"She doesn't care about me; she didn't check in on me last week."
"He doesn't care about me; he never calls me."
"It's clear that I don't mean much to her; she never visits me on my birthday."
"He buys me things, but he doesn't really listen to me, he doesn't really care about me."
So often we can find ourselves lost in translation in our communication to our friends. We wait for them to call us back and they don’t. We wait for them to pop over with some food when we are feeling low, and they don’t. We wait for them to respond to our messages, and they don’t. We need them to listen to us and hug us, and yet, they don’t. I venture to guess that we have all had some experience where our needs for care have not been met. Often, we then feel annoyed with the other, assuming that they simply don't care about us. But is that really true?
Nowadays, there is much talk and recognition that we all have different love languages. Some of us feel loved by our partner by receiving affectionate words of affirmation or physical contact, others by loving gestures or actions, again others by being offered quality time or by receiving gifts. Understanding the different love languages can give us guidance on how we love our partner and how our partner wants to be loved. However, while we seem to have different love languages in our romantic relationship, what about our relationships with others: our friends, our siblings, our parents, our colleagues or flatmates?
Often, we assume that others do not love us because they do not act in a certain way that would make us feel cared for. There are three issues with that. Firstly, the fact that our friends do not respond or act the way we want them to does not mean that they do not care about us. It is only our interpretation of their behaviour. It is quite possible that they care a lot about you, but the way they do it is not obvious to us. Secondly, have you ever been explicit with your friend about how you want to be cared for? Have you ever said something like "Rob, when you don't respond to me for four days, I feel like you don't care about me. This may not be true, but that's how it makes me feel”. Thirdly, are you really aware of your needs and how you want to be cared for? Are you genuinely aware of your language of caring?
Most of the time we get angry with our friends and family because they don't take care of us in a certain way. However, if we don't know how we want to be cared for, how can we assume that others know how to care for us? How can your friends know how to care for you if you don't tell them or don't even know yourself how you want to be cared for?
I encourage you to take a moment and ask yourself: How do I want to be cared for? Do I need regular validation from my friends to know that they care about me? Do I need them to respond within a day to my WhatsApp message to feel cared for or is it something that has no real meaning to me? Do I need my friend to visit me when I'm not feeling well or is a phone call enough to make me feel cared for? Do I need my friend to sense when I need a hug or is it okay for me to ask for one? Do I need my friend to initiate trips and board game nights to feel cared for or is it something I don't mind doing myself and don't feel less cared for if they never do?
It is important that you begin to recognise that everyone has a different language of caring. Check in with yourself and find out what your language of caring is. Then become aware that your friends also have their own. I recommend, be open and curious to talk to each other about how you want to be cared for and what makes you feel cared for. The benefits of doing so can be invaluable. Firstly, you will feel more relaxed in your relationship with your friends when they don't respond immediately to your message, because you now know that they have a very distant relationship with their phone and prefer to visit you from time to time rather than reply by SMS. Secondly, your friends will know what is important to you and what makes you feel cared for, thus they will be much more aware in their behaviour towards you and can better meet your personal needs. Finally, even if you don't speak the same language of caring, you will be much more attentive and considerate of each other's needs and able to foster an even stronger, safe and reliable relationship to the people you deeply care for in your very own way.
...AND WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
Do you know your own language of caring? If so, have you talked to your friends about it? And do you know their language of caring? How would it change things in your relationships if you were fully aware of their language of caring and vis versa?