Whether you love or not is subject only to your own opinion, no one else’s. The proper answer to the age-old demand, “If you love me, you’ll_____” is: “Wrong. I do love you, but I’m not going to do that,” or, “I’ll do that, but it’s not a test of my love.”
Frequently in counseling I’ve seen people let themselves be talked right out of loving each other, like this: When person A says, “If you loved me, you’d…” most often he or she is feeling insecure and asking for reassurance, but asking ineffectively, because it sounds like a demand. When B is also insecure, and if he or she is unwilling to do whatever is being demanded, B then tends to doubt his or her own loving: “Gee, maybe I don’t love you enough. I’m not willing to do that.” When A gets this doubtful response on top of his or her initially insecure feelings, A panics: “Oh no! B doesn’t really love me!” At this point, both A and B are convinced that it’s not working, and everything can go downhill from there, because of simple misunderstanding.
While love is not a behavior but a feeling, accurate and effective communication of feelings is important. It can be very frustrating to love and be unable to communicate that love. We all know the experience of loving someone very much and having them perceive our love as something else. Marsha: “I loved him so much; I never wanted to be away from him for a minute.” Bill: “She smothered me! She had no regard for my feelings! I hated it!” Behavior contributes to accurate expression and is therefore important. It does you no good to love if your behavior is consistently interpreted as unloving.
As in any art, it’s necessary to know what you want to express in order to express it effectively. Your personal way of expressing and receiving love is your lovestyle.
© 2011 Tina B. Tessina adapted from: Lovestyles: How to Celebrate Your Differences