Friday, March 26, 2010

Fluency in Love Languages

Tirah and I are big fans of Gary Chapman's book: "The Five Love Languages." Tirah recently did a summary of the five love languages in this blog. For the sake of review they are: 1. Acts of Service, 2. Words of Affirmation, 3. Quality Time, 4. Gifts, and 5. Physical Touch. Tirah is a Physical Touch and Quality Time person. I'm an Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation person. So when I'm expressing love to Tirah, I will habitually express it by means of acts of service and kind words. Tirah will habitually express her love for me by means of physical touch and quality time. Because of reading this book I learned that I needed to express love in her languages more often in order for her to feel loved, and she needed to express love in my languages more often in order for me to feel loved. We got fairly good at this and thought, 'yay! we've learned the 5 love languages... what's the next great thing we can learn for our marriage?' Little did we know...

Recently we came up against some issues in our marriage that made me realize that we had only scratched the surface on love languages. We both felt like our 'love tanks' were not being filled. What was happening was that while we had learned a little bit of our partner's language, we were not fluent in it, and couldn't really understand it when it was spoken to us. I liken our state to some tourists that are visiting France, and had learned how to say, "Bonjour... comma tally voo?" and then suddenly the french person starts speaking very quickly in french and the tourists realize that while they thought they knew french, they were far from fluent in it. (Of course that probably wouldn't happen in real life... the french person would simply roll his or her eyes and start speaking to the tourists in English. But that's beside the point.)

At times Tirah would do an act of service for me as an expression of her love for me. But it might be an act of service that she really didn't enjoy. That way of expressing love is after all a foreign language to her. I then would not notice or appreciate this expression of love because there was no joy in it. (The accent was too thick.) Likewise I might give her a kiss every day as an expression of love for her, but she might not feel loved by it because she sensed that it was not my native love language. (The accent was too think.) So what was to be done?

In a marriage we are not meant to give up our individuality for the sake of someone else. It is our two individualities that make the marriage a more full expression of humanity. We may never have our spouse's native love language become our own native love language. We will probably always speak with a little bit of an accent. But we can work on becoming more fluent in speaking and listening to their native language. We can become bi-lingual.

In order to help this process of becoming more fluent, Tirah and I have started doing some new things. When Tirah does an act of service for me that she may or may not enjoy doing, she will tell me that she is doing it because she loves me. Because I am a words of affirmation guy as well, this really helps me 'hear' that love. (Tirah has mentioned that this feels awkward; like she's bragging. But I've assured her that it helps me feel loved.) Because I then respond affirmatively (preferably by kissing her rather than simply saying 'thank you.') to her use of my language, she begins to find joy in it, and feel loved by me in return.

Likewise when I'm stuck at work and not able to spend as much quality time with her as she would like, I might send her an email (speaking in my native language of words of affirmation). But if I can remember to tell her in my email that I want to kiss her and that I want to spend time with her, she can hear my love better through the accent. The more I think of physical touch and quality time as forms of acts of service for her, the more I become fluent in her language, and she can 'hear' my love.

We still have a lot more to learn about our love languages. To help us remain aware in this process we've thought of putting up signs around the house saying, "Whose love language are you speaking in right now?"

Depending on what your love languages are, it will differ as to how you interpret your spouses expressions of love, and become more fluent in their language. The important thing is that we all engage in communicating our honest needs with each other as married couples. Through this sharing of ideas, we can become more fluent and maybe even bi-lingual.

Movie Recommendation

Tirah and I recently saw the movie, "Did You Hear About The Morgans?" We highly recommend it. On the surface it appears to be just another romantic comedy, but underneath it is addressing some really important things in our culture in a way that supports the ideas and ideals of marriage. It begins with a married couple who are separated because of infidelity. Throughout the movie this couple not only addresses this breach of trust, but they fall back in love and end up with (what appears to be) a healthy marriage! There are also hints of the importance of marriage mentors in our life. It's a movie worth seeing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

You've Got Your Pimples and Your Boils

I know, I know, ewww gross! But bear with me, I've got a point here...

So we are all told not to pop our pimples, or we could make them worse and cause a scar, right? That's because our bodies can take care of the small infection that creates a pimple without interference. On the other hand you have boils. They are too nasty to heal on their own, and must be lanced and drained to be healed. For some reason it's an infection which is too severe for the body to take care of on it's own.

Get to the point, right!?

I know I'm getting to that....

In my marriage, conflicts arise and cause me discomfort. Then what I have to determine is if they are a pimple or a boil. Pimples are the ones that I should let go of and not dwell on, whereas boils need to be discussed and dealt with directly, or they could cause bigger problems later.

Here are some stories to illustrate:
Our family was in the car on the way to visit my sister and her family for the afternoon, and I was driving. Solomon was acting as navigator and giving me directions from a sheet I had printed out online. As we went, Solomon questioned why we went one way instead of another, I said that I had tried a couple of other routes, and wanted to try this one. We talked back and forth about the various routes, and we could have had a real argument about it, I even felt myself start to get cranky about it at one point. I was feeling defensive about the route I had chosen, but I remembered in time, that it really didn't matter, and it wasn't about me, it was just a conversation about directions. So we got where we were going on time, and eventually agreed that this was indeed another way, but probably not the fastest. If I had chosen to pick a fight about it, we would have gotten there, but now we would have had hurt and anger surrounding driving together, a.k.a., a scar.
I managed not to pick that pimple.

On the other hand:
Solomon went back to school this past fall to become a minister, and his first term was VERY demanding! I was working hard to support him in getting all his work done, and therefore, doing all the cooking, cleaning, childcare etc. almost completely on my own. We got very little time together, and as you know if you have read some of my other blog posts, face time or quality time is very important to me! As the term went on, I began to feel more and more overwhelmed, and sad. Loneliness really started to get to me, along with some depression. I struggled through, hoping that things would get better.Eventually the term did end, but the damage was done. I had survived, but not with happiness and goodwill toward Solomon. I was feeling resentful, neglected, and disconnected.
We had a week of a break until the beginning of the next term, and for almost the whole break, I didn't say anything about how I was feeling, mostly because I had become so used to feeling this way that I didn't notice it anymore. But two days before the break was to end, Solomon and I found ourselves sitting at the table next to each other, each working on some electronic device, and not talking. Solomon turned to me and asked if we could talk and put away our technology. I said sure, but then found that I had nothing to talk about. I had forgotten how to talk in those weeks of disconnectedness. Thank the Lord that all our years of hard work on communicating helped us to talk it through, and all my hurt and loneliness and sadness came tumbling out! It didn't fix things all at once, but it did stop the "infection" and began the healing.
That was a boil of pain that would not have healed on it's own, but only grown worse. So it had to be lanced. Solomon lanced it by asking to talk, and by being loving and supportive and not defensive, as I expressed my feelings.

TA DA! Pimples, and Boils....
Gross, but a good analogy... anyway I think so.

Oh yeah and Happy Birthday Solomon! I'm glad I married you. Being your wife is still the best thing about my life. Even after 9 years of marriage, it just keeps getting better. Thanks for asking me. :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Crossed Wires

The other night, Solomon and I had finished putting the kids to bed, so we came to the living room, sat down on the couch and looked at each other. We had made no plans for what we wold do that night, but we try to spend some time together after the kids go to bead, as I think most parents do. So I decided (in my own head) that we could talk and catch up on how we were doing (for me that means emotionally more than physically). Instead of telling these thoughts to Solomon, I just decided to get the ball rolling by telling him about me and how I was feeling, (having found this, in the past, a totally workable way to do things with my girl friends) expecting that he would reciprocate and tell me all about himself. I talked for a while, leaving what I thought to be nice little pauses intended as invitations to Solomon to tell me about something he was feeling. This of course is the best way to do things (I thought) because it puts no pressure on Solomon to share if he doesn't want to, but creates an atmosphere of sharing time, that is obvious, and so makes it easy to share if he so wishes.

So after about 20 minutes of me talking, and feeling increasingly frustrated by the fact that Solomon is saying nothing, yet not wanting to force him to share, I decide to gently ask him how he is doing, and comment at the same time how I'd love to hear about his mental state and not just his physical state (we had just gotten over sickness in the house, and Solomon was just over a nasty cold and cough). So then Solomon says that he thought I wasn't done telling him about me, and was waiting until I was done. Well we both laughed about that when we got it all sorted out!

So turns out that the whole talking to get things going only works with women. Solomon figured I needed to talk myself out before saying anything, after all he would be interrupting if he didn't wait! I love Solomon, he is such a good listener. He has even become almost perfect with not offering advice or trying to fix things. It cracks me up that after almost 9 years of marriage, I still miss-communicate with him! But hey, it would get boring if there weren't still something to work on!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Whisper Little Nothings

Really they are not little nothings at all! Everything from "thank you for making dinner" to "I love your beautiful blue eyes!" and even "Thank you for marrying me" can mean so much to a person who feels loved when they feel valued, appreciated, and important.

It's one of the easiest languages to speak, as long as you get in the mentality of saying thank you and giving positive feedback at every opportunity.

Go out of your way to verbalize the things that you love about your spouse, like their morals, honesty integrity etc. Check out the post I made a few days ago about "Appreciations" and make sure to spend 5 minutes a day telling your husband or wife what you appreciate about him/her.

What I like best about this one is that while I am giving Solomon a strong sense of feeling loved, I am also remembering all the wonderful things about him, and feeling better and happier to be his wife. I find that I never have to make up things to say, I just have to pay attention to what Solomon does in any given day. There is always something that he has done that is meaningful to me.

The best of course, with these languages, is to become fluent in ALL of them. Use them all to communicate love to your spouse with extra emphasis on their primary language, and you will find your marriage becomes more solid every day!

In fact, if you are struggling in your marriage, and don't know how to reach your spouse through the wall that has built up between you, speaking his or her language to them, gets right through that barrier and breaks it down faster than anything else I know of.

In all of life what it really comes down to is living to serve, help, and love others more than ourselves right? John Green (an authour of young adult fiction) said it so well; When asked what the meaning of life was he answered "Other People." So simple and so true, so let's learn to speak the language of the people around us, especially our spouse, and by doing so be living for other people.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's About Quality AND Quantity

One of the things that I really love about the five love languages, is that it's so simple. To write long explanations about what each love language is, is rather redundant, as the names of the languages are pretty darn self-explanatory. So what is there to say about Quality time? The same as the others!

Quality time, I think is the group seen as "High Maintainance" in relationships. I happen to belong to this group. If I'm high demand then I am proud to be so! By feeling loved with quality time, (and being rather vocal about feeling neglected) I have a need to spend time on our marriage, that in the end, I think, leads to a really solid relationship.

The truth is that no matter what your love language, quality time is really important! It keeps the connection between you and your spouse strong (I'm not saying that apart time is not also needed, just that we tend to neglect together time). How can you exchange gifts if you don't get a little "face time" at least? it helps you know what gifts to give. Acts of service are that much better if they culminate in time together to enjoy the service you did.

OK, my bias is totally coming through! But the point is that if this is your language or your spouses language, then it is so important to take the time together! Talk about your definition of quality time too...Is watching a movie quality time? It's not for me, but maybe it is for you. Hanging out as a couple with a group of friends? Perhaps. It's really important that you figure out what it is for you, because it is NOT just time spent in the same room and space. You could spend an entire week in constant presence with each other and not spend one minute in quality time.

For me, Quality time usually has to involve time with just the two of us, mostly talking. I have found that if I can't think of something to talk about, that reading something can grease the wheels. Appreciations are a great starter too. My favorite reading is usually marriage books. I know it sounds like work, not fun so much, but when it leads into a really great conversation about goals in our lives, or recollections of good times past, or successes in our lives, it leaves Solomon and I with a stronger sense of our shared life, and just how great that life is!

So spend real time together! It's really fun!