When I had been married for several years, I noticed my husband had the most annoying habit. He was always giving me things! I would come home to little things like flowers or a new magazine. Often, when we were out doing our regular, necessary shopping, he would stop and buy me a new pair of earrings or a necklace. This drove me crazy.
If you're trying to figure out how this could be annoying (after all, don't wives like gifts?), you will probably relate to a friend of mine who sat on my couch one day listening to me express my annoyance. The perplexed look on her face probably matches the one on yours right now. It wasn't until about ten minutes into my tirade that my friend's eyes lit up and her brow unfurled. Here's what our conversation sounded like:
Me - I don't understand why he keeps giving me all these stupid presents. We can't really afford them and I don't even want them. He had to buy me a giant jewelry box to put everything in. The darn thing is big enough to need feet.
My perplexed friend - So, what's the problem? I would kill to have someone who cared about me enough to buy me presents. My husband never gets me anything. He even forgets my birthday.
Me - Yeah, but at least your husband is around. He spends time with you. I never see mine. He's always working overtime. Probably so we can afford all these THINGS!
Her - Have you read The Five Love Languages?
The Five Love Languages
What my friend keyed in on and what I learned after reading Gary Chapman's book was my husband and I were speaking different love languages. Chapman lists five different ways couples express their emotions. Much like our oral language, such as English, love languages have a variety of dialects. The five love languages, according to Chapman, are:
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
I realized, in my own situation, my husband was expressing his love for me through giving gifts, (I believe he learned this from watching his parents), and what I wanted to receive was quality time. He was expressing his love in a language I didn't understand. Due to this, I wasn't getting the message which explained my annoyance and my feeling of not being loved.
For those who haven't had the opportunity to read Chapman's book and hopefully discuss it with a partner, I highly recommend it. If you've wondered why you or your spouse is not feeling "loved" by the other, there is a good chance you're speaking different love languages. It's like sending a text in Arabic to an English speaker. That person would get the text, but they would have no idea what it means, how they should feel about the message or how to reciprocate. Recognizing the differences in our love languages, allows us, according to Chapman, to keep our "love tank" full.
Words of Affirmation
Coming into the holiday season with all the craziness and stress and regardless of your primary love language, Chapman's chapter on Words of Affirmation provides a useful outline for many of us. How we speak to each other creates an emotional climate within our homes and our relationships. When we speak negatively, the climate is negative. When we speak positively to each other, the climate is positive as well. Chapman states, "Many couples have never learned the tremendous power of verbally affirming each other." So, how do we do this?
According to Chapman, verbal compliments "are powerful communicators of love." These affirmations are "best expressed in simple, straightforward statements." These include statements such as, "You look beautiful in that dress" and "You make the best key lime pie." One thing to avoid when giving verbal compliments is using your words as flattery to get what you want. The purpose is to acknowledge and express the positive in your mate for their emotional well-being.
This form of communication means a lot to me personally. When a person encourages or "inspires courage" in their partner, it allows them to feel strength in their spouses backing. It's like knowing whatever you do you have someone in the background cheering you on. Encouraging words help inspire potential in the person hearing them. These include statements like, "you are such an exceptional writer. I would like to see more of your work." Helping develop potential in each other can make a relationship truly feel like a partnership.
Using kind words seems simple enough. In a healthy relationship, both individuals say nice things to each other. But, it also means the tone of voice we use. I cringe when I think about all the times my words have been kind, but my tone has been sarcastic. The tone negates the positive power the words might have and turn the communication into a negative experience. Kind words can help build intimacy and can even allow partners to discuss a hurt in a way that will allow healing.
Chapman points out, "Love makes requests, not demands." Although it's hard to see sometimes, love is a choice. When we put our pride aside, and speak to our partner with words that consider the other person's desires and needs, we allow trust and intimacy to build. It's important to express our own needs and desires in a way that is a request for them to be met and not a demand. In doing so, we affirm our recognition of our partner's choice to love. Emotional love can not be demanded. "When you make a request of your spouse, you are affirming his or her worth and ability," Chapman states. In my experience, if I request my husband to help me with something it builds a tighter bond then if I were to have done it on my own.
Communication is one of the most important things in building and maintaining relationships. Words can, and often do, harm self-esteem and relationships. We can choose to speak to our partners in a way that does not bring negativity into their world or our home. By thinking about how we speak to each other, we affirm the worth the other person has in our lives. Like love, speaking kind, humble encouraging words and giving verbal affirmations is a choice. We can choose to create a positive emotional climate in our homes. The result will be a new year in which we build each other up and fill our partner's love tank. Could there be a better gift?