I recently did something that I thought would be silly, or selfish, or outlandish.
I wrote a manual on how to love me.
It gives the basics about me and my background, includes a list of my favorite things, discusses how to best communicate with me, describes how I interact within each of the five love languages, and has links to blog posts and book recommendations to help understand my trauma and triggers. It even has tips on how to help me through a panic attack.
I posted about it on my personal Facebook page and I expected some laughs and comments about how I was being super type-A.
But the response was nothing short of love and encouragement.
It’s okay to ask for love
It’s okay to ask for love in the ways you need it. It’s okay to say, “Hey could you love me this way instead?”
For me, one of the worst things is to ignore me or make me do all the work of initiating conversation or contact. Feeling like I have to chase affection is deeply painful. I am still learning that love is abundant and available, that I don’t have to earn it, and that I certainly don’t have to beg for it.
An unexpected message from a loved one can light up my whole day, reassure me that they are thinking of me, and show me that they care.
When I shared my manual about how to love me, people thanked me.
The next day, I posted a status to “love me louder,” and I got some people sending gifs and hugs… but I also noticed several friends leaving comments about how great a friend I am, how they’ve been inspired by me, how proud they are of my writing and my work. And that small shift in the way I asked for love felt really good.
It can be scary to ask for love
When I was in sixth grade, I was living with my dad after my parents divorced. I told him “I love you” multiple times a day. It was an easy way to check in, to receive that “I love you too” back. I was trying to ask for love. And one day his response was not, “I love you too.”
It was “You say that a lot. Seems like you might be trying to convince yourself.”
It has never really felt safe to ask since then.
It’s been twenty years since I felt safe asking for love.
When I check in with someone to ask for something they aren’t giving me automatically, my heart pounds. Tears prick my eyes. My whole body feels hot. I want to be anywhere but vulnerably in front of them showing the truth of what I need. Risking myself like that is physically painful.
I learned as a child that love can be faked.
Every time I ask someone to change the way they love me, it feels like I’m being ungrateful and selfish. Like I should change the way I need to feel loved rather than ask them to speak my native tongue.
It feels like I am flinging myself off a cliff and hoping they might catch me.
Sometimes it feels easier to sit around wondering why someone doesn’t love me than to say what I need to feel loved. Vulnerability is scary, but it’s where we get our needs met. It’s where we find resolve in our worth and value.
It’s where we remember who the fuck we are.
Vulnerability at work can look like asking for a raise or promotion. You’re risking a no. If your boss says no, you might feel unimportant or not valued. If your boss reassures you that you’re doing great and puts together a six month plan for you to be in a place where they can offer that raise when they have the next budget meeting — that’s a reward for your vulnerability, even though it initially feels like rejection.
Vulnerability with a partner can look like saying, “I feel like I’m chasing you down for affection and I want to hear from you more during the day.” This feels scary, because they could say no. They could say that’s not how they operate their love languages and they aren’t willing to learn yours. They could say this feels like a lot of work.
Or they could say, “I’m sorry that I’ve been loving you in a way you weren’t receiving, and I will remember that you need loved this way. It is safe to remind me, and please do until I make it a habit.”
Being told I’m hard work is one of my top triggers. It’s something that has been said by a parent and by a partner, and its message is clear: My love for you is conditional on how easy you make my life.
Relationships take work, but people are not hard work
It’s rare for two people to connect in a way that is 100% flawless all of the time. But if you are important to each other and there is mutual trust, respect, and caring, asking for what you need is a blessing. It’s a road map and a manual. It’s cheat codes to making sure you feel loved.
Interpersonal communication takes practice, and this can feel like a tough job.
But if people didn’t want to do the work of learning how to best love me, they wouldn’t be out here loving me.
Tell your partner your love languages and be specific
Your partner can reference your top love languages for a reminder that you really get a boost from a love note in the middle of the day or them offering to pick up dinner on the way home so you don’t have to. Maybe they buy you an awesome gift because you feel loved when you receive a thoughtful present.
Whatever your love language, it is okay to communicate it to your friends, family, and partners. In fact, it should be a regular part of interpersonal relationships.
Not sure what your love language is? Take the quiz here to find out and learn about all five languages, which are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
The hidden benefit of telling people how to love you
When you tell people how to love you, and especially when you tell people what makes you feel downright unloved or unappreciated, you have a measuring stick for people’s respect for you.
Once you’ve told someone several times what you need to feel loved and they repeatedly ignore it, it can help you see who doesn’t belong so close to you. You deserve an inner circle of people willing and eager to speak your language.
It doesn’t make people inherently toxic or bad for you if they don’t speak your language, but it is okay to place distance between yourself and them.
Normalize talking about love languages.
Normalize telling friends you love them.
Normalize asking for what you need, without apology.
Compassionate support for creatives
I believe all people are creative — so every Monday I send out a supportive, compassionate email (though it will sometimes call you out) about letting go of the fear and embracing your true creative self. You can sign up for my newsletter and get a free ebook here!