Ask Team Practical: How to Feel Loved by Liz Moorhead My guy didn’t get me a ring. I thought that I was okay with this, but I’m not. No, I don’t want anything “bling-y” nor do I need it. I just wish he’d gotten or done something symbolic instead of giving me a ring. I don’t know what exactly, but I wish I didn’t feel like he asked me as an afterthought. I got a, “Hey I’d like to be married, how about it?” followed with an, “I didn’t get you a ring because I know you’re not that kind of girl.” Which is true. But please, give me something?! ANYTHING would’ve been nice. An “I love you” somewhere in that sentence, or some sort of expression that he loves the life we have together and wants to continue building it. A nicely worded card telling me how much he loved me would have even sufficed. Nothing. Nope. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Because apparently, I’m not that kind of girl. So am I wrong to want something/anything? I’m worried that if I’m not wrong, this is the least of my problems. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t need/want to feel special because I’m getting/have gotten engaged. However, I do want to feel loved. I know that I am loved. But I don’t/didn’t feel it. I know the presence of a ring wouldn’t have made me feel it. So what is my problem? Why am I so blue about this? Dear Anonymous, Obviously, this isn’t about the ring. Which is great! Because I’ve already mentioned once or twice that you don’t really have a say in what gifts someone chooses to give you (or not give you). So, whew, I won’t have to repeat myself there. Instead of gifts and rings and stuff, this is about feeling loved—which is related, but very different. It sounds like you (like me) feel loved when someone clearly puts thought and time into planning something, rather than doing it on the fly. I hear that. But the problem is, it sounds like your partner hasn’t heard it. As weird as it may sound, knowing how to love someone is a learning process. He probably naturally, without even trying, just has tons of squishy-love emotions for you. I bet he even chooses to love you, actively making you a priority in his life. And I’m guessing he knows you pretty well, too. He might know exactly how much sugar to put in your coffee, or which Pandora station to leave on when you’re home, or the perfect thing to say when you’re mad at your boss. But loving someone, and even knowing someone, are both different than knowing what makes someone feel loved. That’s something you learn over time, and contrary to movies and novels, something that often requires actual real-deal, frank conversation, not always intuitive guesswork. So, I mean, kudos to him for knowing that you probably don’t want “bling.” But, obviously he’s still missing something. That doesn’t necessarily mean that something’s off between the two of you, or you’re a poor fit, or he’s a thoughtless asshole, or that you should listen to that eensy little fear whispering at the back of your mind that maybe he just doesn’t care enough. It probably just means that he still has more to learn about you. Which is fine. Here’s another startling revelation about marriage: you probably don’t know everything about one another. And your relationship is probably better off for it. I was at a wedding recently where an older couple encouraged the groom, “Never stop dating.” Alright, sure, I felt a little queasy over so much cheese (and, honestly, I’ve never really come around to liking the term “dating”), but I think the point is that we should never stop trying to learn more about each other. As soon as we hit that point where we think we know all there is to know about each other, something’s off. Something’s gone stale. We stop digging deeper to figure each other out. We stop asking questions and paying attention. We lose a little of the intrigue. And you know, I’m not a super complicated person (I basically consist of watercolor paint and pastry), but I’m still learning new stuff about myself all the damn time. Stands to reason that some other person wouldn’t have me totally figured out either. This little snag demonstrates just that. There’s a lot about you he still doesn’t know—which is fine. And one of those things he has yet to learn is how to make you feel loved—which is also fine. It might be disappointing in the immediate. But, because making someone feel loved is a long learning process, you can pretty much get ready for you both to get it wrong a bunch of times throughout marriage. Just ask my sweet, thoughtful, loving husband about my first Mother’s Day. Or, you could equally ask him about how I gave him Friday Night Lights for Christmas (I thought he loved staring at Coach Taylor as much as I do!). The bright side to that, though, is that just like so much else, it improves with time. You get to know one another, and eventually, you really can intuit what he would like, what makes him feel special, how to brighten his day. And he learns how to do the same for you. But, to get there, you need to talk about it. “When you send me flowers, it makes me feel loved.” “I like when you text me that you’re thinking about me.” Sounds très unromantic, no? Shouldn’t he just know that stuff? And besides, isn’t it sort of selfish to tell him what I want from him? NO. Incorrect. Stop watching movies. There’s nothing unromantic about honest, heartfelt, caring communication. There’s nothing selfish about giving your partner a helping hand in getting to know you. Know what is unromantic? Special occasions ruined by a preventable misstep. Know what’s selfish? Stewing in a corner every time he slips up, but stubbornly refusing to share what only you know because, “He should just know.” Another key to marriage? It’s never a good idea to assume your partner just knows about something you haven’t actually discussed. That goes for sex. That goes for marital expectations. That goes for grocery lists. And, hey, that goes for proposals. Consider this the beginning of a long legacy of (sometimes uncomfortable) frank discussions about what you need. Just take heart that a little bit of discomfort up front saves a lot of exasperation over the long haul. So, eventually, you may want to have a frank (but gentle) chat about what makes you feel loved. You know, something like, “Even though I’m not into jewelry, I want to know that you invested thought and care into this.” Then, maybe give him some examples of what “thought” and “care” look and feel like to you. Even if you are super gentle (please be super gentle!), he’s probably going to feel like he let you down. Which is fair (he sort of did, right?). Here’s my last marital advice gem for today: when he has let you down (in this way, or in any other) provide him with a possibility for rebound. My gut impulse when I’m disappointed is to declare that everything is RUINED and there’s NO FIXING IT and LEAVE ME ALONE. How unfair is that? If you can get over the sting of disappointment enough to suggest, “Hey, that was sort of a letdown, but maybe we can go out to dinner and have a special night to celebrate?” you’re already moving toward working as a team to make each other feel loved. ***** Team Practical, have you ever been disappointed by how your partner expresses love? How did you work through it? If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! Liz Moorhead Staff Writer Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.