The Quest To Understand Love
The next day I jotted down how many times I use the word “love” to describe how I feel about something. I “love” my husband and kids, my family and friends. I “love” buttered movie popcorn (thank you, Food Network, for removing the butter stigma/shame/guilt for all of womankind!). I “love” teaching and writing and autumn and the prairie and college football and classical music and Donny Osmond (hey, it happens) and Starbuck’s iced tea and the sound of a newborn’s cry.
As I thought about it, it seemed to me that I “loved” anyone and anything that didn’t make me sad or mad. And that didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
So I continued my quest and searched the thesaurus to see how “love” is defined. It looked like the dictionary/thesaurus gurus didn’t have any more insight than I did because this crazy little thing called love has been given over 20 different definitions! For example, when I say I “love” chocolate, what I’m really saying is that I have a weakness for chocolate. That I’m fond of chocolate. And that I’m devoted to or adore chocolate (Welch, 2012).
Then it dawned on me—most of the time I tend to use the word “love” when I really mean that I prefer something, or enjoy something, or like something.
Back to square one. Back to the original problem: In the English language we only have one word for love. And because of this limitation, when we say, “I love you” to someone, we almost always assume that they assign the same meaning or definition to “love” as we do.
And for most people, that’s the ground-zero problem in their intimate relationships and marriages.
I had a Southern Mamma, and a person couldn’t walk through the room without her saying, “luv ya!” We were a lovey, touchy, kissy, huggy, feely kind of family. But my husband’s family…well, that’s another story. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this about my husband’s upbringing.
Fast-forward several months into our dating relationship, to when I decided it was time that someone in the relationship said “I love you.”
I did. First.
And he responded.
Several seconds later.
Several seconds later.
Over time he tried to express his love for me. But it always seemed to fall short of what I was accustomed to, what I was taught by my parents and family what love and expressing love is. Hurt, frustration, emptiness, and believing that my love needs weren’t being met, I questioned every aspect of my relationship with him.
Over time I realized that the way he loved wasn’t his fault. He was expressing his love for me the only way he knew how—the way he was taught to love by his parents and family.
You see love isn’t something you experience or feel. It’s not something you do for another person. It’s not words that you say.
~Love is who you are.~
As you can imagine, love and loving are complicated, complex processes that are influenced and impacted by a number of forces, but most especially by the parents who raise us. So, how do we come to our understanding of love? How does your child develop her love map?