They say that you attract the love that you think you deserve.

I don’t buy it.

I think, instead, that you attract what you attract, and that the important thing isn’t whether the love coming your way is generous and easy, or stifled and complicated. The important thing is what you do with it. Whether you accept it. How you accept it. What you choose to give back.

Do you accept love that falls short of your needs because you recognize it’s all the person is able to give?

Do you accept love that is more generous than what you are able to give back because you hope that one day, just maybe, you might get to a place where you’ll be able to reciprocate?

Do you stand on an island of self-righteousness, convinced that your way of loving is the only way, the right way, and that if those you offer it to expect more, less, or anything different than what you’re able to give, then that’s their problem?

How we give and receive love is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the past couple of years. So much so that almost everyone I’m close with has at some point had to endure an in-depth discussion of the computability of our respective love languages.

What is a love language? Well, the author who introduced me to this concept, Gary Chapman, says there are five of them.

Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.

(For a quick online quiz that will help you figure out what yours is, click here.)

Chapman says that pretty much everyone has a primary love language, and that this is not only how we most often demonstrate our love to others, but also how we need people to demonstrate their love to us in order to really feel it.

Example.

Receiving gifts is not one of my main love languages. I appreciate it when people give me gifts. However, if I was in a relationship with someone who used this as their main way of showing me their affection, I likely wouldn’t feel very loved by that person.

Quality time, acts of service and physical touch are my main languages. If that same person never bought me another present, but spent time with me doing things I / we really enjoy, or did something to make me feel taken care of, I’d be much better able to feel the depth of their affection for me.

Unfortunately, it’s often the case that we find ourselves in relationships (romantic or otherwise) with people whose languages are much different then our own.

So, if you’re standing on your island, convinced your way of giving and receiving love is perfectly fine the way it is and needs no adjustments to meet others’ needs, well, you’ll probably find some people willing to visit your island, but chances are they won’t be writing postcards home describing the trip as their best getaway ever.

The good news about all of this? If you and your partner / friend / relative can figure out your respective love languages, and are willing to start speaking them to each other, you can greatly increase the chances that you’ll both feel your time together is truly meeting your needs for love and affection.

The slightly less good news? Well, you might have to learn a language that is really uncomfortable for you. Which means you might have to decide . . . is this something I’m able / willing to do for this person?

And, if I am, is it possible for me to do this in a way that will meet their needs?

For as much as we all speak different love languages, we also differ in how often we need to have those languages expressed to us. So, if you’re not really into physical touch, but you want the person you love whose language is touch to feel how much you care for them, you might need to be willing to get yourself used to say, three or four really good hugs a day.

However, if this person wants constant physical connection, that could be really tough for you to give, no matter how much you care about them.

Then, there’s also this to consider.

Some of us, even if we know our language and can speak it to others, are not necessarily as good at receiving it.

Example.

Acts of service is one of my languages. However, due to life circumstances, there was a period of time during which I was much better at expressing this language to others than I was at being able to receive it. Turning down people’s attempts to take care of me had become habit.

It took a lot of self-reflection and limit pushing over the past few years to not only stop rejecting this help, but to also realize that in rejecting it, I was rejecting love, and that this really wasn’t serving either me, or the people trying to give it.

So, love is complicated. How we give it. How we receive it. Whether we are able to give and receive it in a mutually fulfilling way. And to whom.

On the other hand, having opened myself up to giving and receiving love much more easily and generously in the past few years, I think in some ways it’s much easier than I used to think it was too.

You attract what you attract. But it doesn’t end there. You aren’t then forced to take up residence in Ultimatum Town where you have to decide if the love you’ve attracted is enough, or even potentially too much, to meet your needs.

Instead, it’s a ongoing process of communication and compromise. You communicate your love languages to each other. You decide if you are able and willing to speak each other’s languages with enough fluency to meet each other’s needs. And you check-in regularly to make sure that what you’re doing is working.

Of course, all of this requires a level of emotional literacy and willingness to be vulnerable that not all of us posses. This journey will be much more complex with some people than others (e.g., me a few years ago when I was stuck on rejecting one of my main love languages, or anyone who hasn’t yet come round to loving and accepting themselves).

This is why who we try to love is so important.

You don’t attract the love you think you deserve.

You make a choice to work on the love that you think has the potential to be right for you.

Sometimes that means letting go of love that you very much want to hold onto, but that you and the other person just can’t make work .

Sometimes that means opening yourself up to love that scares you, but that just might be worth putting some effort into.

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