Recently, some friends and I were discussing the announcement of yet another high-profile divorce. As is typical in cases where the couple has been together for decades, the question of what happened is ultimately asked. This sparked a conversation about love and marriage. This topic has been coming up frequently over the past years. So, I decided to write down my thoughts on the subject. What is love? It is way more than just a word. If you love someone, you need to show it. Love is a verb – an action. It is also a choice. It is more than just a feeling.
The ancient Greeks described these 4 types of love:
- Éros – this is the romantic love we have for our significant other.
- Agápe – this is the sacrificial, unconditional, perfect love of God.
- Philia – this is the love we have for our friends.
- Storge – this is the love we have for our family.
The scriptures describe love in this way in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ERV) – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not selfish, and it cannot be made angry easily. Love does not remember wrongs done against it. Love is never happy when others do wrong, but it is always happy with the truth. Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits.”
I like this version best because it describes love in a simple, yet clear way. Let’s take a closer look at the words in italics. They describe the actions that the person who loves someone else chooses to take. If you love someone, you choose to show patience and kindness to the person you love. If you love someone, you choose to behave humbly, generously and calmly. You chose to forgive willingly and believe the best of the other person and to never give up. When you dissect it, it’s a lot. How many of us truly demonstrate all of these behaviours? And how often? If we don’t, does it mean that we don’t really love the people we say we do? Not necessarily, perhaps we just need to learn how to show our love.
So, the question becomes, how do we demonstrate our love for others so that they can feel loved by us? Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The 5 Love Languages” and in it he describes 5 behaviours through which people express their love for others and feel loved in return. The ‘love languages’, as he calls them, are:
- Physical touch (non-sexual) – for example, hugs.
- Acts of service – doing something for the other person.
- Gifts – the gifts don’t need to be expensive.
- Words of affirmation – praise, compliments etc.
- Quality time – spending intentional and uninterrupted time together.
When I first read this book, it opened my eyes to why many relationships fail. We tend to give love the way we hope to receive it, but we all receive love differently. For example, if you receive love best via physical touch but people who love you are always giving you gifts as their way of showing love to you, although you are loved, you will not feel loved. Similarly, the gift-givers may feel that you are taking them for granted because you don’t appreciate their gifts. This is because the love isn’t being communicated effectively. The key is to try to determine your own love language as well as those of your loved ones so you all can try to give love the way the others receive it best and vice versa.
We are all broken people, living in a broken world. Before we can love anyone else, we must first learn to love ourselves. When you get on an airplane and the flight attendants give the safety instructions, they always say that in the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will fall from the console above. If it happens, you should always put on your own mask first before attempting to assist anyone else. The same applies in this context. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else and you will not allow anyone else to love you. So, if you need to take the time to work on yourself or to seek out therapy, do it because you are more than worth it.