About a year ago I took in a stray cat that had been visiting my yard. She was small with a sleek black coat, little smooshy face, and very affectionate; I named her Panther. Within six hours of being brought into my house she gave birth to four kittens. While my initial plans were to find adoptive homes for her and all the kittens, she and two of the kittens have become permanent parts of my family.
Panther has some adorable ways of showing love. To her kittens, she is an affectionate mama cat, grooming, feeding and playing with her babies. She chases them around the house, pouncing on them from a hiding space before aggressively licking their faces.
Almost every day she greets me by bringing me her favorite mouse toy and laying it next to me. She licks my hand and arm, rubs her face against me, and purrs loudly whenever I pet her.
For Panther, this is how she shows me love and gratitude and appreciation.
Cats and dogs express love pretty easy. They are clear and upfront with how they feel, and they show affection in ways that we can pretty easily recognize is love.
With humans, however, it’s not always so easy. Sometimes we’re pretty good at hiding our feelings of love. Or we think we are clearly expressing love through our actions, but our partner doesn’t always recognize it in the same way.
How do you show love to the people in your life that you care for?
What ways do you recognize people in your life show you love?
One difficulty is that we most likely recognize and express love in different ways from others in our life. For some people, the most powerful way to express love is through direct expressions… telling your partner “You mean the world to me” or “I can’t imagine my life without you.”
But this may not be how your partner recognizes love. They may have a different style that lights up their heart. They may recognize love through affectionate touch (holding hands or cuddling while watching a movie) or kind actions (like when you do the dishes or get the car tuned up for them) or gifts (bringing home flowers or a thoughtful card).
The book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman really brought this concept of different ways to express and recognize love to light.
When was the last time you talked with your loved one about how to meet their needs, or how they can meet yours, around feeling loved?
A friend of mine who recently starting dating someone new shared with me that they have been openly communicating around how they recognize and show affection, love, and romance. They each made a list of things they believe are romantic and shared with each other. What an amazing way to share your needs with your partner!
My challenge to you this week is to open up a conversation with a loved one in your life the ways you show and recognize love.
- Try telling your someone special: “I love it when you do _____ for me.” Or: “I really feel your love for me when you take the time to ____.”
- Ask them directly “How can I show you that I love you?”
- Or you can make it more playful by each making a list and trading with your partner about how you recognize their love and affection. Then, try putting into action the items on their list.
However it comes about, either direct or playful, the conversation around how you show and recognize love will strengthen your connection with your loved ones. Find the courage to be vulnerable in love, it’s worth it.
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento area therapist specializing in helping people lead authentic lives. Adriana is most passionate about supporting individuals explore their gender and sexuality, and advocating for the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.