I have thought a lot about love recently. It has been so often that sometimes I wonder if I am obsessed with it, then I realise I have a difficult relationship with. I found that more often, we are in love with the ideal of being in love and just maybe we don’t understand love. You see, for so long I took everyone’s definition of love but never really crafted my own. Really? Yup! Why? It was just easier to absorb what was around me so I had lived by definitions from common places like home, church, community but I have so many questions.
I realised that many of us do not even understand that we all have a love language. A love language is simply how every individual expresses and receives love. According to Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate,” 1992, there are 5 main love languages namely service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. I have seen other lists of up to eight but often they all fit into these 5 and this is where I will remain.
So, imagine with me that my love language is time and my partner’s gifts and neither of us know our languages are different or even try to understand the other person’s language. It doesn’t matter how many gifts he gives me, I will always feel unloved because he doesn’t spend time with me. Again, even as time is important to me if we spend together time just sitting in the same room doing different things, that is not what I need. I need focused time, frequent sessions, time to process, safe spaces where I can be me without judgement. Now…I could actually sit in the corner and whine how he doesn’t listen or care for me, yet he is doing what he knows based on who he is.
Now suppose I don’t take time to understand his love language and never buy him anything but just insist on spending time together, do you think we would have hope to be happy together? Not much. He will be left feeling as deserted and disappointed with the relationship as I am feeling and we will have challenges.
It also fascinated me how many times I hear, ‘Happy wife, happy life.’ Does that mean that men will do whatever makes their wives happy even at the detriment of themselves? How is that a balanced relationship? Children hear their father saying that statement and translate it to mean that you just allow mum to have her way and the home will be happy. Is that really helpful to our children? Not at all. Does that help the mother continually grow and transform into the full likeness of God? Not at all.
Love has to be more than emotions and appeasing one another. It has to be more than selfish demands, it has to be more than extreme displays of affection. It has to be given from a settled person and received by a settled person. However many of us are unable to be that because we do not love ourselves.
I have come to believe that love is so 1 Cor 13, but it must first be applied to myself then others. Do I treat myself in the 1 Cor 13 manner, do I relate with myself that way such that I don’t keep track of all the mistakes I have made and pile the anger and shame on me? Am I eternally hopeful about how my life can be and who God has said I am? Do I apply every element of that passage on myself as self-love? The reality is that if I cannot love myself…I cannot love others.
Love starts with me, then flows out to others. Do you love yourself unconditionally? That is the starting line of true love.