Symbols of Love Can Create misunderstandings in Relationships
What are symbols of love? Flowers can be a symbol of love. A song, a gift, or a piece of jewelry can be symbolic of love. A verbal commitment is a symbol. Early on a verbal commitment or a phone call might be symbolic of interest. When the relationship is more serious we might consider promises and verbal commitments as symbolic of emotion.
In the search for genuine love it is helpful if we don’t get confused and attached to symbols. Love is an emotion and is not measurable. But we so often attempt to give our own meaning and measurements to love. We look at what people do and interpret how much they love us or not. If someone says they love us we use those words as evidence. If they go out of their way and turn down an outing with their friends we might consider that symbolic of love. We may know how we feel about them, but can’t tell how someone feels about us. We are not used to perceiving emotion directly so we look for symbols to indicate how someone feels about us. We substitute our own meaning about symbols instead of experience the genuine emotion of love.
Difficulties of communication in love relationships
When we are in love we can not convey the emotion because love is silent. We are accustomed to communicating in words but there are no words to convey emotions. We use our words to tell people about our emotions or give symbols in their place. Our words are symbols that the other person can interpret and understand how we feel. The emotion of love is formless and so we rely on words as a code for communication.
Flowers, chocolate, jewelry, and cards are wonderful symbolic ways to communicate our emotion. But these symbols don’t prove the authenticity of love. These gifts can just as easily be given because of guilt or shame for having done something to make up for. In this case the size of the gift might be a measurement of a person’s guilt and self judgment instead of their love. They are looking for forgiveness which will release them from their self judgment. It is easy to misinterpret what the gift symbolizes because it is not always possible to see into the emotions and thought process of the giver. Our interpretation of their motivation may be different than what is inspiring them.
Companies and advertisers are eager to tell us what the symbols of love mean. We see in holiday commercials examples of men shopping for a gift to give their wife or girlfriend. They are searching for the right symbol of love to give. The jewelry company is selling symbols and they tell the viewer what their jewelry means. They even have recommendations about how much of your salary you should spend on the symbols they merchandise. Is the man buying a piece of jewelry because he is inspired by love, or because he is afraid of how the woman will interpret the size of his symbol? We are so conditioned to respond to symbols that a woman might react emotionally if she doesn’t’ get the symbol she wants. The emotional reaction isn’t really about the symbol. She is really reacting to her own interpretation of the symbol. Not getting a symbol when it is expected on particular holidays may cause a person to react to their own interpretations and expectations. If our partner forgets to do something that they promised it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t’ love and appreciate us. If we apply that meaning to their actions we do it on our own.
An engagement ring is a symbol of love. It is not the emotion itself. But how often have there been discussions about the size and quality of the diamond and what it signifies? Does a bigger diamond demonstrate that more love is coming out of someone’s heart? Does a smaller diamond mean that there is less admiration and love for you? No. If someone brings us 4 roses, do we wonder what they are trying to say? We may have a clear understanding in our mind what a dozen roses mean, but what do 4 roses mean? In our use of symbols we often interpret that more symbols means that the person has more love for us. More and bigger symbols don’t mean that there is any more emotion.
Symbols can turn into our illusions of love that lead to emotional heartbreak.
Giving symbols of love can be a way for a person to hook our attention and get what they want from us. We become attracted to that person because we value the symbols they give us. A compliment is an easy symbol for someone to give that gets our attention. We give them more attention because we enjoy compliments. If someone makes promises to us of a beautiful future we can create a whole dream in our mind of what our life will be like with them. We can fall in love with the dream we have in our imagination that is inspired by their words. In this case it is our own love being expressed for that dream we feel. Whenever we hear or think of those words or that person we feel the emotion for that dream in our mind. The symbol can be a trigger for a powerful emotional dream that we store in our memory. The word “wedding” is a symbol that we can use to build a huge dream in our mind. We can then invest a lot of meaning and emotion in that dream, and that can become a very powerful force in our lives. Sometimes dreams can be so powerful it is as if they rule us. We can become so focused on the symbol that we lose track of the emotion in the relationship.
Sometimes people become focused on the importance of symbols that they feel without love when they do not have enough symbols. They need their partner to continually provide them with symbols to keep their dream going. We become conditioned to measure how much a person loves us by how big and often they give us the tangible symbols of their love. They have to tell us with words or show us with actions that symbolize their love. But this leaves us feeling empty because symbols do not satisfy our emotional yearning. It is the emotion of love that will satisfy our search, not a symbolic representation.
Sometimes we have such a need for symbols of love that we try to satisfy the need ourselves. We go shopping and buy our self gifts and use the reason that, “I am worth it,” or “I bought this because I love myself too much to pass it up.” We use an object as a trigger for our self love. If we really experienced the emotion of love for ourselves we wouldn't’t need a symbol as a reminder. The emotion of love for ourselves is completely satisfying all by itself. When we really love ourselves there is no need to convince ourselves or anyone else what we feel emotionally.
To make sure you understand someone ask questions for clarification
Misunderstandings between men and women do not happen because they are from different planets like Mars or Venus. Misunderstandings and reactions often happen because men and women interpret symbols of love differently. The different genders have been reading different magazines and learning different meanings for the coded symbols. Boys grew up mostly spending time with boys and learned a code of how to communicate with other males. Women grew up mostly around other women and they learned a different code used to communicate with women.
It is all in English, but two people can interpret the symbols completely differently even if the same words are used. Even different women have different interpretations for the same symbol. Everyone has their own meaning for each word symbol. This can sometimes be difficult to sort out because we only have the words to explain ourselves. Even though we explain ourselves plainly in words, the other person may have a different interpretation of what those words mean. To really understand someone we have to ask questions about what they mean.
When a man says to a woman after a date, “I’ll call you later” he is speaking very plain and simple English, but what he meant and what she understood could be two completely different things. The man “knows” what he means and the woman “knows” something else. This misunderstanding can be the source of emotional drama, and this is with four simple words. We misinterpret because we assume that another person has the same meaning for words that we have, but they don’t.
Until you learn the meaning of the words that someone uses, there are going to be miscommunications and misunderstandings. They will also have to learn the meaning and emotional attachments that you have for words.
Understanding in relationship begins with Self Awareness
Before you can explain your coded meanings for words and symbols to someone, you will first have to be aware of them yourself. This means being aware of what your symbols mean, how you interpret them, and the emotional attachments you have given to images and dreams in your mind. When you are aware of your own coded symbols, you can communicate more clearly with another. Clear communication will raise the quality of understanding, respect, and clarity in your relationships. This will allow the real emotion of love to grow, and make your relationship less dependent upon symbols. When you have awareness, you know that a symbol cannot convey what you feel; and when your love no longer relies upon the exchange of symbols, it is beginning to flower into the most beautiful expression of human caring: unconditional love.