I have always believed that people show love in different ways. I love mailing greeting cards for every occasion possible…it is one way I let the people I care about know that I am thinking of them.
During the 41 days my father was in the hospital and nursing home and ever since he got home a week ago, my mother has been glued to his side. Without knowing it, both my sister and I spoke to our respective therapists about my mother’s weird devotion to him. He has treated her so badly for so many years, it is hard to understand why she even cares about what happens to him.
However, my sister and I were at the hospital and nursing home all the time, too- even when he had psychosis and was acting so horribly. We brought him milkshakes and food he liked. My sister brought her toddler to visit “Papa”. We basically all put our lives on hold to take care of him. Clearly this is learned behavior because I did the same thing when my exboyfriend was in the hospital for 28 days…I sat by his side, putting my life on hold.
I have never doubted that my father loved me (and my mother or sister). I never doubted my exboyfriend loved me either. They both just had such a hard time showing it because of their addictions to alcohol.
My dad showed me love by providing for our family, for making sure my sister and I had every opportunity possible, including going to college. He showed love by making sure we had a beautiful home. He showed love by buying my mother, sister and me matching bracelets for Christmas one year. He showed love by building me a dollhouse that I can pass down to my niece. He showed love by crying when I told him I was miserable and getting divorced. He showed love by helping me with my mortgage for the summer so I wouldn’t have to worry about money after my boyfriend moved out abruptly.
My exboyfriend showed me love by supporting me working through my anxiety. He showed me love by convincing me to give up a summer job that made me unhappy. He showed me love by getting me “just because” flowers. He showed me love by sending me cards, because he knows I love getting mail. He showed me love by embracing my sister and loving our niece. He showed me love by caring about my mother.
Neither of these two men loved me in the ways that I necessarily wanted or needed, but they showed me love in the way THEY knew how and I try to be appreciate of that. I am very happy right now to be with someone who is able to show me love in the way that I need (physical affection, open communication, security) and who accepts my love in the way I give it.