How Do You Recognize Love?

Think about a person in your life that made you feel loved. Is it a family member, a beloved teacher, or a childhood friend? What are the qualities you think of when it comes to love? 

The purpose of this blog is to learn how your definition of love impacts relationships. 

Love is a universal need

Feeling loved is such a universal need but as we age we think they don't need it anymore.

But that's not true. John Bowlby, an expert on attachment, says that we never outgrow the need to be loved, especially in our primary relationship. If you're single then your BFF or close friends fulfill a similar need.

Love connects us to each other and make the hard times bearable.

The key is letting yourself feel the love people have for you. It's easy to reject a compliment or take loved ones for granted but then you are missing out on love!

How to recognize love

How to recognize love

What family taught you about love

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, healthy love wasn't consistent. That is partly why I became a therapist - because my personal growth gave me the life I wasn't taught to have.

First, let's go back a bit. We learn how to love from family. They showed you what love looks like in relationships. So in your family, did they model the good, the bad, or the ugly?

For example, as a child were your needs met consistently without guilt? Were you shown affection? Were you told that you were special? Were you shown healthy limits and discipline without physical punishment?

If some of these were missing, you are not alone. Growing up with any addiction or neglect, you may have learned that love is painful because it was hard to get.

What is healthy parental love?

Healthy parental love goes from the parent to the child like a one way street. This means that the child's needs come before the parents' even into adulthood. In a healthy family this is done willingly. The parents do not look to their children to meet their needs or solve their problems.

When you grow up with unhealthy love

If you weren't shown healthy love it has a major impact on how you do relationships. You may have trouble giving and receiving love.

Compliments are uncomfortable if you can't let them in. Deflecting praise is common when accepting love is difficult. You may take care of others and neglect yourself.

If you feel more comfortable giving than receiving, there will always be frustration beneath the surface. The need for love doesn't go away simply because it's uncomfortable for you. The giver is in the more powerful position because it feels good to contribute and you can avoid your needs.

Receiving love means opening yourself up for the unknown. You could get hurt or rejected. Love is always there in some form when you need it. Look around and you will see it.

  • If you are struggling in your relationship, treasure your friendships.
  • If you are estranged from family, rely on your spiritual beliefs.
  • If you are isolated, take a class or join a support group to meet new people.

Is the love you have today the love you want?

Creating the love you want

Think about the people in your life that made you feel special. How did they treat you? What made you feel like you could trust them?

Healthy love looks like:

  • A commitment to weathering the good times and the bad.
  • When people mess up, you are willing to forgive and work it out.
  • You don't put all of your emotional eggs in one person's basket.
  • You understand that everyone has a bad day and you don't take it personally.
  • You support each other's interests even if they are different than your own.

These are a few qualities that show dependability and commitment over time. It starts with you. Love is complicated but you can create healthier relationships by expanding your definition of love and letting yourself have it.

Embracing the love you have

You deserve to have love in your life. Find ways to embrace it. Breathe it in as you think of someone who really loves you. Practice sitting with that love in your heart. That is a gift you can give yourself this holiday!