When I went off to college, I found that I didn’t miss my mom or my dad. I missed neither my family nor my friends. When I realized this, I began to feel quite guilty. Didn’t I love my parents? If, indeed, I loved my parents, then why didn’t I miss them? My new friends at college would talk about missing their mom or dad or brother or sister. I found myself quite content with my new friends and current situation, so I really called my ability to love into question. They seemed perplexed that I was not homesick like they were. Then I remembered when I was 15 being away for the summer on a ministry trip and not having been homesick like other teammates. Did I not love my parents? Could I even love?
When I went home at break, I found that I really enjoyed being around my family again. That, while I hadn’t missed my parents when I was away, I was enjoying having them in my life again. So I decided to conclude that I really DID love my parents, but I seemed to feel it differently than other people.
This can come into play in our adult relationships, both friendships and romance. For example, I’ve not understood couples that just can’t handle being apart from each other. When my son was young, and we were living in Thailand, twice a year I had to bring him back to the States to see his endocrinologist and pick up another six months of growth hormone for him. One couple asked me how my husband and I could stand being apart twice a year for several weeks at a time. Since their wedding, some five years previous, they had not been apart for more than one night, one time. They felt they couldn’t even sleep without the other by their side. More than that, they seemed to imply that my husband and I loved each other less since we were able to be apart weeks at a time. This was so strange to me. What does love have to do with proximity? What does love have to do with being able to be apart without being filled with longing for the other? Moreover, what does love have to do with strong feelings of such attachment?
Well, often gifted people experience less attachment to others, while some gifted people experience great attachment with a very small number of people. For those of us who do not form significantly expressed emotional attachments to people, our ability to love can be called into question, either by others or by ourselves. I grew up with a gifted mother and a highly intelligent father. In other words, we weren’t overly demonstrative with affection, though I felt very loved. Some who had grown up with more expressiveness in their family situations would observe my husband and I and wonder if we really loved each other or if it was more of a work relationship. They didn’t understand my deep commitment to the success of my husband or my deep commitment to laying aside my preferences for his as true love in action. To me, this is the true measure of love: am I willing to put the other person’s needs before my own? Am I willing to serve them and support them in who they are and what they feel called to do?
If you have a friend or a spouse who is gifted and seems to be more cold or less expressive in their love, or who seems to get along fine when you are not with them, may you have the grace not to judge their love by their emotions or emotional expression, but by how they enjoy you when you are around and how they support you in your endeavors. If you are a gifted person, may you find friends and a spouse who can look beyond the way you outwardly express emotions and may they see how you love in action, in deed. And, may you have grace not to judge yourself, but to understand yourself and understand how it is that you love, just I learned to understand how I love.