Thursday, August 30, 2012

Love languages

Recently the Mr. and I reread The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.  We've read it a few times over the years and it was one of the books I put in the bathroom when the kids were teenagers (my favorite method of covertly pouring wisdom into their lives!) It's a good book.  Not really a marriage therapy book so much as a "stop and think a minute" kind of book. 
When I first read The Five Love Languages as a young wife, I was fascinated by figuring out the Mr.'s love language and how to better express my love for him.  That is, after all, pretty much the point of the book.  A few months ago when someone mentioned that they were reading it, we decided to have a little refresher and, out of curiosity, discover what different perspective we have 20 years later. 
If you aren't familiar with the book, the premise is that there are five basic ways in which people feel loved: affirming words, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts.  There's a short questionnaire at the end to help you narrow down your love language. With my particular personality, I'm not generally interested in formula type methods of relationship management but this insight can be significant.  We discovered that my primary love language is acts of service.  In short, this means that I don't need a diamond bracelet or a bouquet of flowers.  I need partnership in building my vision of our lives together.  Simply put...keeping the lawn mowed, home repairs, don't throw your underwear on the bathroom floor and leave it there.  Some of you are married to guys who do all of the above already, it's the way they are wired.  Those are the guys I kept pointing out to the Mr. as examples of what he needed to be!  When we both understood that those care-taking acts made me feel safe, loved and cherished; it took on a new meaning to us.  One example in our relationship is that I never pump gas.  In our almost 30 years together, Dean has always put gas in my car.  I'm perfectly able to pump gas but it's something he's just always taken care of for me.   When we realized the significance of these acts of service, we were able to redefine my nagging as my need to feel loved. 
Dean's love language was affirming words.  Not surprising that I was lacking in this area since I was forever reminding him of the stuff he wasn't doing!  I made a commitment in my heart to fill his ears with words of appreciation and admiration.  To thank him every week when he mowed the lawn and all winter long when he shoveled the side walk.  I bragged on the fact that he kept my gas tank filled (still a fact that causes jaws to drop.)  I told daboyz, in his presence, what a great dad they had.  I made sure he knew that I was his biggest fan, out loud & proud!
Now, twenty years later, we wondered if our love languages had changed.  Apparently, they usually don't but it's possible.  In our case, there was a slight shift.  With Dean attending to my need for acts of service consistently, I felt confidant in his love for me but a second love language now had a tying score...physical touch.  This is something that I hadn't historically focused on but now, in middle age, I find that I love holding hands, snuggling on the couch and just being close.  It isn't all about bedroom intimacy, it's a constant connection.  With the Mr. making it a point to kiss me good bye in the mornings and to do simple things like putting his hand on the small of my back when we're walking together; I feel a deeper sense of security and love.
The Mr.'s love language has a close second now as well; quality time.  I'm really bad at this!  You know me, introverted/stay-at-home/nose in a book/stop talking to me Sara! I groaned inside when quality time was my new goal.  I'm great at "love you baby" text messages!  You want me to actually leave my house?  Well, I'm working on it.  I'm asking him on a date early in the week and being flexible when he wants to go out to a movie on a whim.  When I realized I needed to step it up in the quality time department, I immediately texted him at work, "Let's have a date night on Friday.  Nice dinner out at a restaurant we've never gone to and a movie."  He was thrilled (an amazed!)  Surprisingly, I found myself thinking, "I can't wait for Friday!"  We had a great time and I didn't implode after all.   At this point in our lives, quality time together isn't an escape from little kids and housework, it's like a celebration of our love.  It's a few hours of turning our attention towards one another and nothing else. 
There's an interesting tidbit in The Five Love Languages and it is that we usually express our love in the way we wish to be loved.  Even if you don't read the book, try this little experiment.  Pay attention to the way you express love and see if it fits into one of the five categories.  Are you a care-taker (acts of service?)  An encourager (affirming words?)  A hugger (physical touch?)  A giver (receiving gifts?) A planner (quality time?) What can you learn about yourself and what can you teach others about what you need to feel truly and completely loved? 
Once you've learned how to identify the love languages and how they are spoken, look at the people closest to you and see if you can figure out their love language.  It's the same concept in reverse.  Are they expressing one of those five languages?  Sometimes we'll see another person focusing on something that seems so utterly unimportant while it feels like they are ignoring us.  I bet we're just misunderstanding one another.  Are you longing for a hug from someone who keeps showering you with gifts you don't want?  Hmmm.  Maybe they express love through giving gifts.  Try turning their own language back on them, give them small gifts and watch for the impact it has.  Then when they are feeling secure and loved...gently teach them how to love you back in the ways that mean the most to you. 
Try it.  You might find some simple changes create a full heart.

The Five Love Languages is available on audio book, Kindle or old fashioned hold it in your hand versions.


Mari said...

I too, read that book years ago. I should read it again. Reading your post tells me I could use a refresher! I'm impressed that Dean fills your gas tank - what a guy!

Jada's Gigi said...

Good advice...and all true...glad to see people who actually implement things they learn...:) I know I could use a refresher myself!

Margie said...

I love all those languages!