It’s not always better to give than to receive. Sometimes learning to receive is more important. Some of us undermine gifts of love, and we may not even realize it. CNN and Oprah.com recently reported on the difficulties some of us have with receiving love. It’s as if we don’t truly feel worthy of the gift. If you’ve ever wondered if your partner really loves you, perhaps you can relate.
The problem is that our inability to recognize acts of love or accept how much we are loved can create a self-inflected isolation and harm our relationship, say the authors of Receiving Love. The married authors and marriage counselors—Harville Hendricks and Helen LaKelly Hunt—were near divorce when they realized this critical problem in their relationship, and learned to fix it.
How might you be undermining love? By not responding to supportive comments (or responding sarcastically). By requesting more affection, but resisting the affection when it is offered. By not accepting offers of help, even when you are overwhelmed.
The authors explain that most people believe if they do a better job of giving to one another, their romantic relationship will remain strong. The missing link, however, may be that we must learn to better receive the gifts our mates are already giving us. For example, if one partner is encouraging, loving, complimentary and affectionate, yet those actions are not well-received, the rejection can certainly harm the relationship. Even if you don’t rebuff your partner, but you act in a blasé or unbelieving manner, the effect can be the same.
Following are some questions suggested by the authors to determine if this could be an issue for you:
- Do you assume your partner is not being sincere?
- Do you deflect praise?
- Do you criticize your mate for not saying something “right” or at the right time or place?
- Do you feel embarrassed by compliments or by displays of affection?
- Do you harden your heart or mind to positive comments?
If so, these can be signs of self-hatred, that could be engrained since childhood, say Hendricks and Hunt. Even if you wouldn’t call it self-hatred, maybe you’d agree that you dislike parts of yourself?
How can you overcome the inclination to devalue yourself? It’s a bit complicated. “You can’t consciously achieve self-love by loving yourself. To end self-rejection, you have to learn to love in another what you hate in yourself,” says Harville. If you’re unsure what qualities in yourself you dislike, pay attention to what you repeatedly criticize in others. “Self-love is born out of love of another,” he explains.
As you learn to more completely love your partner, this allows you to receive more love. It also requires giving up a victim mentality and letting go of criticism and judgments you received from others.
Be open with your spouse about when and why you struggle with their gifts of love. Be empathetic if your partner is trying to grow in this area, and reinforce your support and love for them so they have a safe emotional place in the marriage.
This honesty can help you grow in intimacy. Speaking of intimacy, I found this post from Journey to Surrender on “Intimacy—As Much as You Want” very helpful and interesting. I recommend checking it out.
Do you ever find yourself wondering if you could be loved as much as your spouse claims to love you, or deflecting compliments? Do you sometimes feel like your gifts of love are rejected by your partner? If so, it may be time to discuss how this affects your relationship. Linking to the article or reading the book may also benefit you.
Photo: ©Andrey Andreev/PhotoXPress.