Are You Really Ready for Love? The Capacity to Receive Love
- Friday, February 02, 2007
We are well on our way to discovering, and hopefully developing, the traits needed to really be ready for love. How are you faring so far? Are you letting go of the desire to influence, control, manipulate or even coerce your mate into being that exact specimen of loveliness you had originally imagined? Are you ready to accept and love him or her for who they are? Are you able to express love freely in word and action? If so, you may be ready for the next task on your way to readiness for love: the capacity to receive love.
Some of you may be surprised at this one. How did it get on the list? Isn’t everyone ready and able to receive love? Aren’t we all self-centered individuals constantly seeking someone to love us? Yes, and no.
The truth of the matter is that many have not developed the skill to openly discuss their “love languages” – what is hoped for and expected as far as expressions of love – and so do not know how to even really ask for love. While it may seem simple, helping someone to know how to offer us love can be quite complex. It requires skill and practice to inform your mate on the specifics of how you prefer to be loved. Let me offer an example.
Stan and Mary have been dating for nearly two years and came to see me after being referred by their pastor. They were both in their late twenties and were ready for a serious relationship leading to marriage.
In the past few months, however, in discussing marriage and what that means for them, they have discovered a communication problem regarding expressing affection. Mary feels as though she often gives more than she receives, while Stan is frustrated because he is unclear about what she wants and needs. This has created tension in their relationship.
“We love each other,” Mary began. “I can’t imagine being without him. But, I’m not getting what I need lately.”
“And what is that?” I questioned.
At that point Stan jumped in.
“This is the thing that frustrates me. Sometimes I come over in the evening and ask her what she needs, and she just pouts. It drives me nuts.”
“I don’t know exactly what I need. All I know is that when we met it seemed to happen naturally. I hate even having to ask for affection.”
In talking with Stan and Mary, they admitted to slacking off in showing each other affection and were now unsure as to what each expected from the relationship. I suggested we talk about not only how they show love, but their capacity to receive love.
As we explored their love languages, both were surprised at how little each really knew about the other. Mary, particularly, discovered that she had difficulty in sharing how she preferred to be loved, always assuming that expressions of love would simply come to her automatically. She found it was hard to ask for what she needed or desired. She shared how, because of rejection early in her life, she had always had a tough time fully permitting herself to be loved. If it came naturally, she could usually accept it, but she was afraid to verbalize what she really wanted. We explored these issues in their counseling and the impact on their relationship.
There are two broad reasons why some people cannot easily allow themselves to ask for, or let love in: they are afraid of it, or they feel they don’t deserve it. Consider the possibility that you may fear intimacy. You may feel unsafe and so deprive yourself of the gift of closeness.
If you have a deficiency in your capacity to receive love, there are several questions you should ask yourself:
- Am I afraid to let love in? To acknowledge receiving it? Why? What is the danger?
- What happened in my childhood experiences with love that made it dangerous
- Were my needs for love ignored? Were my efforts to get love somehow punished?
- Have later experiences with romantic love been so disappointing or traumatic that I have shut down my receptors and responsiveness to another person’s love?
- Have I become wary and cynical about the possibility of being genuinely loved?
- Am I ashamed to show another person that I would like his or her love?
To receive love, obviously, we must be open about our desire for love – and our love language. Do you let your needs for love be known? When feeling hurt or rejected, how easy is it to share your feelings? Do you respond passive-aggressively by withdrawing, pouting, putting up a wall? Try to catch your relationship-destroying ways of blocking the other person’s love and to understand the reasons why you play such dirty tricks on yourself.
The scriptures talk about loving your neighbor as you love yourself. But we forget this. Many of us find it easier to love others than we do to love ourselves, or to ask for love. Brennan Manning, in his wonderful book, "The Ragamuffin Gospel," surmised that perhaps the scripture that talks about “in as much as you have done it unto the least of these” could really be talking about you and me. We are often the needy ones who block others from getting too close to us.
Here is an exercise I would like you to try with your mate.
- Tell your mate the qualities you would like to be lovingly recognized and appreciated for – .i.e. preparing meals for dinners together;
- State how you would like that love to be shown – i.e. words of affirmation,
- Tell them exactly what is your love language – i.e. to be hugged often in a loving way;
- Share with your mate how any childhood issues get in the way of receiving love – i.e. you fear rejection if you ask for what you desire;
- Notice the feelings of shame or embarrassment you have in completing this exercise.
We all need love. And lots of it. Are you ready to talk about your need for it, and even share the specific ways you would like it? Are you actively healing from any difficulties in childhood that may sabotage your openness to love? If so, you may really be ready for love.
David Hawkins, PhD., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years.
He is the author of over 18 books, including "Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage," "Saying It So He'll Listen," and "When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You." His newest book, "When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit," releases February 2006. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.
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