work, Lovingkindness and her latest release by Flatiron Books, Real Love. For more information, visit SharonSalzberg.com.
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