Learning to accept gifts of love from the heart is as important as giving them
Submitted by Terah Harrison
It’s that time of year again - filled with romance, love and the ever-present barrage of jewelry ads. We see scenes of ecstatic women opening up little boxes while their proud spouses look on in the background. As she wraps her arms around him he knows he has chosen the perfect gift for her. The ad usually ends with the woman showing off her beautiful jewelry and with a twinkle in her eye telling the audience, “He went to _______.” What we don’t know is that her twinkle is actually a twitch caused by the anxiety she feels attempting to receive such a gift.
Gifts are not only presents but can come in many forms. They can also be words of affirmation, gifts of service, quality time or physical touch. Being able to receive gifts from others means that the receiver must be able to make him or herself vulnerable and open enough to accept what is being given. We all have wounds from our pasts that may cause us to feel we are not valuable enough to receive gifts of love. Maybe you were the oldest in your family and had to take care of your siblings and now it is difficult to let someone nurture you. Maybe you only heard words of criticism and now it is hard to absorb words of praise. You could have grown up in a family that was not physically affectionate and so it is hard to accept touch. Maybe the presents you received were not things you really wanted but you felt the need to accept them because you didn’t have a voice. We bring all of these wounds into our relationships and so when those we love offer us gifts, we may not see them for what they are and therefore, we may not be able to freely receive them.
Closing ourselves off from receiving gifts affords a sense of control because we are not challenging the messages that we received since childhood. This behavior may feel safe but can ultimately be destructive and keep us from true intimacy. Let me give you an example of something that happened to me. I generally cook dinner but one night I was working late. When I got home, my husband pointed to the table and announced as proudly as the guys in the jewelry ads that he had made dinner. I found myself really upset with him. I realized I was stuck in my pattern of having difficulty letting others take care of me as I am more comfortable in the role of the caregiver. I had to push through those uncomfortable feelings of receiving a nurturing act and finally thanked him for his gift. With a twinkle in my eye, I sat down at the table and announced to our dog, “He went to Kroger.”
This Valentine’s Day as we are gearing up for romance let’s try to focus on opening ourselves to receiving what those we love in our lives are offering us. The present that comes in the little blue box is easy to see but it’s more difficult to understand and accept what the gift means to you. We may overlook meaningful gifts given to us every day, such as running errands all day together, providing encouragement, making a favorite meal for dinner, or giving a simple hug. When we open ourselves up to receiving love, it is amazing how much our relationships can grow and ultimately heal us.
Terah Harrison is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Therapeutically Chosen, LLC where she specializes in relationship counseling for singles and couples as well as matchmaking. She focuses on helping clients work through past and present relationship patterns in order to heal old wounds and foster growth in current relationships.