If you have children, a spouse, parents, siblings or friends, you have undoubtedly felt unappreciated. Perhaps you’ve experienced the following scenario:
You decide to do something nice for someone you love. You buy the perfect gift, bring home the sweetest trinket, leave the kindest note, or arrange the best family event. You plot, plan and execute. You stand back with a smile, ready to watch your loved one’s joy and gratitude.
And they say nothing.
Or perhaps they shrug their shoulders and say, “thanks, that’s nice” with less enthusiasm than they have for a well-cooked burger.
Or maybe they have the gall to complain. Whine. Gripe about the service, the size, or the long lines at the amusement park that you spent your entire savings getting into.
After all of that planning and good intention, you’re left feeling frustrated and maybe even a little resentful. You ask yourself, “why do I even bother?”
My family doesn’t appreciate me
From time to time, I’m able to turn my work as a travel blogger into a free trip or activity for my entire family. Pretty great, right? And yet on more than one occasion I’ve felt as if I have dragged them on yet another outing. “Oh, yes,” I think, “let me apologize for making you endure a visit to this world renowned attraction. I’m so sorry!“
I was in the car on the way home from just such a trip recently, silently fuming in the passenger seat, when I found myself asking, again, “why do I even bother?”
Why had I arranged this particular outing? What was I hoping to get?
Of course, I immediately assured myself that I wasn’t trying to get anything. I do nice things for my family because I want to do things for them, right? And no, they don’t have to ask, because I love them and that’s what good people do when they love someone, damn it!
Then why am I annoyed when I don’t get the response I expect? If my motives are pure, shouldn’t the simple act of doing something nice for them fill me with goodness and light, regardless of whether or not I am appreciated?
Or maybe the problem is that I’m doing things that would make me feel loved and assuming they will have the same effect on other people.
Consider your target audience
There is not one universal list of “acts that make people feel loved”. In the popular book The 5 Love Languages, marriage counselor Gary Chapman talks about the five “languages” that we use to show each other affection:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
We each respond differently to these types of acts, and knowing which language your partner appreciates most is an important part of creating a relationship in which both people feel loved and appreciated.
While I learned this concept in marriage counseling, I just recently noticed how it relates to my relationship with my children. And my friends. And pretty much everyone else in my life.
There are countless ways to show love, and each of us responds to those acts – those “love languages” uniquely. Chances are the way you want to be loved is how you show love, although it may not be what the people in your life want or need most.
For example, I love to travel. I love doing new things. The most loving thing anyone could do for me is take me on a trip. But maybe my five year old would rather I walk her down to the park. Perhaps my son would really love it if I played the Wii with him for a few hours. I’m almost certain that my husband would rather have morning sex than take another trip to Disney World.
Really, why bother?
I’m practicing asking myself this question more frequently and sincerely.
Am I taking my family to SeaWorld for the afternoon because I want to spend time with them, or because I want to do something nice for them? If it’s for me, then I can admit that we’re going because it’s important to me and ask them to be generally nice and well-behaved; that dramatically lowers my expectations for praise and thanks.
But if I want to do something nice for them simply because I do, in fact, enjoy loving up on my loved ones, then I need to make sure I’m speaking their language. When I want to do something that they will appreciate - aka enjoy - it’s a good idea to ask what they would appreciate and do that.
The good news is, I think I’m going to save a fortune on travel expenses and theme park lunches.
Do you ever feel like your family doesn’t appreciate you? Are you speaking different languages?