Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

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Loving others is a skill. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that.  We think that love is something that everyone should just know how to do, like breathing.  But loving other people is neither simple nor easy.

The problem is that our first inclination is to love others in the way that we want to love them.  We don’t stop to think about how they want to be loved.  For instance, the other day, I tidied up my daughter’s room for her.  She became aggravated and said, “Mom, what I really needed was your help with my English essay.”  I wasn’t helping her (or loving her) in the way that she needed.

We all know how it feels to be loved in the wrong way. We receive gifts that don’t reflect our interests.  We get advice that we didn’t ask for.  We are given a lecture when what we really needed was a hug.  When that happens, we end up feeling unloved and misunderstood (notwithstanding the other person’s good intentions).

The key to loving others effectively is to study the people we love.  My husband is very good at this.  He pays attention.  If I mention in passing that my car needs to be cleaned, he zips over to the car wash with it.  If I see something in the store that I like, he makes a note of it for the next gift-giving occasion.  He works at loving me in the way that I need to be loved.

It is important to remember that over time, we have to adjust how we love people as circumstances change. This is true in marriage as our spouses mature and evolve as individuals.  It is particularly true with our children.  When my daughter was small, she needed lots of physical affection from me.  Small children need hugs and hand holding.  She now is a teenager and her needs have changed.  Teenagers need someone to talk to.  They need a great deal of encouragement and emotional support.  The way we love our children needs to change as they grow.

If you have a relationship that is struggling, try to figure whether you are loving that person in the way that they need to be loved. Consider whether that person’s needs have changed over time.  Pay attention to the clues that person is leaving you as to what he or she needs from you.  Study that person.  Loving others effectively is the most important skill that we can learn.  It is the key to having happy relationships with those most dear to us.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

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