When I was just three years old, I broke someone's heart for the first time....and as I revisit the experience, I wonder what it might tell me about myself, relationships in general, and matters of the heart. But first, the story.... Like many children whose parents have depended on two incomes, I attended pre-school for a time while my mother worked. And so, at the age of three, my days consisted of play, naptimes, snacks, and navigating my new world of friends. In fact, it's the friends who are the subjects of interest in this tale. Two friends who also happened to have been identical twin brothers... One day, during recess, I made a promise to one of the little dark-haired lads that I would soon regret. Although I had been playing with both brothers, I found myself hiding behind a door with just one of them, where I made a secret and lasting commitment to marry the sensitive little fella. Secret, until it wasn't. Lasting, because I've never forgotten it...even 46 years later. And so it goes, that while hiding behind the heavy wood door, recess came to a close and the other children and I were all called for our afternoon snack. There was no assigned seating at the large wooden table where we ate, so kids piled around it, choosing their seats at will. Although I should have been accustomed to how this was done, on this particular day, I found myself at a loss for where to place myself. Even the twins, whose names I don't remember, were among those already seated.....with one brother situated on one side of the table and the other seated at one end. As I looked for an empty seat, both boys began to beg and plead with me to sit by them...and that's when the mounting pressure of my indecision and dilemma took hold. Again, the twins were identical. I couldn't actually tell them apart. It didn't help much, either, that they were dressed the same. Either that, or I lacked the necessary attention to detail to make a distinction. Regardless, I knew not one from the other and eventually made a choice to sit by the brother who seemed a bit more earnest, persistent, and wanting...at the end of the table. And this was my mistake. I no sooner sat down when the brother seated at the side began to wail like it was the end of the world while the rest of the kids in the room grew quiet. When one of the teachers heard the commotion and asked him what was wrong, the brother I betrayed pointed at me and his look-a-like and belted out in front of everyone "She said she would marry me and now she's sitting by HIM." And that's the story. To this day, I still don't know who to sit by....the boy who seems to want me more or the one more quiet. Because, figuring out who loves us is never as easy and obvious as we would like to think and the things people do or don't do that lead to us feeling loved or unloved by those people can be deceiving. They're just not good and accurate indicators of real feelings. And yet, as flawed human beings, we can easily mistake a number of factors for them. Persistence, extroversion, jealousy, possessiveness...are just a few behaviors we may mistakenly accept as indicators, but there's more. The "love language" concept considers the presence of a few others, such as physical touch, acts of service, quality time, verbal affirmation, and receiving gifts. And not one of these is a good measure of another person's love. So, why do we use them as indicators of such? Having now lived almost 50 years on this planet, I've seen women, friends, people mistake any number of them as love and passion...and I, myself, have done the same. Jealousy, possessiveness, and persistence can seem "good" on the surface. We want to feel desired, protected, and like we belong, so when our natural response to such behaviors is to feel these things, we want to trust it. And legitimately, in the case of different love languages, we may even need and require certain behaviors in our partners...or, at the very least, an understanding of our needs and those of our partner. So we, in turn, act on our feelings and make choices because of them...because of potentially false indicators. But, what if we look at all of this a different way? What if we forego the internal "ruler" we often use to gauge feelings and connection? We know in fact, sometimes through personal experience, that when a person is possessive and acts out in jealousy, it can be destructive and unhealthy. And when someone doesn't communicate or uses a love language we don't speak or understand, we also see how it can lead us to (mistakenly) throw away a potentially strong and great relationship and maybe even hurt the other person in the process. So, what do we do different? As far as I've determined to date, there's maybe two things we can do differently in how we respond, determine our own actions, and make sound decisions in our love lives. The first is that we can stop focusing on how another person may feel or not feel and the second is to better understand ourselves, our own needs, and personal intention in each relationship we enter. 1) When we stop focusing on how another person may feel or not feel and start focusing on how we, ourselves, feel about another person, we take responsibility for our choices. No longer is our love dependent on how the other person feels about us or how we interpret the actions, choices, behavior, and feelings of the other person. Because of this, there's no need to second-guess, analyze, or worry within the relationship. Furthermore, when we focus on how we personally feel, we are often more AWARE of how we really feel....which is kind of important when considering our intentions toward others. Are we in it for what we are going to get out of it, or do we have something completely honest and genuine to offer the other person? And this brings us to the second thing we can do differently.... 2) When we consider and become more aware of our own feelings, it also opens the door to becoming more aware of our own wants and needs...which further aids us in making decisions. Sure, relationships are a two way street and the other person should also want us (which is maybe a need in and of itself), but being truly honest with ourselves about what we want and need is really the best place to start any relationship. Are we actually interested in the other person or are we just interested in feeling wanted by the other person? If, it turns out, that we are genuinely interested in the other person, why? Do we really like the person for who they are or do we just like the idea of the person? Or, do we just want what we don't yet have and see the person as something to obtain or acquire? When we explore various possibilities like this and ask the right questions of ourselves, we can save ourselves a lot of heartache right off the bat....and save the other person from a lot of heartache too. In fact, if they also ask themselves the same kind of questions, they'll maybe save us some heartache, as well. And that's all I've got for now. I could, potentially, write more about how people portray themselves early on in a relationship or come on strong...which can further lead us down the path of focusing too much on another person's feelings, but I'll save that for another post. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences on this topic by leaving a comment or contacting me in private...and always, thanks for reading!