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An essay about expressing love to our lifelong companion (and not the one you think)

Angry Man, Illustration

I used to have a terrible habit. It began when I was very little and it continued for decades. It was so ingrained into me that I did not realize that this was even, in fact, a bad habit. It was the derogatory, dismissive, insulting way I was speaking to the most important person in my life.

You see, I had succumbed to peer pressure in my early years and listened to what the world had to say about this human who deserved only my love and support. I looked at this individual with incredibly harsh eyes and only offered criticism every step of the way. Every achievement was underplayed, and every failure magnified to galactic proportions. And as I watched this person crumble before my eyes, I lacked empathy and compassion, and in time, I also began to enjoy using this soul as my personal punching bag. I took out all my frustrations and sorrows on the one person who never ever fought back and, with every blow I landed, became weaker, more afraid, and unbearably diminished in the process.

I did this for reasons that, in retrospect, seem so shallow and inconsequential. Culture told me this was the right talk, and society made me believe that tough love was real love. Internalized misogyny and patriarchal codes convinced me cruelty was the way to go. How wrong I was!

Somewhere along the way, I forgot to be kind and blocked out the obvious pain I was inflicting on this special person. I lost sight of the important fact that I had been handed this soul in a human body to take care of, cherish and protect. That it was my responsibility and, perhaps, my calling to give this human being the best of my love, the best of devotion, and the best treatment I was capable of.

But did I? No. Instead, I used terrible words… “ugly”, “useless”, “stupid”, “ignorant”… and today I am deeply ashamed.

In all those long years, I never once offered praise. I never said, “I love you,” and never once offered any real comfort when things went wrong. And, as if all this inhumanity was not enough, I got into a pattern of comparing this person to all others and always found fault. Always found something lacking. It almost became a vocation with me… finding mud to fling at this long-suffering soul. I thought doing this actually made me feel better.

Until one day, when the world had deserted me, and bitterness and sorrow became constant companions, I looked around and saw that this person was still there with me. Weakened, but not defeated, by my judgment and ill-treatment over the years. And when I looked into those eyes that reflected back to me every moment of abuse I had inflicted… I suddenly saw how worthy the individual was behind the pain and sorrow I had caused. And I was appalled. 

I was horrified at my treatment of this precious human who only deserved the best. I was humbled by the incredible endurance and the indomitable spirit that lay before my gaze. I saw the beauty, the talent, the joy, the service, the humanity of this perfect being. In a flash, I saw how my inhumanity had worked against this magnificent creation, this biological receptacle for divinity on earth.

And in that moment of realization, I decided to change my love language with the one person I was destined to spend the rest of my life with.

So tell me now… how do you really treat yourself?

Sangeetha Shinde Tee is an author of four books, editor of 3 international magazines, an acclaimed healer, and a reluctant entrepreneur. Also an unconventional traveler, rebellious truth seeker, and inveterate animal rescuer, she is working on her fifth book – a collection of ghost stories from around the world. Find out more about her life, books, and work at

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