Mental health disorders have a way of putting blinders on a person. I have to say, there are a lot of things in this world that I miss. Whether it’s because I’m wrapped up in my own head, or I have one of the different shades of the multiple pairs of glasses I don on, I know that my own perceptions are often distorted. In short, I miss things. Sometimes, I miss very important things.
I am not one to take a hint. So, one of those subtle things, such as love, often slip past me or whiz over my head.
How do we love?
The way I express love is not too different from others. The only difference is, like everything else in my life, it’s inconsistent. It’s kind of like a mixed bag labeled “love and affection”. A person can never really be sure what they’re going to get. Sometimes, it’s the obvious mushy-gushy love, hugs and kisses galore. Other times it’s a little more subtle. And then there are the times where it is absolutely less than obvious.
I am a person who loves giving gifts. Sure, a gift seems like a pretty obvious, tangible token of love. However, I don’t believe in the trite kind of gifts, candy, flowers, expensive jewelry – whether you can believe it or not, men like those kinds of things too. Xan (husband) particularly loves cake. I don’t believe that a gift is a gift unless it comes from the heart. And sometimes, it should come from the hands. Love does not live in a gift that is contrived.
I give handmade cards and macaroni art. I enjoy looking through my belongings and picking out items that I think a friend would enjoy. I make favorite foods as a labor of love. And, I write intangible love notes, full of nonsensical imagery and sometimes stuffed in the most inappropriate places. Things like a post-it covered car. That one backfired pretty badly.
Then, there are the gestures. I enjoy a clean house, although I don’t always feel like keeping it immaculate. I enjoy doing things to make a person’s life easier. Every morning, I get up an hour before Xan so that I’ll be remotely pleasant by the time he gets up. I make the bed and put out his clothes for the day. I offer suggestions on how to handle his boss, and I make dinner when he asks me to. I even clean up afterward, without ever asking him to.
I give compliments, but only when they are well deserved. I like to see the smile on someone’s face when I point out something unexpected that another person does well , just because I know how good they feel about it.
I give criticism when it is needed.
I freak out when someone does something dangerous or potentially expensive.
I worry when someone is not well and rant about their behavior.
Different love languages.
Different love languages exist. In The 5 Love Languages, the author Gary Chapman explores how we express our love and how we can all speak different languages. I found this to be particularly useful for me. Take the quiz and find out what love language you speak. I score highly on Words of Appreciation, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.
Words are like gold to me. When I think, it’s not in pictures, it’s in words. It’s easier for someone to tell me something than for me to observe a behavior. Though it’s counterintuitive in the world of Behaviorism, (which I studied), words seem to be the only way to get a piece of cognition into the tangible world. Even stock phrases like, “You look beautiful,” and, “I love you,” are not tired for me. They are words of reassurance, affirmation, and encouragement, the three things that have been largely absent in my life.
Quality time matters. When someone devotes time and attention specifically to me, it shows that I am the center of attention. Yes, it feeds my ego. But, it also says to me that there is nothing more important in that moment. What I am saying or doing is interesting or wonderful enough to be deserving of recognition. The quality time, without computers or other people, helps to build intimacy. It’s in those moments that bonds are forged. Again, that is another element of love that has been missing from most of my relationships with others.
Physical touch is a biological thing. When I am touched, it releases oxytocin. It’s so powerful that I can actually feel the surge when it happens.
For those who are unaware, oxytocin is the bonding chemical. It is what is released when a mother breastfeeds her young. Research has also proven that it is also released with physical contact, something even as small as a touch on the leg. Imagine what a hug can do!
So, when I am touched, I feel bonded. I can literally feel the affection move from the other person and into myself. Any touch will do. A friendly pat makes me feel reassured. A touch on the leg means that a person is serious when they are saying something. If a person runs their hands through my hair, it says that they care about me and they want to take care of me. And a hug tells me that a person wants to cradle me into their heart, because that’s where I live in their mind.
Sometimes, those things work against me. As I said in the beginning of the article, the spectrum of colors in those lenses often shade my lenses. And a lot of the time, it makes those kind gestures the most unflattering, disingenuous acts ever committed. It is the unfortunate side effect of mental health disorder.
The words of affection can quickly turn into banal, clichéd, stock phrases. They seem as if they are taunting and patronizing. It feels as if there is no thought put into them, and maybe they are forced. I am not in the business of fishing for compliments. I feel pathetic and manipulated. And I start to believe that everything that comes out of that person’s mouth is a little white lie. When a person lies once about a little thing, what will stop them from eventually lying about big things?
Time dedicated to the other can begin to feel forced. Suddenly, it seems as if that person is in a cage with me, just sharing four walls and making polite conversation. That especially happens when we are in a car. There is no other option. We are stuck together.
However, if it incorporates other people or activities, I feel as if it steals the intimacy. Why bother having time together when it’s not really together? When it includes others, I feel as if their company is emphasized over mine. I feel devalued and overlooked. Sometimes, I feel like the third wheel, as if my company is actually unwanted, and that is the reason why other elements are included into what is considered to be quality time. Where is the quality in that?
Physical touch may be the worst. Most of you are aware that I am an abuse and sexual assault survivor. Sometimes, touch is bad. Touch hurts. Then, there are times when touch does not mean what I’m led to believe it means. It makes me question everything, especially when the other elements of how I interpret love are either missing or contorted.
It can be seen during the cringe I exhibit when someone I consider an acquaintance touches me at all. There is also the “girl hug” I give when forced, so that the other person touches me as little as humanly possible. For those of you who don’t know what the “girl hug” is, it’s when two girls hug by leaning their torsos in, and touching only arms and shoulders. You can see it in the way I slither away when someone attempts to put their hand on my leg. A head on my shoulder leaves me rigid, and locked in my head with the timer on how long this can possibly last.
Sex is the perfect example of how I can misinterpret physical touch. Without feeling love in other ways, sex is a carnal act. Sex is an extremely intimate experience that requires the highest levels of trust for me. Otherwise, it is meaningless and sometimes even painful. There are times where I just stare off, trying to enjoy the sensations, but pretending like I’m alone, or I’m somewhere else entirely. And, in the worst of times, I will reject sex entirely. It makes me vulnerable and emotional. Those are the very two things I can’t stand to be.
Most of the things included in here are ways that I reject love.
As for the other two languages of love, I often overlook those gestures entirely. It’s easy for me, just because they don’t have any value in my eyes.
Gifts don’t mean much, unless they are a true token of affection. They are objects meant to buy happiness and affection. You can’t buy love. You can buy little pieces of happiness and relief. However, money and gifts cannot provide the penetrating love that I require deep into my soul.
Then, there are the gifts that I misinterpret as necessities. Consumables are just that, consumable. They exist one moment, and they are gone the next. There is no memory that can be attached at a consumable gift. Food goes in one end and then out the other. Drinks are just drinks. And they are essential to stay alive.
That brings me to practical gifts. I love practical and functional things. But, I don’t see them as gifts, unless they are gifted for a special occasion. And no, a salad shooter is not an appropriate Valentine’s Day gift for me. That’s exactly what I mean. In matters of love, I seem to completely miss a pair of gloves in the winter as a token of affection. Gloves are meant to prevent frostbite and amputations. They just don’t convey a message of love. Neither does sunblock in the summertime.
And Acts of Service are usually seen as business. Just plain business. Those are things that need to get done. Worse, sometimes they are perceived as acts that should be performed by the other. Not out of love, but out of complete practicality. If a person is on their way home from work, then it makes sense that they should stop at the store. If a person can get something from a shelf that I can’t, then it would be just plain rude if they stood there watching me jump for it. Whoever notices the dirty diaper first should be the one who changes it.
“Just because somebody doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they got” –Author Unknown
Gifts are gifts. I am not entitled to anything from anyone, unless I have worked or paid for it.
Acts of service are voluntary gestures.
Touch can be genuine.
Time spent on me is time that person will never get back.
And although words may be clichéd, they wouldn’t be uttered unless there was truth in the heart.
It doesn’t matter what package it comes in. Maybe it’s a small package. A diamond can fit in there.
- Does it Matter How Your Significant Other Loves You? (fromraewithlove.com)
- Love You More: An interview with Michael and Monica Watson, stars of “The 5 Love Languages” book trailer (Start Marriage Right) (emmillerwrites.wordpress.com)
- Family of Five with Five Different Love Languages (christinehammondcounseling.wordpress.com)
- What is your language of preference? Love, please! (caylysdandeliondays.wordpress.com)
- 5 Love Languages – What You Speak May Not Be What They Hear (janetboyer.typepad.com)
- 10 Reasons Why Oxytocin Is The Most Amazing Molecule In The World [Daily 10] (io9.com)
- The Five Love Languages (demorrieaux.wordpress.com)
© Tallulah “Lulu” Stark and A Canvas Of The Minds 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tallulah “Lulu” Stark and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.