One of the shifts I like to facilitate with the couples I work with is recognizing how all of our behaviors have the intention of either expressing love or asking for love.If you can imagine this is true: all of our behaviors are either an expression of love or a cry for love. This is a concept presented by Marianne Williamson which is definitely a different way of looking at things. Try to allow the thought that even the most horrible things you can think of or a cray for love or in some way an expression of love. Shifting your perspective, just a bit, to consider another person’s motivation (even if you don’t understand it) can allow a space for empathy to grow. How is this person’s actions an act of love or a cry for love?
If my husband gets upset and yells at me for not doing the laundry…….Is that a cry for love I hear? He perceives my doing the laundry as an act of love. When I don’t do it, he perceives it as a lack of love. He starts to get concerned that he’s not loved by me. He starts asking for that love. In this scenario, he’s asking by getting angry and yelling. If my response is to yell back, I am also crying for love. My perception is when someone yells at you, they don’t love you, so it scares me when I hear him yell. I start to ask for love.
I’ll tell you a true story about myself and my husband. We’ve been married now for over 20 years and we usually get along very well now. It hasn’t always been the case, but now it’s good. A while back, I was visiting him at his job location. An argument came up because he had arranged for his employees to clean out a building that had been taken over by local people and it was used as a goat shed. So, imagine a building that has doubled as a goat shed for many years. Where there are goats, there is goat crap. His job was to have his guys clean this place out. Inadvertently, his boss came and gave his guys the day off after he had arranged for equipment and access to have the goat shed cleaned on this one specific day. Now his boss gave all his man-power the day off. He decided he was going to clean the goat poop out of the shed himself. I was very opposed to this. I didn’t think that he should be cleaning the goat crap out alone; I thought that he should rearrange the schedule. He had other things he was responsible for and cleaning a goat shed was not a priority for him. He became very stubborn and maintained that he would just do it himself. I was arguing with him that this was not a good use of his time, etcetera. Finally I said, ”You know what, you’re going to do what you want to do so go for it.” We just let it die between us. At some point later I was playing around with this idea of every action either being an expression of love or a cry for love. My mind went back to that conversation and I identified my behavior was expression of love ultimately. I was taking up for him and trying to help him see a different priority. So here he was, spending a whole day of his time doing something that his guys could have easily have done in a few hours and he was going to spend a whole day doing this alone. I brought it up to him that this was really an expression of my love for him. He was very surprised to think of it this way because he sure didn’t feel loved during that argument. He felt kind of beat up on actually.
Just like our partner’s expressions and cries for love sometimes don’t sound that way to us, ours lose their effect too. It’s our responsibility to make sure that our message gets across. We have to take a good look at our interactions and try to dig underneath to make them more authentically express what we’re really feeling on the inside.
Sometimes when our partners are kind of beating up on us a little bit, or fussing or complaining about something, they might also be expressing or asking for love. If we can we take a step back from what feels like a personal attack and explore what message of love is really there. It’s something to think about wrap your brain around. Analyze some of the past conflicts you’ve had with your partner. Can you decipher whether it’s a cry for love or an expression of love? This can go a long way to healing rifts in your relationship.
Can you more clearly ask for love or express it? If I get aggravated at my husband for working late all week, I can approach him in hurt anger. Or I can say I’m angry because I’m disappointed and I don’t feel very important to him. I can approach him and say, “I’ve really missed you this week, can we have a date night this weekend?” Which approach will get me what I really want? He’s going to respond much better to the latter approach isn’t he? My communication isn’t layered under insecurity.
Complaints you have with your partner (or that your partner has with you) are usually a cry for love in some way. This should help you look more closely and communicate more clearly. Being understood and understanding more is a winning behavior.
Practice time: Analyze some of your interactions. Can you link it back to a cry for love or an expression of love? If you can’t, send me the scenario and I bet I can help you see it.