It’s Valentine’s Day. The official day that Hallmark and florists make a ton of money because people become willing to share what is in their hearts. What if every day could be like Valentine’s Day? What would it take for us to be willing to express love and appreciation every day? And while candy and flowers are certainly nice, what do the people in your life really need from you? What do you need from them? This is the substance of the last skill of Jerry Jud’s Principles and Skills of Loving. He wrote “Love is a response to need. If you let me know what your needs are, within the limits of my value system, I will not run away. I will be there for you.” The skill is to be able to say, “I will stay in the conversation.”
I think the key to this one is humility. Love doesn’t work if one person is seen as needy and the other person sees themselves as helping to heal them or fill them up. It takes humility to stand in the recognition that we are all needy. We all have our broken places. So to be a better lover, you must be willing to accept your partner’s needs as valid. AND you must be willing to share your needs with them. Maybe this is a projection, but I believe we were all loved imperfectly as children. Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that our needs can not be met, and so therefore there is something wrong with us for wanting things. As adults, when someone is not there for us, it sticks a finger right into the sore spot. Sometimes, you can’t fulfill someone else’s need. But in the act of staying, not shaming, but witnessing and helping them meet the need some other way, we do an incredibly loving act. This can be healing.
I once had a boyfriend who could not keep his word. He would make agreements and promises, and break them before the sun set. I have a need for emotional stability, and I put that out there. I wanted to be able to count on plans we had made. The more I felt let down, the angrier I behaved. The angrier I behaved, the more reluctant to do anything for me he became. And one day, he abruptly left. It hurt a lot in the moment. But now we are friends, and I can see that his leaving was an act of love. Because within the limits of his value system, he was not able to fulfill my need for stability. He enjoyed being spontaneous and free to change his mind. He is there for me to the extent that he can be, and we have a loving relationship to the extent that I can accept his limitations, and enjoy what he is capable of giving.
Be greedy for love! The kindest thing you can do is tell your partner not only what you need, but what you desire. Give them as much information as possible about how they can win with you. and then be appreciative when they so much as try to fulfill your desire. Be a wanton wanter! Allow yourself to desire it all. An old Jewish Proverb says, If you pursue what you desire, you will learn what God desires of you. And remember this: It takes a village to raise a human being. Not just a child. We are surrounded by so many Lovers in so many forms. If you take the focus off wanting the one special one, we can let the love in from all our friends, family, strangers who let you ease into their driving lane even when they are in a hurry. We are making love right now. I am writing this for you, and sharing my heart. You are reading it, and giving me the gift of your attention. It’s a dance, and I’m enjoying it. As for the principles and skills, all we can do is keep practicing. We fall, we get up, but through it all we intend. If you wake up every day intending to love, that is saying a lot.
Happy Valentine’s Day!