When I think back to my childhood and reflect on who I *knew* loved me, I can without question say my Granny loved me. Why? Because she told me. All the time. If I call her right now somewhere in the conversation she'll say, "Granny loves you!"
Granny hugged me and kissed me and spoiled me and I was never confused about her love for me. To this day I can bump into people who know her and they will say, "Your Granny loves you to death." My granddaddy (her husband) loved me too, though he didn't say it. I knew from the way he sat on the porch with me for hours and told me stories about when he was a kid and laughed and ate fig newtons with me. And maybe I knew it because Granny loved me so the environment was a loving one for me.
My parents, on the other hand, were not that overt with their love. I know now that they loved me, but, my mom raised me like her mom raised her and my dad was caught up in the issues they had and after they split, he was present but he wasn't expressive.
My parents did the things they knew to do -- fed us, clothed us, made sure we were educated and involved in various activities and kept us out of trouble and on the right path. But hugs and professions of love? No. From their perspective all those things they did should have signaled that they loved us. Because they were mostly angry and fighting, I didn't see a lot of hugs, kisses and "I love yous" between them either. Neither set of my grandparents was very affectionate with each other.
For years I had a hard time saying "I love you" to anyone. Nor was I affectionate. But I was sure starved for love and affection. This, among other things, led me to make some bad choices in relationships. I used to see people in what looked like good relationships and wonder how they pulled that off. How did they know how to do that?
I know this is why I was in my mid-30s before I met my husband. It took that long for me to get myself together and be open and receptive to real love. To learn what a good loving relationship looked like and should feel like.
My husband loves me. I do not doubt it. He tells me in words and deed all of the time. I feel loved. And I love loving him. I love being able to tell him I love him and show him I love him because he receives my love and gives it back tenfold.
If we have children, we will feed them and clothe them and make sure they are educated and involved in various activities and keep them out of trouble and on the right path. But we will also tell them we love them. We will hug them. We will teach them, through our love for them and each other, how it should feel so hopefully they won't settle for something less than authentic.
Here's hoping all of you love yourselves and refuse to settle for anything less than authentic.
Happy Valentine's Day.