State Your Needs

While in Raleigh last week, a friend asked me to join Marco Polo, so we could send each other video messages. And because this friend is important to me, I did.

And since then, she has sent me three messages, and I had sent her one that basically said, “I am trying this thing out”. So this morning she sent me a message that said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I read all your blog posts, and I do that because you are important to me and that is how you prefer to share what’s going on. This is how I prefer to share what’s going on with me, and I hope that matters to you.”

Typing it out, that sounds harsh. But it’s true. This matters to her – to me, not so much. But it’s how she feels loved, and she matters to me, so I will do it, and find ways to make it a habit.

This is the same friend that revolutionized my life one day years ago, when I was complaining about a work relationship that wasn’t working out, and she told me that it was my fault my needs were not being met, because I wasn’t communicating them to the other person – I just sort of expected them to understand what I needed from them.

“State your needs, Hugh!”.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But I often find it really hard. And that is what my friend was doing this morning – stating her needs. The honesty was refreshing. I have come to love it when people tell me how to love them, even if I sometimes struggle to do it myself.

Ever since Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages came into prominence years ago, the idea of love languages has been in the popular vernacular. The idea behind the book is that different people have different ways that they feel love and express love, and if you don’t understand that, then your partner may not feel loved, despite your trying really hard.

Chapman’s model is primarily based in romantic love, and has five “languages”: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. So, if you show love by physical touch, and your partner feels loved by acts of service, she is pissed you don’t do anything around the house but want to cuddle all the time. Meanwhile, you are feeling like she is nagging you and distant.

I want to say up front that Chapman comes from an Evangelical Christian background, and while he is a pretty easy read, you should probably know that if you engage his work. But this isn’t really about his book, but rather the concept behind it: That different people feel and show love in different ways.

I believe this to be true, and would extend the concept beyond romantic love. Today, in response to one of my Facebook posts, a friend said that cooking for people was her love language. It’s one of mine, too. I feel loved when people read and engage things I write, or when someone really listens to me and I feel like they are paying attention to me. I show love by giving you books, cooking you a meal, and fixing your dishwasher.

I have another friend who loves to send text messages. I really don’t. But because he is important to me, we text regularly. And he is far away, and so I can’t fix his dishwasher. But even if I can’t show him love in a way that moves me right now, I can do things in a way that move him.

So I don’t know what your love language is, but I know you have one. Maybe it’s, “Share TikTok videos” or “Make me spaghetti”. Or maybe it’s “Help me do chores” or “Listen to me nonjudgmentally when I’m down”.

I know this all may seem somewhat self-evident, but as a pastor, I cannot tell you how many relationships I have seen fall apart because the people involved don’t know how to love each other. Let the people you are in relationship with know how to love you.

And state your needs.