How to love better
I was thinking about how to love others better, especially in the month of love: February. Like happiness, love is a choice and a skill to be learned and practiced. No matter we are aware or not, we choose who to love, what to love, when to love, and how to love. Although we are born to be loved by parents or carers, we are not born to love. Loving is a life-long journey.
I picked two books about love and after reading I realised that one is written by a Christian and the other one is written by a Buddhist. Interestingly, I felt like I attracted something kind as Christianity and Buddhism both share the same value — kindness. Perhaps being kind is the most essential foundation to love.
Gary Chapman, an American Christian who was a marriage consultant, came up with a concept of 5 love languages which was down-to-earth and saved people’s marriage. I was curious about this concept and I wanted to know the secret to a long-lasting relationship. The 5 love languages include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. After digesting the book, I summed up these love languages into 3 simple stories for easy understanding. In the book, the author also tells a true story to demonstrate how to love like Jesus. Unconditionally loving someone who doesn’t love you takes so much effort and patience. It’s hard to do but achievable. If you are interested in the full version, you can check out the book. Now, let’s have a taste of the essence.
The story of boyfriend and girlfriend
A girlfriend has always been requesting her workaholic boyfriend to spend time with her. Not having quality time with boyfriend makes the girlfriend so unhappy and makes her feel unloved. She starts to complain about this and speak negatively towards boyfriend. The negative wordings annoy boyfriend and cause him to feel unloved. What if both boyfriend and girlfriend understand each other’s love languages and both are willing to speak those languages? Once the boyfriend understands that girlfriend’s love language is quality time and he is willing to prioritize his time so that he can spend reasonable time with her, the girlfriend’s love tank becomes full again, feeling his love. Knowing that her boyfriend’s love language is words of affirmation, girlfriend always appreciates him verbally and communicate positively to keep boyfriend feeling loved all the time. This story demonstrates that boyfriend’s love language is words of affirmation while girlfriend’s love language is quality time.
The story of husband and wife
Since a husband realizes that his wife’s love language is receiving gifts, he gives her wife all sorts of gifts every week to show his love to her. He has chosen the most effective way to express love to her wife specifically and he fills her love tank consistently. He always feels the love from his wife because she always takes good care of him and handles all the domestic work. His love language is acts of service so he feels loved by his wife.
The story of touching
Emotionally, a man yearns for his life partner to reach out and touch him physically. When he reaches out to his partner physically and the partner is not responsive, he will feel rejected, unwanted, and unloved. These feelings are so intense for him as his love language is physical touch. He will feel loved if his partner reaches out to him physically.
“Cries in life provide a unique opportunity for expressing love. Your tender touches will be remembered longer after the crisis has passed. Your failure to touch may never be forgotten.”
What are your love language and your partner’s love language?
I did a quiz on the 5 languages website to find out my love languages are both quality time and acts of service. I also asked my partner to do the quiz too because I wanted to know his love language and love him better by speaking his language. I was happy that he took some time to finish the test for me. Once I knew his love languages are quality time and words of affirmation, I thought of making him a love book which would be full of positive words about my appreciation for him. And I intentionally gave him more compliments after knowing his love language. However, the relationship didn’t last long. I thought my way of expressing love to him was not explicit or good enough for him. In the end, he didn’t accept everything about me and he decided to love me no more. So I tried to accept myself again and chose to love those who are willing to love me. After all, love is a choice. We all have the freedom to choose who to love.
How would a Buddhist love?
In the book HOW TO LOVE, Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh states understanding is the foundation of love. Ask your partner “What would make you happy?” We are loving others when we are getting to understand what they really need. Loving someone is like planting a flower. If we take good care of the flower, it will grow. If not, it will wilt. To help the flower grow beautifully, we have to understand its true nature, give joy and relieve pain.
“For true love to be there, you need to feel complete in yourself, not needing something from outside.”
It’s a matter of will to be generous
We are human with both strength and weakness. Being generous to accept the imperfection of others plays a vital part in the action of love. It’s always easy to accept the good of others. Accepting the bad is the crucial part to love. And it’s a matter of will. I love Alain de Botton‘s insights about marriage — we are all hard to live with. Willing to love others as if they are babies is the most generous way to love.