I am not one of those women who started planning her wedding at age five. Despite my hopeless romantic status, I have not prematurely chosen wedding colors, a venue, or even a dress style.
Yet I have always had an idea of how I wanted a man to love me. Some of these preferences came from my father and male family members, while others originated with unrealistic fairytales and romantic comedies. As I have matured and developed better relationships with myself and with God, I have drawn from the Bible and my own love languages to develop a more balanced view of the love I need.
Now that I know, I have half a mind to wait right here for someone to show up and instinctively love me like I desire to be loved. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Most people need instruction. Sure, there are some basic love tools that people pick up along life’s way, but there are many love requirements that people simply do not know because they are unique to our personalities and upbringings.
We speak often of the differences between the sexes and how differently men and women show love. However, as someone who has even noticed struggles in my platonic relationships with girlfriends, it has become increasingly clearer to me that some of us just ‘do’ love differently.
Knowing is only half the battle. We obviously have to manage our expectations of people in order to avoid disappointment. But perhaps even more challenging than that, we must explain how we prefer to be loved. It is easier to assume people know and are stubbornly withholding. However, relationships are a two-way street. Just as it is the responsibility of our friends and lovers to learn how to love us better, it is also our responsibility to take the guesswork out of it.
For women, it can be difficult to articulate our needs. We dread being labeled high-maintenance or ungrateful. We have long heard that those types of women are difficult to love, that they are the last hired and first fired, if ever chosen at all. So we either downplay our desires or quietly hope that the people we are in relationship with will one day catch on. But who benefits from this? We are dissatisfied, while our friends, lovers, and family members never experience the fullness of love that someone is able to offer when he or she already feels loved.
I have recently had the pleasure of seeing relationships evolve simply because someone had the courage to speak up about what they needed. We may tell ourselves that the other person will not understand, or care, or try, or even have the ability. However, that’s a lazy assumption. Everyone deserves a chance to grow in love.
Jesus, who provided the ultimate demonstration of love, understood this. He knew that, though we love Him, we would not automatically show it in a way that was pleasing to Him. So He told us how. In John 14:15, He says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” He provided us with numerous examples of how to demonstrate love, but He understood that sometimes you have to speak up and make things plain. And isn’t it interesting that the way Jesus asks us to show Him our love is quite difficult for us? It is contrary to that which comes naturally, it requires sacrifice and conscious effort. Yet He asks anyway, because it is how He prefers to be loved. He is merciful when we fail, but still expects us to try.
Many of our relationships, both romantic and platonic, would be stronger or last longer if we had tough conversations about the things that make us feel loved and the things that make us feel less so. How frustrating it must be for someone to be clueless of the depth of love you have for them. It’s up to us to ensure those who love us never suffer that fate.
I wrote more about learning to love in my book. Order it today to read several pieces on the topic, including the poem 1 Corinthians 13.
SheryLeigh is a woman who loves God, words, and people. She is currently living and loving as an author, blogger, poet, and spoken word artist in the Washington, D.C., area.
A communicator by education and trade, SheryLeigh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University.