Happy New Year to everyone! I hope this first week of the new year has treated you all well. It’s been a fairly quiet week for me, which of course now that I say that, five fires will spontaneously ignite and I’ll be running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off!!
A lot of this quietness has come from my down time over the holidays. For two weeks, I had to take a break from running, largely due to me overworking my legs with running. That, on top of the emotional stress and feeling like I was coming down with something… well, I just chose to give into my body. And for once, I wasn’t overly critical with myself about this break either. But I will admit – by the second week, I began to really miss running. I realized just how much I had come to rely on the adrenaline rush it gave me and how quickly it allowed me to beat any bad mood.
Since I haven’t been able to run, I haven’t felt like getting out and doing much. Oh, I’ll get up and work, but for two weeks that was about the extent of my motivation. I would have some moments of just pure joy, usually when I was cooking or writing. But then in the moments alone, I really sunk into some sad and sobering patches. While I know we all need to be alone with our thoughts every once in awhile – to really let them marinate into our souls – I couldn’t continue to live inside my mind.
So, instead of sleeping or trying to find something occupy my mind on the television, I decided to turn to a former pastime of my from years past – reading. Shocker, right? Who reads books anymore, let along actual paper or hardback books? I can’t honestly remember the last time I picked up a book just to read leisurely. It’s been at least 5-6 years. But I bought all of these books for myself and I received several more for Christmas, so I thought I would get a head start on my New Years resolution to read more.
Amongst my book collection is The 5 Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman. A few years ago, when we were in pre-marital counseling, our therapist had us complete the quiz so we could determine which was our primary love language. Like most young couples, we were having issues with communicating and she explained how our love languages played a significant role in how we communicated with one another.
I’d never heard of the love languages, but I remember raving to my mom about how accurate the quiz was. She went out and bought the book, read it herself, then sent me a copy for my own. I recall eagerly reading through the chapters on my husband-to-be’s love languages (he had two that were pretty close), hoping to find the magical ways to communicate with him and eliminate all of our issues.
And here we are, two years later, and I’m still searching for that magic. What I learned very quickly is that although he may speak this love language, there are what Dr. Chapman calls “dialects”. Just because someone loves receiving gifts, doesn’t mean that buying them flowers or a card will always be the right way to communicate. The same goes with the other love languages – there are overall “guidelines” about each language, but every individual has their own particular way of interpreting and receiving love.
I found this book and realized that I never really gave it my full attention two years ago. I had breezed through the introductory chapters, then skipped straight to our love languages, seeking the Holy Grail. But once I realized it didn’t have a secret for me, that I had to actually do more work to discover what “dialect” my fiancé spoke… well, I’m ashamed to admit it but I just said to heck with it. But, with Valentine’s Day and our wedding anniversary right around the corner, I really want to give this book another shot.
And so here I am – starting back at square one, just like we did in the pre-marital counseling sessions. And after nearly two years of marriage, I am still just as clueless as I was then. There are so many ways to express love, but finding the right way to communicate that can be very challenging. The way that I expect and need to have love expressed to me is so drastically different than how he communicates or needs to be “spoken” to. And I imagine you and your partner have been or are in the same boat.
For example, my husband expresses love through gifts and words. When it comes to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, etc. he will most likely spend a lot of time and money creating a getaway trip or a carefully choreographed gift. If I don’t speak to him often or express my affection verbally, he becomes withdrawn and feels that I don’t care.
I, on the other hand, don’t need to hear “I love you” or receive large, grandiose gestures. Little things like notes or cards are sweet, but nothing large is required. And remember the how he plans for special occasions? For me, I would rather will take great care to find a way to make sure we are able to have the entire night/day/weekend to ourselves. I’ll find a special meal that is meaningful and plan to make it. I’ll go to great lengths to put together a gift that has special meaning behind it. I’ll search high and low for the right card and then agonize over the right words to write in it.
Can you tell which are our primary love languages? If you guessed his are Words of Affirmation or Receiving Gifts and mine is Quality Time, you would be correct. And as you can probably guess based on my descriptions above, neither one of us is really getting what we want or feeling loved when we “communicate”. I wind up large amounts of things that are nice, but make me feel empty inside. He winds up with gifts that he doesn’t know what to do with. Don’t get me wrong, we would be happy with our “gifts”, but we wouldn’t necessarily feel loved.
Going out to dinner, driving here there and everywhere to get to a getaway, and the stress that comes along with this isn’t my view of “love”. Likewise, a homemade meal and a gift isn’t really what he’s looking for. What are we looking for?
- Me: spending the entire weekend doing something together at home or close by. A letter or note telling me how much he loves me would be icing on the cake!
- Him: a weekend getaway with lots to do, expensive dinners, and a night out on the town. A long letter sharing my love for him would be icing on the cake!
In the above photo, it wasn’t even an anniversary. For months I had wanted to go to the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Florida. We hadn’t been able to grab tickets and instead chose to invest money in furniture. The weekend of the festival, we signed up for a 5K with my coworkers. Since it was in St. Augustine, he wanted to get a hotel and stay the whole weekend. We had just dropped some serious money on furniture, so I was hesitant to go. He made a big to-do and insisted we go, so I agreed because it made him happy. Now, I would’ve been happy with a relaxing night in our hotel room, but he decided that on this particular night, we needed to go out to the beach. But before this, he started handing me gifts – the yellow umbrella (which is something I’d always said I wanted for engagement photos) and the diamond bracelet (because he couldn’t afford a diamond ring). But wait, there’s more. Once to the beach, he brought out a photographer who was there to take photos “because we don’t have any really nice photos of us and I know how you like photos”. The final surprise – when he dropped to one knee and presented me with the diamond ring he said he couldn’t afford.
My prized gifts to him were the scrapbooks that I made for each year we had been dating. For an entire year, I would snap photos, swipe momentos from trips (don’t worry, those were like notepaper from a hotel or a movie ticket stub), and other keepsakes to place in that year’s album. I never wanted to forget one of our many firsts – first movie, first trip home, first time in Savannah…you get the picture. To me, those all represented special moments we spent together, and since Quality Time is my love language, time together is the most important to me. Another favorite gift of mine was this Bonnaroo poster that I searched high and low for. It was his “favorite year” and he’d never gotten a poster. Thank goodness for online auctions!
So, as you can tell, we definitely were missing each other all over the place. Was what we gave each other awful by any means? Absolutely not! I was constantly asked if I even loved him, just because my gifts were never over-the-top and I often didn’t have the reaction that he had envisioned. And it was never an issue of love – money, possibly, but not love. And it always frustrated me that I couldn’t quit ever get the right gift or to say the right thing. I couldn’t even get it right at Christmas this year (although there was a lot more involved with that situation than just miscommunication).
So here I am, about a month away from Valentine’s Day and re-reading The 5 Love Languages. Is it giving me the key to how I need to communicate? No, it’s still not handing over that precious treasure. But I really want to take the time to learn about each and every love language so I can better understand how each of them looks and sounds. And when it comes demonstrating love, what does that look like? I’m sure there’s thousands upon thousands of ideas out there (hello Pinterest?), but that’s still all over the place. What I really wish if there was a list of ideas for each love language, just to help lost, bewildered souls like myself.
And so, I decided that I would try to build this list. And maybe, just maybe, it will help someone else not feel so alone. Each week, from now through Valentine’s Day, I’ll be focusing on one of the Love Languages. In addition to explaining what the love language looks and sounds like, I’ll also be sharing some ideas of how you can express love to someone who speaks the language. So by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, you should be so well-versed in your partner’s love language, you’ll knock their socks off!
Don’t know what your love language is? Below are just a few online quizzes: