In my adult life, I have struggled with giving and receiving gifts. I find that I would rather spend time with someone and have an experience, instead of physical gifts.
Recently I was talking to someone whose love language is giving gifts and she asked why giving and receiving is so difficult for me.
My initial reaction was to say, “ I don’t know? Just because.”
Instead I decided to dive into the uncomfortable feeling and sensation I was having, and figure out why.
I began questioning myself and thinking back to actions that had occurred that would have had this type of impact.
When I graduated college I had my first job, was paying for rent and then I had student loans taking up over 50% of my income each month.
It was a tight budget. The man I was seeing was older and more established in his life, he was sweet and always concerned about making sure I was taken care of. His love language was giving gifts and yet I wouldn’t let him buy me things I wanted because I was only concerned about the things I needed. He understood this and would randomly take care of me by bringing by groceries or laundry soap to make sure I wasn’t struggling. I was extremely appreciative and then one day we got into an argument. He demanded I return the essentials he recently brought to my house. He didn’t take them home to use for himself. NOPE. He dumped it all down the drain.
His words hurt but what he said about his love language hurt more. “This is how I show love and I am going to control and take away my love. My love is conditional.”
I was crushed and sad because they were things I needed. Being the strong woman I am, I wouldn’t let him physically see how sad I was.
In that moment, I became the woman that would take care of myself and didn’t need things or didn’t want gifts. It was a subconscious decision to protect myself.
If I received “things” it meant I would owe someone something and it might be taken away. This is the lens I officially viewed gifts through.
10 years later being questioned about why I wouldn’t accept a gift from a friend made me realize how manipulative this was and felt. My stubborn spirit put up a wall from letting anyone love me. I’d rather spend the time with someone because they can’t take away my experiences. The relationship I desire is a partnership full of understanding and growth, not manipulation and control.
What you are putting out is what you are getting back. The ugly truth and once you see your reflection you can’t unsee how you participated in the undoing.
People experience their love languages in very specific ways and express it through their primary language. Individuals need to learn to express and receive love in the other forms. My primary love language is quality time.
After reflection on how I have mirrored this behavior in relationships, I determined that when I am feeling threatened, not receive the love or support I need or feel unheard, I have controlled my time. Pulling down this guarded wall also means allowing and recognizing other people’s love language and letting them love me the best way they know how. It is my responsibility to speak up for what I need instead of manipulating my time to ensure I get what I need. This looks like spending more time with my friends or in my work than with my significant other. Or being distracted when with my partner. Or avoiding hard conversations.
After this huge realization I needed to figure out how to move forward. I also have to learn to receive love from other people. The first step that I have been practicing is accepting compliments without deflection. For the past year when someone says something nice I have been practicing saying thank you.
If someone says “ I like your dress.”
Instead of saying, “I got it on amazon on sale.”
I am working on practicing to receive their love and compliment by saying, “Thank you.”
It is going to take work to continue to understand and observe when and how I manipulate my own love giving and receiving. I vow to allow people to “give” to me, so I can give more of myself to them without the walls.