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The Business of Love (NO! Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter!)

September 15, 2010
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All this talk about love (here and here) on The Rock Pool has started me thinking. About love. Or should I say “Wuv, twu wuv.” Anyway, I think people each experience love in different ways, and therefore express it how they see it. The trouble comes when you show your love in one way to your boo and they don’t know you are showing them your love because that is not the way they perceive love. It’s this kind of thing that makes people smack their heads against a nice solid doorjamb before raising their eyes to heaven and imploring,  “Why!? Why is this so hard! I give up!” Clearly, due to the amount of literature devoted to the subject of love over the millennia, people have been having these problems for a long time. And I’m not just talking about man/woman love, man/man love, or woman/woman love; I’m talking about parent/adult child love, parent/child love, sibling love, friend love – all kinds of love. It can all be mind numbingly complicated.

At this point in my life I have at least grasped some truths, even if I can’t always  implement them. I think it’s absolutely necessary to work out how you love and the expectations of love of the people around you. It’s the only way to survive this love fest. Furthermore, once you understand how the people closest to you receive love, I think you better do your best to give it, at least part of the time, in the way they understand. And, lest there be outrage and confusion, I’ll be more specific. I’m not talking about some creepy wimp who thinks that his wife is there to do everything for him including tying his shoes, rubbing his back every night, and bringing his entire world to him while he “rests” on the couch alternately whining and criticizing. Uh, no. The only thing you can do with someone like that is to drag them to the nearest cliff and heave them over. Okay, not really, but it’s  satisfying to say it.

No, I’m talking about being affectionate when it’s not in your nature. Bringing someone tea when you don’t feel like it, but you know it would mean a lot to them. Snuggling when you are completely “touched out” for the day, but everyone in the house needs a little more. Or leaving someone alone when you sense they need the space. Not talking if they require your presence but not your voice. There is an infinite number of variables matched only by the uniqueness of humankind. In my view, it’s doing for the people you love what Allah does for us. He can fill whatever shape crater you are harboring inside and his love is endless; we can only attempt a feeble imitation.

Green Anole

So, I’m not a lovey person. When I had my second child someone mentioned to my husband that they were surprised I would want another kid. That kind of hurt. I suppose “motherly” is not the first adjective that springs to mind when people think of me.  A lot of older men in my community jokingly salute me when they see me coming and call me “soldier.” Yeah. I’m not physically, verbally, or emotionally very affectionate. I’m basically a reptile. And, according to this brain sex ID test, I’m a man. I’m not sure that should have any relevance other than to laugh at the absurdity, but I thought I’d mention it (don’t get mad, Maryam!). I’m a doer and a solver, not a feeler or a comforter. I think I’m showing love when I cook from scratch, clean, educate my kids, fix things around the house etc. But I’m not an idiot. My kids and the Captain don’t think that is real love – unless I’m making a pie. They need hugs and kisses and cooing and pretty clothes and LISTENING and COMPROMISES and a lot of other things. They need support. They need to know that even though I’m not a natural nurturer, that I’m trying for their sake and that’s just as good because that means I love them enough to make an effort. And that, my dear peeps, is all anyone really needs in love, because you’ll never get it 100% right.  People just need for someone to make an effort.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. Kaimalino permalink
    September 15, 2010 4:39 pm

    Have you read “The Five Love Languages”? The writing is borderline corny but the concepts are sound and almost exactly echo what you are saying here (which I love, of course.)
    The idea is that there are five basic ways to express love: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, gifts and physical touch. Everyone has a main love language, but a couple of lesser ones, too. We all give love the way we want to receive love. So, the author says, if the “Golden Rule” is to “do unto others the way you’d have them do unto you,” then the Platinum Rule is to do unto others as THEY would have you do unto them. Don’t offer someone vanilla just because it’s your favorite–if s/he likes chocolate, bring chocolate.

    My husband and I wrestle with love language issues all the time. If I leave him a lovey note, that’s nice, but words of affirmation are not his primary love language so it gets put aside and forgotten. But I am all about words of affirmation–I left the note because I’d love to get a note, and it’s the very definition of a loving expression, to me. When he cleans up the kitchen (acts of service) I think it’s nice but it doesn’t necessarily ring my bell. . . but if I do a chore that’s usually his, well, he feels so loved since he’s all about acts of service.
    There’s a “Love Languages” book about parent-child love, too, that gave me a lot of insight into my relationships with my children. My four-year-old often wraps up household items in dishtowels and tinfoil and offers them to me as a “present,” because gifts are one of his love languages. The eight-year-old leans on me a lot–physical touch means a lot to him. And on and on.
    Love (in every way) your comment about continuing to put effort into loving even when it’s not exactly “right.” So, so true.

    • September 15, 2010 5:25 pm

      I’ve never heard of that book, but it sounds good, maybe I should check it out! The Platinum Rule? Wow – SO MUCH BETTER! I think the reason it seems so many people don’t make it as far as figuring out how other people love is because love can be so overwhelming. Sometimes you can barely surface for air much less make a study of how you love (or what your love languages are!) and then do the same for all the people in your life and then treat everyone accordingly. Seems exhausting. Sometimes it is. But so worth it, for yourself and everyone else. And the leaning on, yeah, we have that at my house too.

  2. Rivenheart permalink
    September 15, 2010 9:38 pm

    I’m pretty sure that my mom or my sister has mentioned that book. And I think they said something about that they liked it. But I don’t quite recall. I’m sure I’ll find it sitting on someone’s shelf someday and steal it for a brief period of time so that I can read it and feel enlightened.

    Now I feel like a complete and total sap, just for having written two lovey-dovey posts in a row. Yaach!!!! Emotionally, I’m supposed to be a prickly porcupine, not a cuddly teddy bear. Okay, scratch that, I’m neither of those. More like a horse, but this is not the time or a place to go into any sort of detail about the emotionality of a horse.

    Bunch of college students living here… yep, no leaning here. 😄

  3. September 15, 2010 11:08 pm

    I’ve never been so conscious of the way I use that simple four-letter word, whether casually and without noticing, or whether it is an agonising war against myself about whether I can bring it out of my mouth.

    A lot of older men in my community jokingly salute me when they see me coming and call me “soldier.”
    SNAP, ALLUMER.

    I get called ‘the Boss’. Upper case. By a 7-foot giant. And I am a shortish person. I waver between pleasure at the camaraderie, and a feeling that it erodes my girlness (and possibly marriage prospects haha). It isn’t even that I am aggressive or mannish…I just don’t dither. And yeah, every time I ever took one of the brain tests, half the time, they told me I was a man, and the other half, indeterminate.* The only gender test that told me I was decisively female was the one that…yeah. That one.

    Hey Riv, I wouldn’t worry too much – they were hardly ‘lovey dovey’! They’re still very thoroughly you – ironic and amusing and all that good stuff, but definitely not sappy in a sappysappy way.

    Yes, I realise I basically am unable to make sense in English at the moment. I need to sleep.

    Uhhh and I love this post and the comments. But oh, Kai, your boys reminded me of my girls (I merely teach them, they are not ACTUALLY mine) : they’re very touchy-feely – and I’m very not. So when they bind to me like chelate complexes, my reflex response is to throw them off. But then I think about how I might scar them for life with my rejection and it is my graven duty to accept it. So I do. And I try very hard to return it. But I’m still trying to do it naturally.**

    * I like to think it’s because I’m gender-balanced.
    **I wonder if I really want anyone to read that.

  4. September 16, 2010 1:07 am

    OHHH and I forgot to tell you guys, especially Lu (hah! Now you are Lu!) and Maryam and Kai – I discovered this awesome blog a little while ago (via Freshly Pressed – it’s also now in the ‘We’re Reading’ links) which I was sure you’d love, and today’s post is really nice: http://slightlyoffbalanceblog.com/2010/09/15/my-better-half/.

    The Freshly Pressed post was this one: http://slightlyoffbalanceblog.com/2010/08/12/10-reasons-my-kids-help-my-marriage/

    Enjoy!

  5. September 16, 2010 1:44 am

    saya, i checked out the first link and i like it. especially the… not walking out bit.
    kai, i’m going to check out that book too because i’ve heard of it several times now and it’s time. my eldest is def the gift-love type, and it irks me… living in this wantwantwant society, but thinking of it in a different light will help me understand her. is there a love-type that means you bring home lizards that’ll grow to be 6 feet long and can bite your face off? cause my husband just did that tonight. okay, moving on… riv, i didn’t think your posts were lovey dovey either!

    and allumer (why are you lu and not AL? for good reason, i think), i love this post. i really do. i’m finding myself sickened more and more by fiction in books and movies that portray relationships (which is all of them) and especially romances because that is just not not NOT how life is. the movie tends to end just when things are good. and then? what about the next 50 YEARS of learning to live together and know each other and be accepting and change your ways to better the family? where’s THAT movie?! oh, wait, i’m living it, i guess.

  6. September 16, 2010 10:32 am

    I guess movies have to stop because where real life takes over, no film could imitate, nor would anybody in the world fund a 50-year long movie 😄

    She’s Lu because when you say (when I say?) ‘Allumer’ the dominant syllable is LU – alLOOmer, right? Not right? Also, it’s like an actual name. We can pretend her name is Louisa or something. Or that she is a lavatory, but that is not so complimentary.

    I just re-read An Old-Fashioned Girl (Alcott) and remembered all over again why I loved that book. They’re not books about lovey-dovey love-is-all-you-need claptrap, but about self-sacrifice and hard work and being a helpmeet – they are unabashedly romantic books, but they are never romanticising, which I think makes all the difference: that love is a part of life – a really indispensable part – and therefore must not be taken lightly and played with.

    If one could only make the sacrifice all at once, and done with it, then it would seem easier; but to keep up a daily sacrifice of one’s wishes, tastes, and pleasures, is rather a hard task.
    – chapter 9

  7. Allumer permalink
    September 16, 2010 1:03 pm

    Rivenheart – What?! Your posts were not lovey dovey, they were brain stirring!

    Saya – you summed it up perfectly: no dithering. I’m not aggressive either, but I’m a punctual, let’s -get-this-done kind of person. Also, it is hard to admit you’re not touchy feely, I was debating it because I was thinking, “Do I really want to be labeled a COLD FREAK?” but then I realized I don’t really care much anymore. I don’t think being yourself can ever hurt marriage prospects. If some dude wants a ditherer, better he NOT pick you. Some day, some where, a guy is going to see you stride around – full of purpose and intent – and he’s going to be seized with the desire to call your dad:

    Brother?

    Is your daughter available?

    No, the other one. The short little one that walks around like a man?

    Alhumdullilah. Yes, I would love to come for dinner.

    Then your dad will totally throw you at him in an effort to get you out of the house.

    Maryam – I couldn’t agree more about novels and movies. It’s like some enormous fantasy that artists produce in accordance with how they would like things to be, not how they really are. Well, and of course there is marketing too. Though I, for one would be perfectly happy to see more real examples in print and film. I particularly have a huge problem with romantic comedies (and not just because I am partial to violent, mystery thrillers) because I actually know many women who lament that their life hasn’t turned out like…and THEY WILL NAME A MOVIE!!!! WHAT?!?!? That doesn’t even compute in my brain. Seriously.

  8. September 16, 2010 1:46 pm

    ‘Also, it is hard to admit you’re not touchy feely, I was debating it because I was thinking, “Do I really want to be labeled a COLD FREAK?” but then I realized I don’t really care much anymore.’

    Allumer, my parents always joke that it’s okay to admit your weirdnesses once you’re safely married. But until then, you have to act like a human being so people will, you know, think you ARE one.

    Also, that little vignette nearly killed me. I was just imagining my dad. And it was too funny. And I nearly choked on my own tongue. I was told once – well, several times – that I am too scary, because of my soldier/efficiency attitude. But it’s because people are dumb. If they weren’t so dumb, I wouldn’t get so glassy-eyed and frustrated.

    It’s still tough writing honestly, especially on a subject like this. Emails feel so much safer. Gnah.

    • Allumer permalink
      September 16, 2010 5:11 pm

      You are only scary because men have been brainwashed into wanting silly girls. Were the women surrounding the Prophet (PBUH) silly? I think not. Think of yourself as a throwback . An awesomish throwback.

      • September 16, 2010 5:50 pm

        Oh I make up for it by acting like an airhead the rest of the time. Believe me, there is balance in the universe. Sometimes manifested in extremes. It all depends on the people around me.

  9. September 16, 2010 4:52 pm

    Allumer – great post. Love has been on my own brain quite a bit lately. It is fun we are discussing it here. I am excited to share something myself soon. I especially liked what you said here:

    “I think it’s absolutely necessary to work out how you love and the expectations of love of the people around you.”

    I guess it kind of is a restatement of the idea behind the love languages and the Platinum Rule, but that word “expectations” got to me. Expectations are powerful little things. It’s funny, though. I think I often focus so much on figuring out others’ expectations, that I forget to take a look at my own and how they might be affecting my perceptions and relationships, and whether or not they are really healthy/good expectations to have.

    Kaimalino – Never read that book, but have heard of the Platinum Rule…in one of my Education classes, actually. The prof was talking about how we can’t expect that every student will need/want what we needed and wanted as students…it really made me think.

    Rivenheart – I would love to hear a little bit about “the emotionality of a horse” sometime. My sister has always been a “horse person,” and I must admit that I’ve always had a difficult time understanding the nature of her relationship with them. I love animals, but my sister “gets” them in a way I never have.

    Maryam – your description of your life/love (“what about the next 50 YEARS of learning to live together and know each other and be accepting and change your ways to better the family?”) is beautiful. Maybe you should write a book about it that someone can turn into a movie someday and in-so-doing destroy these ridiculous myths we are being fed by every other movie ever made.

    Also, the face-biting lizard comment confirms my suspicion that men are strange creatures…very strange indeed.

    Saya – I share your love of Louisa May Alcott! As well as your aversion to “Rom-Com”. I went through a phase in high school where “You’ve Got Mail” and the like formed the majority of my movie repertoire. And then one day (probably around the time of my second break up) I realized I no longer had any appetite for it…why would anyone want to eat fluff?

    Allumer again – the hypothetical phone conversation with the would-be suitor…hilarious. You are funny. 🙂

    • Allumer permalink
      September 16, 2010 5:22 pm

      Edzell! SHARE! SHARE! SHARE! You know, as long as it’s not oversharing. ‘Cause that’s creepy, yo!

      And why do so many people try to figure out and fulfill others’ expectations before they take the time to know what they themselves expect? It’s not selfish, in fact, I think it’s vital in any relationship. Then again, I might have a rather clinical approach to love – so perhaps everything I say should be take with a sack of salt!

      • September 16, 2010 5:52 pm

        Too much salt will give you high blood pressure *nod*

      • Allumer permalink
        September 16, 2010 5:54 pm

        Unless you have chronically low blood pressure, like me, and almost passed out during Ramadan. Solution? MORE SALT!

        Okay, really. I have got to go do stuff. Wifely, motherly stuff.

    • September 17, 2010 2:14 pm

      Also, let us be prefectly clear: I may possibly have an unhealthy enjoyment of chick flicks – although of course skipping over the haram bits.

      I think it’s for two basic reasons:
      1) It can sometimes be the lesser evil, and we’re all about lesser evils, and
      2) Life is complicated. Sometimes, you need a break from your complicated life into a world where you know there is a happy ending. And so: measured escapism.

      I do have a line, though. I never take them (too) seriously, and I don’t believe that ‘real life’ can or should follow a filmscript, particularly not of the Hollywood type. Weirdly, I used to prefer complicated, noir and chic films, but I think my life used to be fairly straightforward at that time. I find this is reflected in what I read, too: if real life is basically okay, I like to read complicated and difficult books, but when life is complicated enough, I don’t want to read a book or watch a film that adds to that. No. Just some cotton-candy fluff, please.

      Conclusion: cotton-candy has its place. As long as it’s an occasional snack, not a complete diet.

      Further conclusion: Alcott is, therefore, like Ambrosia. Sweet and wholesome.

  10. Edzell permalink
    September 16, 2010 4:57 pm

    So, I couldn’t figure out why my Gravitar didn’t show up when I posted that comment just now. Hmmnnn….maybe because I was logged in….?!?!?

    DUH!

    So, yeah. That was me just a second ago. Edzell. Now the whole world knows my real name. But that’s okay. 🙂

    I need to take WordPress 101 or something. 🙂

  11. Edzell permalink
    September 16, 2010 4:58 pm

    BTW, are smiley face icons a little taboo here? I have this terrible inability to communicate electronically without using them, but I can work on that if we don’t want them cluttering up our space. Let me know…

    • September 16, 2010 5:11 pm

      Huh! No! I couldn’t live without ‘XD’ – that is literally my face ALL THE TIME. Except when it is ^_^, but I don’t like the emote scheme here, so I space mine so it doesn’t turn into annoying yellow faces : )

      I would like you all to know I am trying to cook some big fish’s head (but there are, like, some eggs somewhere?) and I CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT, my mother’s not here, and my dad couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know and it’s STILL WEEPING BLOOD. Who knew a dead fish could have so much red, red blood?

      …this isn’t an email, is it?

      I’ve written it now. Now the whole world will know I am a Bengali-fail because, hello, fish heads are so beyond my cooking ken.

  12. September 18, 2010 12:18 am

    i’m hugging this post and its trail of replies!

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