Growing up with fairytales, hallmark holidays and romantic movies – at a very young age, we formed a picture of what romance and love should look like.
Flowers, chocolates, massages, anniversary celebrations, gifts…. those are all gestures that in North America, we generally equate to as “romantic”. As women, we like to do these things – often pleasers; we buy thoughtful gifts, participate in loving and caring actions, and articulate our feelings and adoration for our partner. While we say we do it all out of love and expect nothing in return, let’s be completely honest with ourselves, many times we find ourselves disappointed because the same gesture is not returned.
We find ourselves in situations where suddenly, you find yourself complaining or nagging and tired of doing “so much” and not getting the appreciation and tokens of love in return. And sometimes, we nag and complain so much until we run the man to the ground because they feel they can never please you, that no matter what they do, it’s never good enough. I definitely admit to doing this. Feeling shorted, taken advantage of and hurt that my partner didn’t do the small things that made me feel “loved”.
But then I realized, if I was always feeling this, perhaps the issue wasn’t the lack of true romance I was receiving, but more like how I was perceiving. First of all, no one asked me to do those “nice, thoughtful” things. But I them regardless, often out of a place of love, but sometimes wanting something in return. Whether that something be a reaction or reciprocity, I found myself feeling drained. My minds started to build a story that my partner didn’t care, appreciate or love me enough. However, this was never the case and merely a perception I created in my head.
There are different languages of love, five primary languages to be exact, according to the book, The Five Love Languages. The book discusses how love is communicated in five primary ways: quality time, gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation and physical touch. While we may express love in each of the five ways, we all have one primary love language, and that love language is how we show love to others and how we receive love. What’s important to understand is your partner’s love language, which may not necessarily be the same as yours.
It’s not that your partner doesn’t love you because he doesn’t buy you flowers or profess his love with a heart-warming sonnet. He just shows love in a different way, one that he learned as a child, and his communication of love may be very different from how you communicate it.
For example, I may communicate love with gifts – thoughtful tokens and suprises, but my partner may communicate love by performing acts of service – from helping me with my car troubles to assembling my new shelving unit. There isn’t any right or wrong to the different styles and methods, it’s just different.
I’ve realized that my dissatisfaction and disappointment in my previous relationships had a lot to do with the idea of love and true romance that was created in my head as a young girl, and my reality not matching that picture. And that if I continued seeing “romance” with that lens, I’d continue being unhappy. Adult relationships look a lot different from that pretty, perfect bubble world I imagined – they take work, compromise, go through droughts, go through highs, and also those lows when you feel like you’re too exhausted to keep trying.
Something pretty amazing happens when you make that choice to change your perspective. Instead of dwelling on the things you’re not getting, you become open and see all the things you are getting. You see and feel the love even when it comes in the most subtle of forms – from a loving gaze, comprises, watching the chick flick he has no interest in, to the daily support and knowing your partner tries everything in their power to make you smile and laugh. You start to realize that those simple day to day things, albeit not wrapped up in pretty packaging or decorated with heart shapes and flowers, are some of the most strongest, sincerest, signs of love one could ask for
Don’t get me wrong, I still am a hopeless romantic, a starry-eyed dreamer who wishes for flowers and love notes. But I’ve also learned that those things don’t necessarily mean love and to not overlook the gestures that may be less obvious and easily overlooked. A partner who makes me laugh, believes in me, who makes an effort, listens, gives me the biggest, warmest hugs and looks at me like I’m the most special gem in the world – to me, that’s my idea of true romance.
Photo credit: Nathan Meijer