Life is stressful for many of us, and diabetes doesn’t make it easier. Feeling loved reduces stress and makes us happier, but most people are unaware of how loved they are.
Jon, a Diabetes Self-Management reader, wrote on my blog, “My friend Steve…killed himself 24 years ago. He left a note saying he had no friends and no love in his life. Four hundred people came to his funeral. I walked off my job and flew to Indiana to be there. The local newspaper ran an article about him and his many contributions to the town on the front page.”
Why didn’t Steve have even a glimpse of how loved he was? Why don’t most of us? Here are some of the ways people miss love, and some ways to receive it better.
Languages of love
Christian marriage counselor Gary Chapman had a wonderful insight that he discussed in his book The Five Love Languages. Each person has learned different ways to express and feel love. If love is given in a different “language” from theirs, they won’t understand it. People go through their lives feeling unloved, while people in their lives try their best to love them.
The five love languages are: touch, words of affirmation (like “I love you” or “You look nice”), acts of service, gifts, and quality time (focused attention). If you only sense love given through words or gifts, you may totally ignore the love shown by people who help you with housework or give you a hug.
Anyone can miss love given in an unfamiliar language. My partner and I speak touch and word, not gifts. We have a young friend who often brings us little gifts. I thought she was being nice. It took me years to see this was her way of showing love.
Love language mismatches can make marriages miserable. One partner may want to be loved by being listened to; the other one wants to give love by fixing the kitchen. One may want to be told, “I love you,” while the other tries to love through backrubs or sex.
The point is to become multilingual in love. The more love languages you understand, the more love you will receive and the more loved you will feel. But there’s more to it than language.
Categories of love
English has only one word for love. The ancient Greeks had six words for love, and you might be receiving any or all of them without knowing it. Here are the main four:
Storge is love of family. It’s unconditional, like a mother’s love or Fred Rogers love. “I like you just the way you are,” was Mr. Rogers’ signature line. If you have family, you have some storge, even if the family relations are tense much of the time.
Philia is the love of friends. The people you hang out with or work with or in your support group or church probably are giving you philia when they invite you to a game or sit with you to complain about work at lunch. You may not think of that as love, but in Greek, it is.
Eros is sexual love. It’s what most people in America mean when they say love, but it’s just one form. It’s intense; it’s energizing; it feels great. The only problem with it as that it can’t last, and we are told that it should last. It’s biological, nature’s way of getting us to reproduce, and after a few years it inevitably fades. If not replaced by other kinds of love, the relationship will be in trouble. We shouldn’t rely on erotic love for our sense of being loved, just enjoy it while it lasts.
Agape is spiritual love. It’s impersonal and all-forgiving. It’s what religious people mean when they say, “God loves you.” When you think about it, the world surely does love you. It gives you acts of service and gifts of warmth and water, food and beauty, among other things.
Receiving more love
Here’s how you can get more love in 2016. Learn the love languages. When someone listens to you or does some little thing for you or touches you in a friendly way or says something nice, practice seeing the love behind the action.
Practice agape. Look at the bigger picture in which everyone has a place and is trying the best they can. Practice accepting them unconditionally. Then apply agape to yourself. That’s the most important part. Practice accepting yourself, loving yourself.
If you think you are unlovable, it won’t matter what language people try to love you in. You won’t feel it, because it won’t make sense to you. You may have learned you were unlovable as a child, so it may take a while to unlearn it. Practice.
Love has the beautiful economic feature that the more you give, the more you will have. Remember that others have the same difficulty receiving love that you do. Try telling them and showing them you love them in different ways. There’s a good chance you will get that love back, either from the person you give it to or from others, and from yourself.
Love doesn’t fix everything. It probably won’t bring down your A1C much, although it might by reducing stress. But it will make your life and the life of the people around you better and more enjoyable. Wishing you a lovely 2016!
Read more at my blog The Inn by the Healing Path. Consider buying e-book 1 in the Healing Path series, “Never Alone” — details on the website. E-book 2, “Reasons to Live,” will be out in late January.
How do motivation and planning play a role in the outcome of New Year’s resolutions? Scott Coulter shares what he learned during his time and a therapist and his 22 years living with Type 1 diabetes. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.