Many times when people talk about love, it may invoke thoughts of romantic love; the light airy feeling one gets when they fall in love. It seems to be the love that we focus on most as we grow up. Often times it seems illusive to people, like they aren’t sure where to find it.

There are all sorts of love and many times people feel unloved especially by those close to them like family.I’m not talking about abusive or co-dependent people but the people in our lives that we just don’t feel loved by and who we think are in a position to love us.

I think back to a time when my oldest said “My English teacher hates me”. I knew this teacher and I suggested to the oldest that perhaps the English teacher just expected more from her than she thought was fair. As the school year progressed I asked my oldest if she still thought that teacher hated her and she confessed that I was probably right, that the teacher was just encouraging her to do a little more than the rest of the students because she had more ability. My daughter misinterpreted the message that her teacher was sending.

I also had a friend when I was in my 20s who was about to get married and she was telling me how much she loved her fiance’ and that he loved her but that he didn’t show her a lot. Then she showed me his artwork, the drawings that he had done while they were dating. I said that that was his way of showing her how much he loved her. He was sharing a personal, private part of himself with her. He loved to draw and design things and always gave her his favorite work. (This couple is still married today.)

These people were showing a kind of love but it wasn’t received, and more importantly, it wasn’t understood.

We all have our own ways of expressing love. To us it the way we show it makes total sense but it may not make sense to some around us. I express love to my family by making sure they are well taken care of. With my kids I show them love by teaching them critical thinking and how to be independent .  I have a very snuggly son and I express my love to him with hugs and kisses. My stepdaughters are not the affectionate type, especially the oldest. She will still hug dad sometimes but has never been able to hug me. My youngest step-daughter blows hot and cold.

We may think that we all speak the same love language but that is not the case. When I lived in England I remember telling someone that my Mom doesn’t wear pants and they thought that my mother didn’t wear underwear. Who would have thought that people in England and who speak the same language would have different meanings for some words that we both use. In England they wear trousers (what we call pants) and underneath they wear nickers or pants (what Americans call underwear). What a huge misunderstanding. I assumed those words meant the same thing in England as they do in America. This translates to love language, if verbal language is easily misunderstood, think about how love language gets messed up.

I understand that it is hard for my step-daughters to allow themselves to feel any love for me because of the abandonment issues they face with their mother. She made the choice not to be in their lives. I know that they are confused about love because what they don’t understand is that I love them and although I’m not the physically affectionate type and nor do they allow that, I show them in my way. I teach them to do things for themselves, I teach them to think for themselves, I teach them about life, I teach them skills they will need as adults, I serve as the buffer between what dads know and what daughters need.  I show them love in my language but they have not yet understood this language. I have seen them eventually get this language. One day they will understand the language if they choose.

One day they will understand that not everyone expresses love the way they do. They may want have love shown to them by affection or gifts or time spent with them but that may not the be the language that the other person speaks.  Perhaps they will understand that their mothers love language is “I don’t know how to take care of you, I love you enough to let your father take care of you because I trust that he will do a better job than me. I love you enough to leave you in the care of a healthy person”.

Love language can be confusing. We all express love in different ways the challenge is to learn the love language of the person they desire to be loved by. Rather than trying hard to have someone show us love, look at their actions and understand how they are speaking. Are you interpreting them correctly?