Her sobs in the darkness stirred me awake. I was confused. My daughter stood over me shaking. I could hardly make out her words. Her hands were practically inside her mouth stuffing her sadness back down inside of her.
“What is it, Noelle?” I said calmly, still waking up.
“Mom, I had a dream you died.” She trembled. I couldn’t see her tears, but I could feel them through her words.
I pulled back the covers and invited her in beside me. Her body was chilly, and she instantly suctioned to my skin.
“Mommy is right here,” I whispered and stroked her hair.
She was already asleep. My eyes were closed again, and I smiled. It sounds weird, but I smiled. It feels morbid to smile over my daughter’s sad dream, but I did and this is why.
My daughter doesn’t say, “I love you.” I haven’t heard her say those three words in several years. I’m not sure when she stopped. I just remember one day she didn’t reply with those precious words, “I love you too, Mom!”
Noelle is shy and tender and quiet. She holds her feelings close. She doesn’t cuddle either. She doesn’t jump into my arms. When I kiss her forehead, she squirms away.
For a mom whose love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch, it has been hard for me that Noelle does neither of them. She will make me breakfast in bed, draw me pictures, but never say, “I love you.” She will never let me hug her.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but there was a season when I stopped saying “I love you” to my daughter because I knew she wouldn’t respond. I didn’t reach for her hand because I knew she would pull it away. I know I am the adult in the relationship, but these small things felt like rejection. So I just stopped doing them. I would hug each of my children goodnight, but when I got to Noelle, I’d just smile and wave.
I think I have the tendency to believe people don’t love me if they don’t receive my love the way I want them to. I’ll love the people who love me back the way I want them to. I’ll love the people who make loving feel good. If someone will affirm my love, I’ll give it to them more. If people reject my love, I’ll stop offering it. I have so many people in my life that give and receive love differently than me. I can make a list of people I know love me, but I don’t believe love me. I convince myself they don’t love me because they don’t show me in a specific way. They don’t love me in a way that makes me feel loved, like with hand squeezes and love notes. So I stop showing up. I stop saying “I love you” the same way I did with my daughter. Slowly, my heart backs away. I think that’s why I smiled when my daughter cried in the middle of the night. I smiled because there was a part of me that believed she didn’t love me. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.
God made each of us with unique ways to give and receive love.
When someone doesn’t give or receive love the way you think they should, resist the temptation to believe they don’t love you. The easiest thing to do is to stop pouring out love. But don’t stop. There isn’t just one right way to love. There aren’t just five love languages but millions of ways we can love because we all have our own God-given love stories. We were each designed to love in our own way. I’m tempted to make love in a black and white way, but I’m learning it can be very fluid. It can bend, flex, and bleed different colors.
Love requires wisdom.
Think about the people in your life right now. Think about your neighbor, your family, or the small group you are in. God has placed each person in your life for a reason. It isn’t an accident. Perhaps as you think about these people, pain arises. Maybe someone has hurt you, rejected you, or treated you unfairly. Hold this person and your pain before Jesus. Hand over your ache, desires, and hopes. Release your plan and your control. Release the way you think the relationship ought to go. Commit this relationship to prayer. God is on the move to bring the healing hope of Jesus to every single relationship in your life. Sometimes He uses us to actively pursue people by showing up day in and day out. Sometimes love looks like waiting for wisdom on how to love well. Either way, let us always love with prayer and by the Spirit.
Right now, God is inviting me to actively pursue my daughter. She needs words and touch even when she is resistant. I’m trying not to take it personally when Noelle’s body remains stiff when I hug her. Even though I know she will shake away, I keep reaching my arms around her day after day. I am also learning to make her favorite meal and take her on special outings because I know it fills her heart to the brim.
May we be faithful to love the people God has placed in our lives on His terms and not just our own.Leave a Comment
I needed this! I have people all around me to apply this too. Some of them very close to me. I have tried to reach out to neighbors as well with little or no response. Sometimes I want to just curl up in a shell and back off. It can hurt but this message spurs me on to keep trying. I pray too that I will be open to see Jesus love in my life so I don’t get discouraged. Thanks for this message.
I’m so glad God used this post to encourage you!
Anjuli, thank you for this beautiful post. It really spoke to my heart as I struggle with a relationship that leaves me feeling unloved even though I know I am.
Bava radix says
Just pray to ur father
Alison Moore says
Thank you for these words of wisdom, I really needed to hear them today.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
My Dad is not saved.My Dad would ask me how I am. But not once has he looked at me said that he loves me. My late Mum now and then would tell me. Not that often but at least she did. When she did you knew it was from her heart. It was the most lovely things to hear. My Mum loved you spend time with her. I loved spending time with her. I love my Dad he has such a different personally. I don’t know if because he was not told by his own Mum when she was alive that she loved him. That he was just can’t and does not know how to tell me or my two sisters. As I am sure he not told them either. I just long to see my Dad saved. Him one day say to me Dawn I love you I proud your my Daughter. I that day will say back to my Dad I love you I am glad your my Dad. I always when leaving after visiting my Dad tell him Love you Dad which I do see you soon. I pray for his Salvation. Plus the rest of my family. As I am the only one in my family saved apart from my Husband. I believe doing that with my Dad let’s him know that I Love him. I believe Jesus would want me to do that. Plus live my life in front of him for Jesus. Not preached at my Dad about Salvation as row go up. He tell me to keep my beliefs to myself. So I do that. I believe this showing the Love of Jesus to my Dad plus doing bits and pieces for him in his home to help him. Which he does appreciate. Even though at times he will say and times not say. Thank you for the help you did round my home. You do it all in Love for him and on to Jesus. But you have to use wisdom as well. He likes to so much for himself. He like to feel independent as well. But still glad you helped him. I bet your Daughter his still glad your there for her and behind it all I know she love you Anjuli even though she might not show it the way you want. As may not just be good at showing it. Or she is at that age were she it just not cool to show your Mum you love her or tell your Mum. There are kids like that. Like my Dad I know he not good at showing his Love. But God showed me this when he gets saved he will be better at showing his Love to me. Your Daughter if not saved could be the same. If saved it could be just an age think. As my sister’s kids don’t say I love you to their mum anymore. It not a cool thing to do they say. When small yes they would have. But on Birthday card they will put lots of XXX instead. So my sister says that will do as that is nice for them to do that. But they still give her hugs now and then. Love today reading. Keeping you all incourage in pray Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
You are welcome!
SHARON A says
Thanks for the reminder but I think you were being too hard on yourself: as her mother you are doing things to love her that maybe you don’t see as that. Like you said we all have our own love languages and you are doing the right thing!! She will come around:)
Thank you, Sharon! This means so much!
connie ker says
This year has taught us not to be physically involved with others and I have learned to be a Noelle, 6 ft. away from other people. We are behind masks, shields, plastic barriers and watching church on Facebook. Living alone in my senior years with all of my family in other cities has been difficult too, because their visits didn’t happen except on technology. But the love is still there, just very different for all of us. I have become introverted like Noelle and wonder how long it will take to readjust. When I was a little girl, I dreamed my mother died too and crawled in bed with my parent’s warmth. It was a nightmare, not an absence of love. I liked your reality that we give and receive love in uniquely different ways, that is God’s love for us.
This year has taught us to love differently. It has been so challenging. Thank you for your thoughtful message!
Andree Hidalgo says
Wow! This is amazing—and every detail (as painful as it may have been to admit) truly hit me hard in your writing. This is sooo true and your reminder and vulnerable truth about your daughter surely resonated with me. Thank you for reminding me of these truths….for my own relationships with hubby, daughter, my students, and friends. So blessed I read this today!
Thank you and HUGS!
I am so glad it resonated with you!!!
danita jenae says
Well. I’m bawling. Thank you for braving these words. After losing my husband, I desperately want my girls to know how much they’re loved. Needed this encouragement to keep trying today.
Deeply touched by this blog. Dealing with heartbreakingly painful family relationships. Need to release my plan and trying to control so that I can cling to the reassurance that “God is on the move to bring the healing hope of Jesus to every single relationship.”
It is can be so painful to release and trust at the same time.
May God give you wisdom.
this arrived just when I needed it. I am very close to my grandson. He lived with us for 8 years and spent every weekend with us for the next 7. He and his mom moved into a new house – so a new school. he has friends that are older and drive. he’s 16 now and I hardly ever see him. I miss him. he’s always been good at texting or responding to texts until recently. And I’m struggling over not being overly sensitive when he doesn’t text me for days. I’m feeling pushed aside and forgotten. Those are feelings that I am inflicting on myself. Logically I know this day would come. But my heart hurts. Reading your words helped me. Thank you for sharing!
Oh Suzy. I’m so sorry. May God comfort you as you grieve into a new relationship with your grandson.
I have a daughter I find difficult to love. The constant pushing away wears me out & I am missing out on my granddaughter. I continue to try and maybe some day I will believe she loves me.
This is a painful place. I’m praying God gives you the comfort and wisdom you need.
Thankyou Anjuli for your honest, helpful words.
Blessings to all,
Thank you for this reminder.
This made me cry. I don’t know why.. but I am still crying now lol. Thank you for sharing. Very touching and very wise. Big hugs to you and your sweet little one!
Oh B. I cried too! I wonder what touched you so deeply. Have you figured out what moved you to tears?
Bev Rihtarchik says
Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable in your post. My dad never said, “I love you” to me and there were years where this “wordie” resented him not speaking to me in MY love language (that was before love languages were even a “thing”). As I grew older and somewhat wiser, and after my dad’s passing, I realized that he spoke his love to me in a very different language. His language was equally affirmative as was mine. I knew I needed to learn a different love language — his. I now remember how he always made me feel secure in our home. When he had to pick me up he was always early so I didn’t have to wait alone. He made sure I always had a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and clothes on my back. He loved my mom and perhaps that’s the best gift he could have given me. Yes, may we have the wisdom to keep loving anyway — even when it’s unrequited or not appreciated. Jesus love me/us and we didn’t accept His sacrificial love language…great post!
Thank you for sharing about your dad! My dad is very similar. It’s hard to speak differnt love languages. It’s painful. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.
Wow, this really hit home with me as this is exactly how I feel towards my husband. I have spent decades trying to talk to him, demonstrate how I feel love, explain my feelings and needs and he has never responded. We went through the 5 Love Language book at church, did the quizzes (I, too, am physical touch and words of affirmation. He is acts of service and quality time) but no change. We’ve done marriage classes at church with no change. I have, over the last several years come to a place where my heart has just shut down and doesn’t even try any more since I know it will not do any good. So I truly needed to hear this. Now I just need to try to change some habits I’ve gotten into and apply it to see if I can see any glimmer of hope for this relationship that has been so empty and miserable for me for many years. Thank you!
Thank you for sharing so vulnerably. I hope the glimmer of hope you see turns into a fireball. I hope and pray God meets you in these painful places.
Mary Gemmill says
Thank you for this.
I needed to read it to remind me to keep reaching out to my 36yr old daughter whose character traits are much like your daughter’s.
RONDEE MULLENAUX says
Anjuli – I read (and enjoyed) the entire article, but THEN . . . “May we be faithful to love the people God has place in our lives on His terms and not just our own.” That one statement hit me like a ton of bricks. Thank you for an epiphany that will change the way I love those God has placed in my life.
Nancy Kavanagh says
Thank you so much for this today.
I too have family that is very different in showing their feelings/ love. As a child, my family was very open and affectionate. We hugged and always said, “I love you”. Now, here I am in a marriage where my husband is just the opposite. I buy cards gifts, leave little notes, and he see’s that as being overboard. He just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t think people should have to say I love you, you should just know it. It has made me withdraw from him in many ways and cause a distance that wasn’t there before. After reading all the replies I see that I am not alone. I have never given up but now I will put forth a greater effort to continue holding on to faith in God’s promises. Also, to a change in a son that once was close but now distant due to an addiction. Thank you all for your Words of wisdom and encouragement, may God bless you all.
Thank you for sharing about your family. I am so sorry for what your son is going through. The pain must be unbearable at times. I pray God gives you wisdom as you grieve forward.
Oh wow I needed this. I have been doing this to a friend I love so much. I feel like lately they do not show me this same love and I try to hold it back so it doesn’t seem off balance. It hurts me to do this. Thank you for putting this feeling into words and reminding me God wants me to keep loving!
I’m so glad God met you in this post.
Michelle Sigmund says
Thank you for this post. I did not realize that I was attempting to get this person in my life to love me that way that I want. I now give this to God and will continue to pray about this relationship instead of lamenting about their lack of saying they love me with words. The relationship I have is still painful at times and they show they love me in other ways, just not the way I think they should. I can see that is the controlling part of my nature and a neediness that annoys others. This post will help me today and everyday to reaffirm my relationship and prayer life in Jesus and God the Father!
Becky Keife says
Oh, friend. Your story means so much. Thank you for sharing this tender, hard thing so that we can all be encouraged to love the people God puts in our lives. This hit me hard.
Love you so much!
What a blessing I received reading this today! My heart has often felt wounded by my youngest son who does not openly display affection. I think twice before hugging him, even though intellectually I know he loves me. I will continue to hug him with your words in mind.
Oh thank you! Let’s keep hugging the ones that resist it.
Theresa Boedeker says
I was thinking of this today. How I crave certain actions and words from my husband, and yet he speaks his love to me in ways different than I crave. And I need to accept them and receive them and hear them, even if they are not in my language. And I am sure the same is true for him. And so we keep trying and hoping the other hears our attempts.
Beth Williams says
God created & wired us all differently. I come from a very huggy “I love you” family. It took a while but got hubby to realize that’s what I need. Also love gifts of service. In that respect I try to do things for others. My father in law was not a hugger. When he got cancer I did a lot of cooking for them. Would take left over baked spaghetti & fruit from local feeding mission. Would cook meals for mother in law’s birthday so she didn’t have to. There are so many ways to show love to others. We can’t expect everyone to be like us. After all God made us each unique. We must learn their love language & do it.
Eileen Curtis says
Your brilliant and heartfelt post came at exactly the right time for me today!
Last week, my 96 year old father fell, hit his head, and bled so much that the rug was soaked. He falls frequently, yet he and my 94 year old mother have rejected all our help and refuse to allow any safety measures to be installed in their apartment, which is in a well-run retirement complex. My parents also refuse to move to an assisted living apartment even though it’s down the hall from this current one, and the facility would pack and do everything for them. Financial concerns aren’t an issue for them either.
They won’t listen to me, my sister, my husband, the on-site doctor, social worker, or any other experts who want to help them. Yesterday, my mother screamed at my husband and said that if we actually loved them, we would leave them alone and stop calling. When she hung up on him, he cried and I cried all the more.
We were told that we can’t legally force them get help, even though they aren’t thinking clearly and have some cognitive deficits. Other family members are going to step in and continue trying to help them.
My husband and I love my parents dearly, but they aren’t capable of loving us back in the way they did in the past.
Your post today was like a gift from God. Thank you so much for writing it and sharing your own pain and opening up in us a path for spiritual and emotional acceptance.
Wow wow wow. Thank you for sharing your journey here. I know it is an encouragement to others. May God give you wsidom to love those He has put in your life.
Lisa Berryhill says
I so appreciate you being willing to share this intimate information with us! Thank you—this helped me today.
Thank you so very much . This words have encourage me to pray deeper for the people the has hurt me …
Marinalva Sickler says
Thank you for sharing. I confess I felt strange you couldn’t say “I love you” to your daughter. As teenager, I thought my mother didn’t love me. Took time for me to heal and understand. I was the middle child and had lot of things in my head. I appreciate your opening heart in sharing your story.