One aspect of Love is the feeling or internal experience that it stimulates (see Love as a Feeling). Love is more than this. It is also something we express or manifest through our words and actions.
One way I like to picture it is as a flow of giving and receiving without any start or end. Like an infinity loop where there is no beginning and the giving and the receiving merge into one. This is a perspective of Love where I take what is inside and I share it in some way with my partner.
I find the 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman) especially helpful in understanding how we like to put Love into action. The Languages are 5 broad categories of ways we can show and receive Love.
In brief these are the 5 Languages:
- Words of Affirmation
Putting Love into words by encouraging, complimenting, appreciating and acknowledging my partner. I may often say ‘I Love you’ and similar messages of Love either by speaking or writing.
- Quality Time
Choosing to spend time with my partner and being fully present when I do so. I will listen intently, look at my partner and talk about myself with vulnerability.
- Acts of Service
Doing things to make life better for you such as chores, preparing things you enjoy or taking on tasks instead of you.
- Receiving Gifts
Gifts are objects I choose as symbols of Love. These are not necessarily things I buy (though can be) but rather the process of thinking what my partner will find meaningful, obtaining and giving the gift.
- Physical Touch
Physical touch and affection, including kissing, holding hands, stroking, hugging and sex.
Chapman says we all have our preferred ways to communicate Love through action as well preferred ways we like to receive it. Understanding my own and my partner’s preferences can go a long way to resolve some potential misalignments and conflicts.
For example, I prefer to show and receive Love through touch and so I offer a lot of stroking, hugging and holding hands in public. These are all meaningful and important actions for me as ways of showing Love. If my partner prefers words of affirmation and does not value touch – maybe even shrinks away from it – then chances are neither of us will experience a flow of Love between us. When I know her preferences then I can take steps to appreciate, compliment and encourage her through words while asking her for more touch.
Intention and Exchange
There is another aspect that is crucial to achieve this flow of Love in action and that is the intention I hold when I show Love. Do I approach Love as a transaction or as a flow? Do I attach conditions – probably unspoken – to my Love or do I give it without expectation.
- Conditional or Transactional ‘Love’
We have all experienced this at some points in our lives, I suppose. It goes something like, ‘I will love you if you do xxxx.’- You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours! This condition is more likely to be understood indirectly than expressed directly.
In an intimate relationship, love might be tied to certain things you do or say. Or certain aspects of who you are or what you look like. I will love you when you fulfil certain expectations and I will withhold love when you do not.
When love is only a feeling it might not be very high impact. After all if I feel love or not is hardly visible and you don’t really benefit very much if I am full of loving feelings towards you or am are rather indifferent. Only when it comes to Love as Action does it come with real consequences such as receiving those gifts, or words of affirmation that you desire. I will do nice things for you and say nice things to do you in exchange for you doing what I want you to do. And keeping them from you – or maybe even doing the opposite of what you want – when you don’t meet my conditions.
This comes from seeing love as a scarce commodity that I can give (or not) and seeing relationship as a series of transactions. It’s not much different from going into the store, selecting a few items I want and handing over some money as I leave. Except in relationships the items I purchase, and the currency I use, are things like spending time together, touching each other, gifts, sex, ego massage, validation, physical appearance etc.
Relationships can work on this basis when the rules are clear and both parties accept and stick to them. Relationships can work … but I doubt they will ever reach the higher potential of what intimate relationship can bring.
- Unconditional Love and Flow
This is where I want to be.
Where we do and say things for each other as a manifestation of Love and with no expectations or conditions. When I give I also receive and the lines between giving and receiving become so blurred they become irrelevant. When I reach out to give a hug I also receive one. When I tell you some words of appreciation they are also for me and when I buy you a small gift, we both receive it as a symbol of Love. When I do something for you then it is also for me and spending quality together is a joining of two souls a touching oneness.
Our relationship takes the shape of an infinity loop with no start or end. No giver and recipient. No lover and loved.
We are all of these things.