This is an adapted repost from one of my many old blogs. It still speaks to me. 😉
I have never actually read “The 5 Love Languages” (but I should, and maybe you should, because Oprah says so), but when Gary Chapman did a Life Class, I sat enthralled on the sofa and hurriedly skipped through the commercials on my DVR. This, I thought, could save my marriage. Not that it needed SAVING, per se…but a little assistance in the communication department, for sure.
The premise of the lesson is this: we all have different ways of giving and receiving love. Sounds obvious, but how many times have you been absolutely simmering because your husband never tells you you’re pretty (real life example here), or your wife maxed out the credit card AGAIN after you had another discussion with her about how it’s important to you to be debt-free? How many times have you felt like you’ve tried desperately to show love to your spouse, but you still feel like you’re waving to them from another planet? Probably constantly. In our case, always. I just never really understood the mechanics behind the disconnect, until this.
There’s a quiz you can take to find out your love language, and I don’t remember all of them, but I do remember that mine is “words of affirmation” and Ben’s is “acts of service.”
to be told how beautiful/smart/fabulous I am
that my outfit looks marvelous
that my ideas are brilliant
that the three-course dinner I made with caramelized fig-infused onions and other innovative foodie-ish foods was fantastic and he can’t wait to tell his friends what a great cook he was lucky enough to have married, how I turned him from a meat-&-potatoes boy from a hunting clan to a foodist impressed with vegan cuisine
and–okay, you get my point. I don’t need to be smothered in compliments from the rest of the world, but from my HUSBAND, yes, yes I do. I lavish in words. It’s the bookworm in me. Everything can be smoothed over and made electric with WORDS. I can’t feel something until I can turn it into a sentence. And yet I married a man who, on our wedding day, never told me I looked beautiful until I got frustrated enough to ask, in a gilded Vegas elevator where my mascara-tears reflected back to me in four mirror panes along the walls.
And yet! Although I TOLD Ben how much I loved him, and wrote little letters tucked into his work bag and even penned a poem about his greatness that he didn’t understand, he still felt unnoticed. And Gary Chapman told me why.
for me to get up with him at 5 AM and pack his lunch for work
when I take initiative in learning about something he likes, like beer or football
when I help with a home improvement project without wearing stilettos and/or complaining about getting my clothes dirty
when I do a chore for him that he was dreading doing upon his arrival home.
And I realized all along, Ben had been doing these random acts of sweetness for ME: stopping at the winery and picking up a bottle of merlot he thought I’d enjoy; scouring the Internet for that rare black Victorian gothic chandelier I’d mentioned I wanted for our parlor; getting my Margaret Keane 60’s lithograph custom-framed. Because he was DOING these things but not giving me a litany of little lovey anecdotes alongside them, I did not see them for what they were: ACTS of love.
I complained that he never told me WHY he loved me, or that he never joined in my favorite game of talking about the night we met—800 times, and always with different details because I love memory’s ability to change the cinematography of moments in rearview mirrors.
This was an epiphany for me, so I talked to him about it. But not too much. I talked about it in three sentences (okay, maybe six) and then I woke up at 5 and packed his lunch. And that day, I got a text message saying, “I love you. Thanks for everything you do.”
But it also got me thinking…I don’t know what shady characters were in YOUR little black book back when, but I had
a sociopathic stalker
a closet cokehead liar
& a film school drunk
in mine. All these years I’ve asked myself why in tarnation I was attracted to these less-than-stellar humans, and Gary Chapman gave me the answer: they spoke my love language.
Which is why words of affirmation can be tricky-tricky. Because some people have a way with words that will sweep you off your feet and throw you 100mph down the highway of love and right into the land of How The Fuck Did I Get Here. One of the aforementioned idiots preyed upon my declaration of sorrow that no man had ever sung Ben Kweller’s “Believer” lyrics to me, and the next day I opened my college anatomy book mid-class to find scrawled on notebook paper, “Ohhh sweeet darlin’ girl, I’m so glad you found me.” Enter arrow through heart. Even though, obviously, I’d basically TOLD him to do this. Which is pathetic. Don’t be pathetic like me. I’m not pathetic anymore, which is how I found and fell for Ben, who doesn’t lie and immediately go into a prose poem about how loving someone SO MUCH just makes you lie sometimes, in the name of love, love love love, love forgives all things, love means never having to say you’re sorry.
Because yes, it does. It does mean having to say you’re sorry
for wearing a white sundress to get out of staining door frames
for forgetting that it’s Mother’s Day even though your wife’s friend stealthily called to remind you
for not paying attention to the baseball game your husband really wanted you to see
for not paying attention to the short story your wife really wanted you to read
and a lot else.
It’s okay to learn a secondary language. Bilingualism is sexy.