How Do You Recognize Love?

Blog  on accepting love in relationships

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? 

This blog shows you how to embrace the love in your life. As simple as that sounds, when you come from a family of addiction, mental illness or dysfunction, accepting the love in your life isn't easy. In fact, sometimes it's downright painful.

Love Is a Universal Need

Feeling loved is such a universal need but as you get older sometimes you downplay its importance. You think that you 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 makes getting through the tough times bearable.

The key is letting yourself feel the love people have for you. You may not realize that by rejecting a simple compliment or not accepting help or support means that you're actually 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 own 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. Family demonstrated what love looked like in relationships. So, did they model the good, the bad, or the ugly with love?

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 or it came with strings attached.

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 own needs or solve their problems.

Growing 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 happens a lot when accepting love is difficult. You may focus more on taking care of others while neglecting 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 notice all the places it lives.

  • If you are struggling in your primary relationship, treasure your friendships.
  • If you are estranged from family, find a community for support.
  • If you are isolated, take a class or join a support group to meet new people.
  • If you are lonely, get a pet for companionship.
  • If you are depressed, volunteer for the less fortunate.
  • If you are struggling in relationships, try Al-Anon.

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.

Loving Yourself 

Learning how to love yourself takes effort. It doesn't happen easily when you're from a family where love was scarce. Developing self love requires three things. A willingness to love yourself - mistakes and all, an ability to receive love from others and taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually without delay.

Treating yourself will respect sets the example for others to follow. 

Embracing the Love You Have

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

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