It’s important to be the taker, sometimes.

Some of us are much more at ease when giving rather than receiving love. Yet, we don’t desire it any less. For those to whom accepting love comes as effortlessly as it should, the idea of there being related difficulties may seem odd. Letting someone love you should be easy. It’s what most dream of — having a person who adores, protects and supports us. But what we want and what we’re comfortable with are not always one and the same.

There is much that could be unnerving about surrendering to love. We have to expose hidden parts of ourselves and be softer. We have to depend on someone, and risk the potential disappointment of them letting us down. If we have little or no experience in this role — because we grew up taking care of ourselves or others instead of just being a kid, we let someone in once and were deeply wounded so we built impenetrable walls, or we’ve never witnessed let alone felt much loving interaction — this can be a scary space to navigate. We either learned methods for getting the attention, connection and nurture that we need, or learned to give up on having those needs met.

We all know these individuals. We may be them. They are those who are constantly doing for others but don’t allow others to do for them. They put their own needs on the back burner in favor of pleasing someone else. This is where ultimate pleasure is derived, from loving and giving — not being loved or given to. Others wonder how someone so thoughtful and caring could often have people in their lives who don’t show up on worthy occasions. It’s because we don’t allow them to. Even when we want the love and support, the struggle is to make ourselves vulnerable enough to let it be known and have anyone believing that their presence would be helpful.

As vital as it is to develop our ability to demonstrate love, learning how to let people love us may be even more important. Because, if we can allow others to pour into us we’ll always have a reservoir to pull from and give to someone else. When we’re ready and willing, we’ll know enough about what love feels like, and have an abundance to share. However, if we have a lid on our love cup it will remain empty. We’ll be trying to give people things we don’t have and create an emotional deficit.

Always being the giver and never the receiver can lead to resentment. We can feel as though we’re underappreciated if the other person expects things of us without offering the same in return. Even if that’s the way we’ve designed the relationship to be, we grow tired of keeping someone happy while our own desires are overlooked. We despise them for not adequately loving us, even though we’ve downplayed our needs and established barriers that prevented them from being met. That’s because inherently, no matter what we’ve made ourselves believe and the persona we’ve undertaken in order to survive rejection, neglect or betrayal, we still just want to be loved. And that’s Ok. Anything less is suppression of our fundamental humanity.

When someone does decide to try and love us anyway, despite our resistance, it can actually push us away. We may shut down, either out of fear, insecurity, believing on some level that we are underserving, or because we’re so far removed from the experience that it appears foreign. We reject the love, and the person attempting to ‘force’ it upon us.

The challenge becomes how to accept and submit to the longing that innately exists within us. We know what it takes. We have to let people in and lay our weapons down. We have to be defenseless. But, how, when it doesn’t feel natural and we don’t feel safe?

I think that recognizing our hesitance to receiving love and the behaviors we’ve cultivated to inhibit the circumstance is half the battle. The other half is unlearning it all. We may have to flat-out tell people of our struggles, so that they can assist us along the way and not take it personally when we don’t respond in the manner that they think we should. We’ll have to consciously operate outside of our comfort zones and seek interaction that makes us squirm a little inside in order to break our constraining habits.

I’ve been on this journey myself. I’ve not only endured but initiated awkward conversations and put my heart on the line. In doing this we may feel small, as though we are not in control of the situation. This doesn’t serve our ego, which is a good thing. The ego will leave us loveless as it seeks to preserve the image that we have of ourselves, even to our own detriment.

No matter what we do, there is no guarantee that love will be the end result in any situation. Nonetheless, if you were to ask me if it’s been worth it, making myself uncomfortable and vulnerable, chipping away at my pride— I’d tell you that irrespective of outcomes I’ve never felt so free. The greatest outcome is who we become as we make the choice, again and again, even when we’re afraid and unsure, to receive love. I wish I’d learned to do it sooner. I wish I’d opened the door to being loved before I’d already shut so many.

Author of the critically acclaimed book on women and relationship status, “Single That.”

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