This week I realized that there is a difference between thinking someone loves us versus feeling loved, and that this difference can be what separates marriages that last and friendships that don’t simply fade away. My fiancé, Alyshia, has a very special dog, and I “mean” special in every possible way. He’s now afraid of stairs after several occasions where he forgot how to walk down them… that’s not a good thing to forget. It might not have been so traumatic for him if the bottom step was some type of foam product or marshmallows (not a wise choice for flooring) and not hard ceramic tile. Turns out face planting isn’t something dogs like doing anymore than people. As a side note, I’m not sure why it’s called “face planting” because nothing is being planted to grow… unless it’s referring to the bruising. Now that Charlie is afraid of the stairs he needs to be carried up and down. What’s funny is when you pick him up he shoots his front and back paws out as far as he can, so it looks like he’s Superman flying around. I like to make fun of Charlie, but he’s a good dog… minus his constant need to be fed and go to the bathroom… although I’m pretty sure he can’t do much about those things. Alyshia loves her dog, and she raves about how much he loves her. What I don’t understand is how can you know if a dog, a non human, is capable of love? When I questioned her she used the ultimate female expression: “I feel it.” Whether he actually loves her doesn’t really matter because she feels his love… despite how he continually runs away from her when she goes to hug him, and that he typically goes to me instead of her when I’m in the room… I like rubbing that in, but oddly enough, that just makes her feel less love from me rather than the dog.
This situation ultimately points out a very important fact to me: Thinking someone loves us is very different than feeling someone’s love. People typically think parents love them, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like that. If parent are verbally cruel, lack affection, and demand their children earn their keep, the child won’t feel loved. Similarly kids should love their parents, but when they talk back, yell, are never grateful, and generally moody at home (especially if they’re nice to everyone else), the parents won’t feel loved. When partners yell, putdown, and avoid physical touch and signs of affection it won’t feel like they love you. When a partner cheats it will likely feel like they don’t love you. The truth is, however, this person could still very much love you, but they just really suck at helping you feel loved. Even in the best relationships, there will be times when the individuals in the relationship won’t feel as loved as other times. If you want to revolutionize your relationships here are 3 very important conclusions:
- We need to be striving to do what helps those around us feel loved
- We need to know what helps us feel loved and unloved from different people (i.e. how a parent, partner, child, and friend helps us feel loved will likely be different)
- We need to communicate what helps us feel loved and unloved to the person in the relationship with us in clear, concise, and appropriate ways in order to help him or her know how to make us happy (e.g. don’t give a list of demands, but casually bring up some ideas that would help, or, even better, say thank you for the things the person does that really helps you feel loved.)
This idea of thinking someone loves us versus feeling loved can have a huge impact on us. It can be the difference between a happy marriage and divorce. It can be the difference between grown up kids who call and visit parents and those who avoid family connections as much as possible. If struggling marriages want a chance at surviving the couple needs to figure out what it means for both of them to feel loved and to try to fulfill this. If families want holidays to be a time of joy because they get to see each other they need to help each other feel loved. This idea of thinking and feeling loved is a major reason Christianity is in the state it currently is. We’re told God loves us, but it can feel very different when things fall apart, especially when churches preach hate towards different ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations. Fortunately, the Church is getting better at this, but if the Church has any hope of growing it needs to help people feel God’s love as we’re called to do.
This week may you realize what helps you feel loved in order to strengthen your relationships.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people