Hoooooooooo doggy! Here we go! Now we’re talking about some serious emotional/relational needs! O.k., simmer down (I’m talking to myself as much as any of you). Affection, seems simple enough. Hugs, kisses, “I love you’s”, sweet notes, a holding of the hands, a gentle hug, a bear hug, a pat on the back are all examples of how we express affection. If you have a high need for affection those things tickled your fancy. If you don’t they at best fell on deaf ears (eyes) or at worst made you feel really uncomfortable.
So, rather than overkill a relatively simple need I would like to review an interesting component of relational/emotional needs. For this I will use myself as an example and also someone near and dear to me. To keep her identity secure I will call her Rachel M. or better yet R. Mitlo. No, I’ll just go by her first name Rachel.
Growing up I came from a loving yet somewhat reserved (in affection terms) home. Did I know I was loved? Sure. Was I told that I was loved? Sure. However, do I remember (I’m NOT SAYING IT DIDN’T HAPPEN…MOM) being hugged a lot or told how much I was loved? No. Would I describe our home as “affectionate”? No. Loving? Yes. Now, as an adult I have a high need for affection. Not so much from people in general, but from my spouse. Please, if you know me you don’t need to come up and give me a hug. Feel free if you’d like, I suppose, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What I do mean is that it is very important for me to be hugged, touched (simmer), and told that my spouse loves me…by my spouse.
ON THE OTHER HAND, Rachel was not raised in a loving nor affectionate home. Nope, no way you can confuse her upbringing with anything near affection. As an adult she has the lowest need or desire for affection. You see, both of us didn’t get “enough” affection as a child. I need and want it, she does not. That’s just how quirky emotional/relational needs are.
There are other couples who both had tremendous amounts of affection in their home growing up. Today as adults one has a high need, the other avoids it like the plague. It just depends on the individual. Further, it is not specific to affection but of all emotional/relational needs. That’s just the way it is.
Further, because I have a high need for it I like to give it away. If Rachel is having a bad day and is really frustrated I want to give her a hug and gentle kiss telling her, “I love you.” However, it’s not what SHE wants or needs. This is a main component of the book “5 Love Languages” and why it is so successful. It lumps together a bunch of emotional needs and categorizes them together. What we are doing here is next level stuff. It is much more specific. On the other hand, Rachel is not naturally or instinctively going to give me affection when I need it. How can she give to me what she has never received…or wants now? She can’t…instinctively.
Yet, she can give it to me. She has made it a point to love and serve me (aka her part of mutual giving) by giving me even the simplest acts of affection. If I’ve had a tough day or am feeling really down she will just sit beside me and put her hand on my back. I know that it is not her natural instinct which in effect makes it all the more meaningful. She is saying that she loves me, she cares about me, and that she is willing to give me something that will help me get through a tough time.
You may at this point wonder if this goes further into some REAL affection. You know…that kind. Yes it does but be careful. It is not always affection that one needs from doing…that. This is a family website (not really but I digress) so I won’t make you feel any more uncomfortable than you already are. I will just add that, as mentioned in attention, that there are other needs that come into play when intimacy is involved. It may be affection but it could also be attention, security, approval, or bits of other emotional/relational needs.
So, remember, you may have a high need for it, you may not. Your spouse or close friends may be good at giving it to you, they may not. The key is (like with all emotional/relational needs) is to put the expectation on God to get it met through others, to communicate it to your closest of loved ones (and help them to love you by even giving examples if need be), and then mutually giving your loved ones what they need as well as receiving your needs.
It is scary to communicate that you need affection. It is a very vulnerable thing. However, to NOT do it, leaves you completely without it or trying to manipulate situations to get it met (which, again, is true of all emotional/relational needs). If you have to manipulate others to get the need met, it will never actually meet the need. It’s wasted time and leads to more anger/fear/guilt/condemnation. Thus, it’s worth facing that fear and digging in for the long haul and teaching those who love you…HOW to love you.
No, this isn’t such a racy topic after all. I do hope and pray that your needs are being met or that you at least are working with your loved ones toward getting them met, while working hard at meeting theirs.