There is strong speculation that there are numerous ways love is demonstrated and expressed. There are also varying definitions for what love is based upon the individual, because love can often be very subjective.
According to the well-known self-help book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, love can be expressed through words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. However, from my perspective all of these can be grouped into one simple category: action.
My experience in dealing with a dysfunctional, cold and emotionless family and the ups and downs of personal and romantic relationship tells me that everyone to some degree can relate to either giving too much love or not receiving enough. Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Chapman is correct that there are various ways you can express love, but the best way is through action.
Think about it. In order to muster the courage to say those three heartfelt words, one must first make a conscious effort to actually love someone. This requires action. If you do not act, words do not magically get said. Let’s take the act of touch. In order to hug, cuddle, or make love one normally needs to remove any fear of intimacy that is holding them back. It takes action to step outside of one’s fear and reach out to touch their spouse or partner in true intimacy. And no, just because one is married or in a serious relationship doesn’t mean that touch is involved, or as often as you might think. There are many couples that suffer from the lack of intimacy in their relationship. I’ve known people that have admitted to me that they haven’t had sex with their partner in not days or months, but years.
Intimacy is an act of love; it’s a demonstration of it and in order to demonstrate one must show action. When you buy gifts for someone or do a small act of service like wash your partner’s car without being told, you do so because you know they needed it. This is an act of love, one that takes effort and so, once again, it takes action. When you purchase a gift for someone does it manifest out of thin air, just as you thought it? No, you have to go to the store and utilize your knowledge of your partner’s tastes. You have to use personal finances to purchase the gift. This all takes action. Paying attention to your partner or loved one’s interests is an act because it requires you to pay close attention to what they say, do, express, etc. Once you’ve sifted through all their idiosyncrasies, pet peeves, desires and needs you begin to learn what they truly enjoy and what they don’t. You cannot get to know someone without consciously making the decision to devote your personal time and energy into the relationship. And quality time is for sure an action. It involves the donation, not sacrificing, of your time. That is an action. Because you could have been doing something else selfishly. You could have been working, playing, exercising, sleeping or otherwise taking care of your own needs.
Love is an action. All of the love languages in my personal opinion all require one thing: action. Personally, it takes more than just saying you care. Texting or calling family members is not enough, for that doesn’t necessarily show love but obligation. Texting has definitely made families and friends lazy. I have friends I text, only so that we can communicate when we’re going to meet next, or I have clients that I text to clarify job situations or updates.
It’s another thing entirely to totally replace actual one-on-one, in-person quality time with a lazy text. Instead of actually putting forth quality time, work, demonstrations such as even a card or a gift. Everyone simply prefers to text “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year” or “Happy Gobble-Gobble.” Sorry, but, I am a little sick of this type of lazy expression of emotion. They are clichéd and thus show a total lack of effort. It’s not as much of a big deal if these messages are from distant viral acquaintances on your social media sites. But, from close family and loved ones? Come on! Gifts are last on the list of love expressions in my opinion, but a small token of appreciation is still better than a lazy text.
A family reunion where everyone actually shows up is an action and that is showing real love, because it’s genuine effort. When you make time for others, you show you really love them and that you care. All the gifts in the world, all the sex or love making, all the words in the English language cannot replace demonstrating love by showing it with your time. You show by being present. Out of all love languages, I feel that quality time is the largest form of love and most important. And no, quality time is not simply scheduling a dinner with a loved one, only for them to be glued to their phone, texting or updating their social media pages nonstop. Quality time is undivided attention, and to me this is the hardest for most, if not, all people to give. Take the example of when someone goes to jail and they have a child that they no longer can see. Years later the person gets out of jail. Do they say to their child, “Gosh, I really missed giving you gifts to show that I love you.” They might have missed doing what a typical parent does by buying gifts, giving a hug and etc. But the most important thing that they missed are the days, months, and years they will never ever have back.
When tragedy strikes and someone passes away, the number one thing everyone will say is that they wished they had one more day with a loved one. They’d want more time to simply sit with them and spend quality time. It’s easy for most people to “show love” through sex, expensive gifts, or fancy words. But most people today are so career driven that their meeting schedules take precedence over their own family. And once people have family of their own, their siblings and their parents take a back seat to their spouse and children. I get that your own spouse and children are more important now. But, your own relatives ought to be just as much of a priority.
People are having kids later in life. Careers are taking top priority and this selfie generation is more self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-esteem crazed to the extent that they love themselves a little too much. If you had my vote, I’d say that I have the most self-centered, cold, workaholic, career-crazed, and selfish family members on the planet. I do not think I am exaggerating here. And when it comes to love, I have demonstrated it through action so many times through traveling across the country numerous times to see everyone. I have also sent Christmas cards and e-cards and gifts and I’ve been the one to continuously initiate all the phone calls.
But, there comes a point in time that if you continue to be the giver, you’ll find that family and loved ones are going to continue to take. A relationship even with family takes two in order to work. To build a bridge, both parties have to be willing to build it. A bridge cannot be built alone. It must take effort on all parties. After experiencing absolutely zero reciprocity from my own family, I have found one hard lesson to be true. Blood is not thicker than water. I can count more on friends that demonstrate love on a continuous basis than on my absent and non-reliable family that takes the excuse “I’m busy” to an entirely different level. They also have errands to do or kids to take to soccer practice or not enough money. I know plenty of healthy families with loads of children, two jobs, and hectic schedules with tight budgets to boot. They still make time for each other and for their loved ones. To them, love is not just about their world. Love encompasses those around them because love is not meant to be selfish.
The Bottom Line:
Love is a decision. If your family decides they do not want to have a relationship with you, then it’s time to completely cut ties. As of recently, I am a self-professed orphan because I made the decision recently to stop chasing after cold, unloving family members. It is extremely unhealthy when one person makes all the effort and the effort is never returned. If family or loved ones really want to see you, they’ll make the effort. If a spouse or partner wants to keep the relationship alive, they’ll demonstrate through their actions that they care. Stop saying you love someone if you are not willing to put a little work towards the relationship. Stop being lazy. Love is action. If you’re not showing it by putting in some quality time with those you love, then you really don’t mean it.