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Mar
31
Alex Somos

I want to talk about love and share a truth that has had a profound effect on me, illustrating it with a story from my marriage.

I had been married for a number of years and loved to show my wife Mary how much I loved her and appreciated her. Being a romantic at heart, I would write her cards and bring flowers home for no other reason than to let her know how much she meant to me. She received them gratefully and with smiles, although one day she sat me down.  “Honey, I don’t want to hurt your feelings.  I love the cards you give me and I appreciate the flowers and kind words. However, if you want to show me you love me in a more meaningful way, then maybe you could do the dishes more often. That would be more meaningful to me.” You can imagine how that made me feel! My internal voice was in disbelief and I felt hurt. It took a while to settle my own feelings and to really hear what Mary was saying to me. As I reflected on her preference I realized that I had been demonstrating my love for her out of my own construct and how I believed she wanted to be loved. I realized that even though I had the right intent, the action was not having the intended impact. So often, we love others out of what we think is meaningful rather than loving them in a way that is meaningful to them.

A while after, I had a conversation with a friend about this experience, he shared with me how he applied this very principle to raising his kids. “As parents we go out of our way to let our kids know they are loved and accepted. We tell them often ‘I love you’ or ’you know I love you, right?’ But a question I have learned to ask my children that is way more powerful and scary is ’Do you feel loved?’  The distinction is important.  I have never forgotten that moment; it helped me become a better dad. At night after story time and later during the teenage years I found opportunities to ask my kids this question. In turn, their answers helped me love them in ways that made them feel loved – and helped me understand my kids in a more profound way. In the realm of those that are most important to us, we need to learn that if we really want to love someone we have to love them from their point of view and not from how we think we should love them or how we like to be loved.

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