This is the month of LOVE. Romance. All the heart emojis and heart shaped candy boxes...probably some long stem roses...maybe breakfast in bed...maybe a fancy dinner...a wonderfully sappy card...there are lots of things that get categorized as romantic in our pop culture. And they can all be effective ways to show your love.
This is all amazing for Valentine's Day...but there can be waaaaaaayyyyyy more to showing love and feeling loved than flowers and candy on the most obvious day of the year.
Have you had the moment when that person thought they were really pulling out all the stops, but you still didn't REALLY feel the love from them?
Let's be real. That happens.
But if they are trying to show you love, then why do you not feel loved? I touched on it yesterday: we give/show our love in the manner we most naturally feel it.
You can appreciate the things the other person is doing, or saying or the gifts he is giving, but it doesn't make you FEEL LOVED the way you WANT TO FEEL LOVE. It's like you are missing one another. Like ships passing in the night. Neither of your love tanks get filled up. And when neither of you is feeling well loved, it is really hard to be the one to take that first step to do the loving thing. We know how that goes. It turns into a stalemate.
Being a married woman, I have a heart for marriage. I also totally understand the stalemate part. I want to see your marriage strengthened and built up. So many things in life try to chip away at you, your spouse, and your marriage, so you have to guard all of it. Nurture your relationship with your spouse, and it will grow to be more fulfilling. Remember the adage, "The grass is always greener where you water it." Or something to that effect. You have share responsibility for the care and feeding of your marriage.
No one said love was easy. And if they did, I am so sorry, but they lied to you. But I am here to tell you it's OK, because EVERYONE feels that it is really hard sometimes.
"Love is never wasted, because its value does not rest on reciprocity." -C.S. Lewis
Love (like the verb kind we talked about yesterday) is a decision to behave in a certain way because you have committed to do so. Not always glamorous and romantic, I know. It doesn't depend on the other person being lovable. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is true. This ALSO means that there is great power in doing the loving thing to a person who has acted "unlovably" (I may have made up that word). There is. You tell your kids that all of the time, I bet (hope). You want them to be kind, even when someone has been unkind to them. Same principle at play.
The 5 Love Languages is Gary Chapman's now classic book which breaks this all down with amazing ease. It has been around for 25+ years now, but if you are unfamiliar with it, it is based on his experiences of many years as a marriage and family counselor, and his anthropology background.
The basic premise is that every person gravitates to a primary love language, one of which speaks more deeply to you than the other four:
Words of Affirmation: Using words to build up the other person. Compliments, praise.
Acts of Service: Doing something you know they would like. Cooking a meal, cleaning.
Recieving Gifts: It is the thought that counts. Small or extravagant--either works.
Quality Time: Giving undivided attention. Talking and listening (ie, not with the TV on).
Physical Touch: Nonsexual touching, holding hands, hugs, kisses, sex.
One of these love "languages," as Chapman calls them, is your primary love language. You feel most deeply loved when someone "speaks" this language to you.
When we speak our native language, we don't have to think about it. It is what comes naturally to us. Problems in relationships arise when we are speaking our native language, but we are NOT speaking the native language of the person we love. So instead of filling their love tank, it stays empty. We believe that we are showing love, but the other person isn't really feeling it.
For example, your love language may be Acts of Service. Your husband, the dear thing, likes to bring you flowers. His primary love language is Gifts. The you get flowers from him, you appreciate the flowers, but what would really, really communicate love to you, is if he helped with washing dishes and vacuuming and house chores. You would feel that his love for you is over the moon if he just vacuumed the carpet ONE TIME without being asked.
On the other hand, let's say you do all of the house chores and make his favorite meal. You took the car to get the oil changed without even being asked to do so. He may appreciate all of those things, but he still feels unsatisfied. His love tank stays empty, and you become resentful and worn out. YOU ARE WORKING SO HARD AND HE DOESN'T EVEN NOTICE.
See where I am going?
BUT...let's say you got him tickets to his favorite band and a cool concert t-shirt. He would be on cloud nine. Then he would feel like he had the most amazing wife in the world. You would be his queen.
And guess what? If you reminded him how much you love it when he vacuums, he will be way more likely to take that vacuum for a spin around the living room. Or lend a hand in the kitchen. When your love tank is full, wanting to fill someone else's love tank is much, much easier.
Learning to speak another language (love or otherwise) can feel completely awkward at first. By definition, it doesn't come naturally to you, and you may feel a little silly trying to articulate the new words. In fact it might be so hard to learn that new language, and you may not even like speaking it.
BUT, you want to learn to communicate in that language, so you need to push through the initial weird feelings. Like, you might have to practice speaking Words of Affirmation in front of the mirror before you could say them out loud to your spouse. As much as it may make you cringe to picture that scenario, here is an important point--You want your spouse to speak YOUR language. Even if it makes them feel a kind of uncomfortable at first, in your mind you are saying, "Dude, get over it and do the dishes already." Amiright??? You know I am.
OK--so we need to become fluent in our spouse's love language in order to communicate our love most effectively. But first you need to know what it is! Even if you are already familiar, humor me and take 5 minutes with your hubby revisit the quiz. Both of you need to take it. It may be extremely helpful to your marriage!
You can take the time to read the book, which I recommend (I am a nerd, after all), but life can get so busy, so my other recommendation is to take the quiz and just read the chapters (or an online summary!) which pertain to yourself and your spouse.
After you take it, come back to tell me the primary love language for you and your spouse. Then start speaking it! Try to speak some of the other four as well, just to get bonus points.
xo, Ann Marie