“I’m loving people, show them love but they don’t love me back. Why?”
I was recently challenged by a friend.
“Why! No email, no message, not even a phone call!”
I could hear the frustration and the pain. Actually, this plea is not uncommon, and I hear it quite often in one way or another when I work with couples especially.
1 Peter 3:7 comes to mind:
“... husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honour them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God's grace, you're equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don't run aground.” (The Message)
“Treat your wife with understanding” (NLT)or
“according to knowledge” (KJV)
“ ... you married men should live considerately with [your wives], with an intelligent recognition” (Amplified Translation)
Although the Apostle Peter addresses husbands here, the admonishment is relevant for both spouses as well as amongst friends and acquaintances.
To start off with, let me deal with this section in 1 Peter 3:7 “giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel” (KJV) or, “the woman as [physically] the weaker” (Amplified Translation). To many 21st Century women this statement is outdated and in many ways offensive; even trying to make it a bit more palatable by adding the word ‘physically’ as the Amplified Translation, still does not cut it.
Granted there are biological differences, different hormone, testosterone levels, and all that, but in all of history it can be seen that women have often pulled their equal weight to men, sometimes even more, whether it is in the military, professionally, in sport, and in the home front. Women at times can be stronger physically (childbirth ?), mentally and emotionally than men. I do not wish to get into a who’s stronger or weaker debate here, as that is not the issue; and I believe, personally that this was not the issue to Peter when he wrote that admonition. I believe it was typical Bible ‘shorthand’ for we have all our unique strengths and weaknesses.
These strengths and weaknesses are expressed either in character, personality and mind-intellectually or skills traits, or physically, plus there are unique combinations of them in all of us, as well as being accentuated differently in various cultural and societal settings.
Bottom line: We are all uniquely different - where you are strong, I may be weak – where you are weak, I may be strong. We need to learn to complement each other by maximising our strengths and managing our weaknesses. We need to learn to be smart and intelligent in our loving, and the way we express our needs to be loved.
The key word here is: Treat your spouse, your friend, your relative, acquaintance, neighbour, .... with understanding, according to knowledge.
.... And that is the topic for this particular post.
Let’s look at another bit of Bible ‘shorthand’ which will further unpack that mystery of ‘loving and not being loved back’: The so-called ‘Golden Rule’
“Do to others as you would have them do to you” - Luke 6:31 (NIV).
Applying the ‘Golden Rule’ without knowledge and understanding has led to much heartache and frustration.
The notion of what I would love, cherish and dearly desire to have, or be treated, surely would bless and enrich someone else the same way, is one of the biggest misnomers in relationships and friendships.
Think of a classic: could you think of anything less romantic than a husband giving his wife some DIY tools for her birthday? (Now, to some ladies this is genuinely romantic!)
We smile reading that, but actually most of us have been guilty of doing the same thing in our communication with love.
Think about another classic. The woman withdraws; she is licking some wounds or nurturing some hurt. Her man asks, ‘what’s the matter?’, her reply, ‘Nothing!!!’. What is typically his response? He either sighs or grumbles to himself and then leaves her space to sort herself out .... after all, isn’t that they way he would prefer to be treated ... to be given space, be left alone to mull things over, to get a strategy to fix what is bothering him?
Meanwhile she thinks, ‘he just doesn’t care!’ ... ‘if he really loved me he would ....’
What she might need at that moment in time is emotional support. She may not want to be given space nor him stepping into a questioning and problem-solving mode, but rather been shown support by him just listening with empathy, being fully present to her with confidence, humour and love.
But what means love to her ... to him ... to you? Do you know? How well do you know yourself, what makes you tick, what makes you feel loved, treasured or cherished?
Most people I work with think they know, but few have genuinely explored themselves. Even worse I find with Christians who like to hide inside a religious-culture acceptable one-size-fits-all bag of being a nice Christian, who can quote all the relevant scriptures of who they are in Christ, it’s no longer ‘I’ but Him, and then scream blue murder if a fellow Christian steps on their toes (or slip into a martyr victim mode ...).
You see every person is uniquely different as to how they feel loved; everyone has their own uniquely different needs and values. Whether you know them consciously or not, they are there, and you feel it when those needs are not met.
When we don’t know our own needs and values accurately, we then cannot communicate them to others who equally may not know theirs.
It’s like two people talking in different languages and not even be aware of it.
Taking language as an analogy, I have experienced this dilemma many times myself. I am German and I am fluent in both languages, English and German. There are times, especially when I happen to be in the company of people from both nations that I am not conscious which language I am talking in, I am only aware that I am communicating a message.
I recall a humorous incident when we had dinner guests (English speaking) in our home, and I was chatting with a German friend in the kitchen whilst preparing the food. There came a time when I walked into the living room to announce to our guests “Dinner is being served” (in German). The reply was, “Pardon, what??” (in English). Assuming that I may have mumbled, I now said it louder and more pronounced, “Dinner is being served” (still in German).
This is what often happens in relationships when couples shout their unmet needs at each other in a mismatched language tirade.
What is the answer to this dilemma? The Golden Rule, or should I say the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they want done unto them ..... the way they want to be treated ... in other words, speak their love language.
I mentioned earlier that we need to learn to apply the Golden Rule with knowledge and understanding. Ask yourself. ‘How do I want to be treated? Is that the same as my spouse or whosoever in front of me wants to be treated?
One other thing needs to be understood, apart from knowing the different love languages, needs and values we all have, we also need to understand that there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ times when we express them to each other.
Again, I am using an example out of my own life. Being a typical female I thoroughly enjoy marathon chats of several hours with my other female friends. We go on rabbit trails, leaving a thought to jump to a totally different one, only to pick up that original thought half an hour later. One thing sparks off another. Nobody is even aware of the time just spent; we would just be in a flow of communication beyond words.... for hours on end.
However by the same token, especially when I work I like to be undisturbed and can get into a real ‘hermit mode’.
I like focus and to be immersed in what I am doing. The last thing I want to see or hear is one of my friends call in to settle for a chat. The “Hi! Yes, I’m fine, thank you, I am busy” seems cruel and uncaring, especially when we have not talked tor days or weeks.
Added to this is another issue: Working hours. Either they work normal office hours from 9-5, then think everyone else does so too, or they are retired from work. My office is at home, and although I am flexible, I work very odd hours, but I still have to put in the hours and more! As a personal consultant I either work with people at a mutually convenient place, or via the internet or phone on a global scale – meaning the time difference between London UK, USA or Australia will need to be considered. Plus I am working on my book.
There are times when I would want to chat, but because of the workload I chose not to, when I appear very anti social with my friends for longer periods of time, when seemingly I am not returning love to them, or ignoring them. There are times when my friends want to shower me with love, but it feels like they are taking energy from me, because I will have to stop what I am doing and then focus on them.
In this quest to love intelligently – or smart , there are times, when especially our female friends need to realize that they should not take it personally when the other party is focused and engulfed in a mission.
They are not less loved and less treasured when for example their man is in a binary mode, totally focused, absorbed and immersed with a task at hand in his reality of the moment.
What do you do to make your needs known when you need a dose of loving? Well, I shall deal with that in another post. Watch the space.
Be aware of the timing of the moment, and then apply the Platinum Rule of Love with knowledge and understanding.
Lovingly in Him,
© Copyright Angelika Regina Heimann – inStrengths Ministries – The Journey Of Intimacy 2009. All Rights Reserved