I believe to love and to be loved is one of the most beautiful things life has to offer. The magical feeling you get when you have found someone who gets you and all your quirks is unmatched. And the adventures that you and your love will go on are ones that you both will cherish for a lifetime. With that said, it is not only important to note the beauty of love, but also how to love. Knowing how to love is not inherent to everyone; it takes experience, lots of trial and error and the wisdom that you will eventually get it. So, how do you know how to love?

For me personally, I think expressing to my partner how I respond to love the best was rather difficult. For a long time, I felt as though it was their obligation to figure it out. I talk a lot about the things that I find important or the things that I like and for a while I felt like that was enough for my partner to figure out how I was feeling and what I needed. But after being together for some time, I quickly realized that my partner’s world does not revolve around me and that they might not be paying close attention to me as maybe I assumed. I am not saying this in a negative way or as a dig at them at all; what I am trying to say is that we are all very busy. We have school and work and extracurriculars and planning our lives after college out and when you add a relationship to that mix, the expectation for my partner to notice all the little nuances of my love language is at best unrealistic.

So, as I came into that understanding, I began to realize that the best way for my partner and I to really understand each other’s needs and love language was not to play this game that I had all planned out in my head, but just to be honest with them. I know it sounds like a boring answer, but it’s the truth.

With that said, the other day I was honest about something that really meant a lot to me and I would like to share it with you all reading this. Ever since I was a little kid, I have kept a memory box. This is a box where I store things that remind me of some of the happiest parts of my life. The box is filled with pictures and postcards and letters and cards from people who love me and know me the best. The box is something that I really treasure because I did not have the best childhood and those negative and sad experiences left me wanting to preserve anything positive that I was left. Thus, things like letters mean a lot to me.

I bring up letters because this was something I wanted to do with my partner. I wanted each of us to write a letter to the other person talking about our feelings for each other as we came up on our one year anniversary. However, I failed to explain to my partner the significance of what this letter meant to me and thus my partner really didn’t understand the importance of it. Since he is not the best with expressing himself through writing, he ended up deciding not to write the letter because he found himself feeling silly when he attempted at it. His feelings were indeed genuine, but I couldn’t help myself from feeling hurt. This letter meant a lot to me and the fact that I had put so much effort in writing mine and he did not write one at all left me sad for deep reasons I could not begin to understand.

And then I slowly began to figure it out. I wasn’t actually upset that I didn’t receive a letter. My sadness over the letter stemmed from my need for words of affirmation; one of the many love languages I did not realize was important to me. Once I realized that I am someone who really craves words of affirmation from my partner, I was able to verbalize that to my partner and help him better understand me and my needs.

I tell this short story to say that oftentimes we have these expectations of how our partner should treat us without recognizing that we ourselves may not know what those expectations even are. So, to go back to the question I posed in the beginning of this article: how do you know how to love someone? I truly believe the answer lies in learning how to love yourself first. Once you learn how to love yourself first, you can guide your partner along that journey so that as a couple you will know how to love each other in the best way.