How Can I Love You Better?

Thursday, June 23, 2016 - 5:21 am

How Can I Love You Better?

The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a living sage who was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize, recommends that we ask those closest to us a simple and powerful question that has the power to transform our relationships:

“Please tell me how I can love you better.”

It’s good to remember that the greatest truths are often simple. This simple statement touched my heart. I wonder what it would be like to have this as a basis of our daily interactions, one person at a time. What a powerful, simple, and humble gift to offer one another, and our own selves.

These days, as there is so much pain and suffering in the world,
What’s outward shows up on our inside.

So many relationships are filled with turmoil, tension, and resentment. Individuals, families, communities, nations, the world community, the natural cosmos, are all filled with tension. We need peace and harmony in our own hearts, and in our interpersonal relationships as we need peace in the world.

Yes this I know: We are not doomed to live like this. More and more, I find us yearning to be whole, be healed, and live in harmony. But not knowing how.

I speak not as one who has found the answers. But this much I know: Something magical and beautiful happens when we ask each other this magical and loveliest of inquiries:

My beloved,
how can I make you feel loved today?

Tell me, my love,
How can I love you better?

(Jessica Lehrman / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved.)

Here is the part about this question that I find so touching: the asking. The vulnerability to ask. The openness to not only put another heart before us, but to put the way that our beloved would like to be loved ahead of our own sense of what that loving has to look like.

My love, I adore you,
and maybe I don’t know
how to love you best in the way
that is best for you.

You know this already:
I love you.
I want to know: How can I love you

Not even more love
But better love.

We do have different languages of love.
I want to learn yours.

Some of us need to be held, touched lovingly, and have love glances into the window of my soul. We yearn for a touch that possesses not, and only comforts. (Show me if this is how I can love you better.)

Others need to be loved by having the lover give them some space, room for solitude. Some of our beloveds have hearts that cry out: Being around people, even being around you my beloved, is draining for me. I need to be alone to recharge. Can you hold space for me? (Show me if this is how I can love you better.)

Others need to be shown love by doing things for them. So many understand love through acts of service. Fold the laundry. Do the dishes. Bathe the kids. Take all your love, and put it into a home-cooked meal. (Show me if this is how I can love you better.)

You are, my beloved, a mystery to me.
You are a cosmic mystery.
Secrets written in your eyes that no word has ever spoken.
Songs in your heart that have moistened no lips.
I know you.
I know your heart and soul so well.
I want to be there for this mystery.
Let the unfolding of the mystery come, when it comes, how it comes, as you would want for it to come.

Teach me, my love.
Teach me your language of love.
Teach me the way that you need to be loved, today.

(Jessica Lehrman / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved.)

Lead me to trust you, trust that you know your own heart, that you know your own heart’s needs. Let me practice humility, not in how I want to love you, but in whatever way is best for you in this very breath. Let me learn your language of love, whether it is spoken words, cuddles, silence, space, or service.

Teach me, learn with me, whatever poems my eyelashes should scribe on your cheeks.

Let us let go of attachment to how I want to love you, and trust that what matters is you being loved, when you want to be loved, how you want to be loved, how best you can be loved.

Let us trust this flowing cosmic river of love, that how you need to be loved today may be different that how you’ll ask to be loved tomorrow. What matters, all that matters, is love, not the language of love.

Let us be lovers that learn each other’s language of love.

So my Beloved, how can I make you feel loved? Or better yet: how can I let you know, light of my eyes, that you are already so deeply loved?

Tell me love: how can I love you better? How can we love each other better?

Let us begin here. Let us change the world for the lovelier. You have already changed my world. For you are all the worlds to me.

Share Post


is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York TimesNewsweekWashington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads educational tours every year to Turkey, Morocco, or other countries, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trips are open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

Share Your Reflection


  • Mohamed Aliy

    Wow! Thank you Omid,your words has touched me deeply! the question your are trying to bring forwards “Please tell me how I can love you better” is very powerful and can heal any relationship and transform it into milky and honey.