Perhaps you now realize you’re trying to cope with prolonged and unresolved feelings stemming from your need for love and affection. Since love is learned by being loved, it is difficult to experience it if you’ve grown up in an environment with barriers to giving and receiving love.
Those feelings may have started as a child because a parent or caregiver was absent for any number of reasons. Or, it may be a spouse who is uninvolved in family life. It may be a divorce or a death. Or, perhaps the heartbreak of a shattered love relationship. It may be the effects of a rape or emotional abuse.
Many of us deal with these kinds of losses by detaching. For decades, unconsciously, I put up barriers to letting others in so I wouldn’t be rejected, hurt, or abused. I blocked my capacity to love and be loved. I turned my back on God, avoiding his subtle nudging to love him. Yet, he never gave up on me. He patiently waited because he loved me so much. We can continue to repress our desire for God but it will haunt us. God’s cry is, “Need me! Choose me!”
There are many in the mental health field who refer to our need for love as a need to fill our love tank. Love tanks help us understand our basic love needs. When our love tanks aren’t filled, life tends to be a struggle. There are several entities required to fill the tank.
1. Spiritual: We are designed to be satisfied by connecting with God. Only then can he fill our love tanks. God wants to be loved by you! Our tanks fill up when we worship and serve him. Though there is little research on how God fills the hole in our souls, it has been found those who believe they have a relationship with a stronger, wiser nonphysical deity report higher levels of happiness.
2. Parental: We are designed to be filled with love and support from our parents. If the parents aren’t keeping each other’s love tank replenished, they usually can’t fill their child’s tank adequately. For many women, their father didn’t fill their love tanks. Consequently, these women spend their lives searching for the missing love. Since none of their male relationships can sufficiently fill the parental part of the love tank, the search is doomed. They often become “addicted to finding love.”
3. Romantic love: We are designed to be loved intimately and tenderly by another person for a lifetime. From the time we’re little girls we have our hearts set on finding our Prince Charming. Yet this kind of love can be one of the most painful to endure.
4. Family, community, and peer support: We are designed to connect and be loved by other people. If we choose to isolate we can’t be filled sufficiently.
5. Self: We are designed to love ourselves (not as in narcissism). Loving yourself isn’t selfish because love, truly expressed, isn’t selfish or self-serving. Rather, loving yourself serves as a model to love others. It is to take care of your God-given needs and desires.
Every person’s heart cries, “Love me and never leave me.” It is not uncommon for our love tanks to be running on empty. It is no wonder we feel like dying plants on a vine when our relationships go wrong. We cannot make each other 100 percent happy. Only God can. The Christian story is about God coming into our lives and filling our love tanks with his unconditional love and grace.
This is an excerpt from the book "Something Happened On My Way To Hell" by author Kimberly Davidson