The Gift of Love


It is very difficult for me to give freely without expectations and strings attached when my hands are clenched tightly to you or to a belief I have about you. Giving and receiving is on my mind this year. I am keenly aware of the seduction and ease with which giving becomes the way to connect to the people we love, those we admire, or the ones from who we seek acknowledgment and recognition.  Giving as an act of caring, anticipating, offering, and hoping is a deep yearning for connection and joy. It can also be a bid for attention, a subtle way of seeking security, a confirmation of a promise, either implicit or explicit.


Offering a “gift” in exchange for security, approval, control or anything, becomes conditional giving. Unconditional love is a two-way street, one which begs the ability to both give and to receive. Receiving with grace and gratitude and giving freely with no strings is a conscious decision to believe that it is never too late to have a happy childhood. A childhood belief that I may not get what I need from you engages my fears, as well as, my clenched fists. My need to hold tightly to you or keep you at arm’s length is the young me asking for one thing and acting another way. Old beliefs tend to rise to the surface during holidays and family occasions.


The ability to give and receive is learned in our earliest years. Childhood expectations, both remembered and buried, set us up for deep longings today. The childhood yearning for attention, closeness, tenderness, acceptance, and validation is hard-wired. Most parents are good enough and still, there is an expectation for something more. Something we might not have known or understood. That childhood longing informs adult needs and fears.


The message of giving and receiving learned in our childhood home is as tightly interwoven with security, consistency, and confidence. Brené Brown talks about the shame that keeps us stuck in our oldest fears and the implied message of caregiving as “better-than.” If I help you but I do not ask for help when I need it, I subtly say you need help and don’t. When I provide for my own basic needs either through self-care or by asking for what I need, I can give you the dignity that invites you to do what you need to be your best you and tell me what you need from me. Asking is the gift.

In an interview with Maria Popova, musician, Amanda Palmer says:  “Through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you. It’s kind of counterintuitive…It’s not easy to ask… Asking makes you vulnerable.”


When I am only able to give and not able to receive (or ask for what I need,) I am saying that my self-reliance is safer than my connection with you. In Gary Chapman’s The  Five Love Languages, readers take a quiz to determine how best they want to give and receive gifts of love. Chapman describes five different love languages. To visualize these 5 different ways of giving and receiving we bring you burritos!

  • Words of Affirmation: This is a good burrito!
  • Acts of Service: I made you a burrito.
  • Receiving Gifts: Thanks for the burrito.
  • Quality time: Let’s go get burritos together.
  • Physical touch: May I be your burrito? (wrapping my arms around you in a hug!)

Knowing how best you want to be loved helps your partner, especially when it is not her/his nature to give in the very way you most long to receive. This is the secret sauce of Imago relationships-your greatest longing is an opportunity for your beloved to stretch and grow in ways that are good for each of you.


Receiving may mean surrendering fear, disappointment, and control. Receiving may invite us to have a new perspective on earlier times, one that accepts the past gaps and seeks to repair them in the present. Receiving may be our best path to giving freely and graciously, without expectation. This week I am inspired by a reading on “giving” in The Mirror of Intimacy by Alexandra Katehakis, in which she says: “Generosity without an agenda allows the precious polarities of giving and receiving to ebb and flow mutually.”


This year, accept the invitation to soften your hands, open them to receive whatever the universe and your best-beloved offer to fill them up. Consider the generosity of receiving and the grace of giving freely. Be the burrito, admire the burrito, give the burrito, and enjoy the burrito, together. Give and receive lightly, with joy and delight.

For a daily intentional practice of meditating and acting on giving and receiving click here.

At the Imago Center we offer a variety of educational events that support connection and relational being.

Check out events here.

Workshops for individuals.

Workshops for Couples

Getting the Love You Want Workshop May 15-16

Keeping the Love You Find workshop Aug 28-29