Are you familiar with Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages”? Quite a brilliant concept, actually, and one that is easily understandable and more importantly, fairly simple to act on. I have come to believe that understanding and then acting upon Mr. Chapman’s hypothesis truly could be the salvation to many a relationship.
If you’re in the dark, please allow me to enlighten you in my famous “nutshell” method.
According to the author, there are five basic languages of love. Most of us utilize all of them at one time or another, but we all have a primary one. You know, the one that really speaks (pardon the pun) to us. Personally.
They are –
Words of Affirmation – Words, communication, emails, texts, phone calls, unsolicited compliments, in-depth conversations – this is what rocks your world.
Quality Time – Full, undivided attention is your thing. This means TV and cell phone off, computer unplugged, work postponed and all chores and tasks on standby. Gaze into my eyes, baby, so I can feel the love …
Receiving Gifts – This is not selfish materialism. The receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift; the gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are cherished. That giddy Christmas-morning feeling is merely a by-product. Honest.
Acts of Service – Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. Help out! Do your chores! Do my chores! Create new chores! Then do them. The “AoS” believer will feel your love.
Physical Touch – No, this does not mean non-stop sex-o-rama. It means being physically touchy (as opposed to that other kind, you know, weird overly-sensitive touchy) with lots of hugs, pats on the back, hand-holding and gentle caresses on the arm, shoulder, and face. This will demonstrate your excitement, concern, care, and love. If somehow full-blown sex-o-rama results, I can assure you the touchy-feely lover will not object. But that’s not what it’s about. Honest. Again.
I learned all about love languages the hard way. Early in our relationship, my ex-beau and I were “enjoying” a Mexican vacation. I’m thinking “enjoying” is not really the correct word here because every morning started out dismally. I, little Miss Can’t-Wait-To-Get-My-Day-Going-Girl, bounded out of bed eager to greet the morning, the beach, the breakfast-bar and that first brilliant cup of coffee. He, on the other hand, moped in bed, sulked visibly while brushing his teeth, was sullen in the restaurant (whilst eating yogurt and fruit while I scarfed down eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese and white bread) and was decidedly quiet at a time when I was exuberantly brimming with the day’s possibility.
Why? I mean seriously – why? Who the fuck is morose on a Mexican vacation?
A man whose love language is “touch”, that’s who. And I was too busy enjoying Mexican sunshine and breakfast buffets to speak his language first thing in the morning.
When we returned home from that ill-fated trip, my friend Lesley explained all of this love-language stuff to me (and gave me Chapman’s book) and it all became very clear, very fast. I wasn’t being touchy enough and this rendered him way too touchy (not the good kind). Seriously, all I would have had to do in Mexico is log a little more morning-bed time, complete with snuggles, cuddles and whatever followed (to which, for the record, I am never opposed). Our holiday quite possibly would have gone from frustrating to fulfilling in one fell swoop.
So guess what? Back home in Canada I got touchy. I put off that brilliant first cup of coffee (I know, I know – the sacrifice!) and stayed in bed snuggling. Sometimes even more than snuggling. And you know what? When I did, his day got a whole lot better. He smiled more. He was happier. He was content. Baby, I was speaking his language!
The other languages are fairly easy to speak as well.
Quality time? Find out what your lover likes and/or needs and then do it with them. Simple, eh?
Gifts? Bring ‘em home. Whether it’s a single rose, a pizza, a treat from the supermarket or a new car, shower the people you love with lovely gifts.
Acts of Service? Just act. Cook dinner, take out the garbage, mow the grass or renovate the rec room. Just do it. Not so tough, right?
Not yet, anyway, until we get to the most troublesome little language. Words. Which naturally just happens to be mine. Because apparently I like to be as troublesome as possible.
You see, words are foreign to far too many people. At least the right words. Communication can be tricky too, if you’re not on the same page in terms of how often, how serious, how playful and in which mode. And then you’re faced with how many words? Sometimes three words are enough. Sometimes five words are far too many. And of course no words is the worst. Silence is absolutely devastating when your love language is words.
Case in point: that same ex-beau once spent an entire day ignoring me. This day was somewhat special since I was experiencing agonizing pain from a back injury and had texted him first thing in the morning to announce that I might possibly die. By noon, when a lovely male friend had hauled my ass to the chiropractor and it had become apparent that a coffin was unnecessary, there was still no word from my honey-pie. By late afternoon, I was convinced that he must be dead on the side of a deserted highway somewhere. It was the only explanation. How could this man who ostensibly loved me not care enough to communicate with poor dying me all day long? How could he not wish to share my pain via text or phone? How could he not give even the tiniest little damn about my well-being?
Turns out he was busy. Not at work (although there was that too) but road-tripping on his lunch hour to purchase some much-coveted motorcycle parts. He was apparently too busy to slip into the bathroom to text his poor ailing girlfriend. Too busy to use the fucking Bluetooth I gave him for Christmas and call me from the car. Too busy to check in with a “Damn, I wish I could be there to care for you but don’t worry darling, I’ll see you tonight and make it all up to you.” Yep, he was too busy to speak anything even close to my love language until he showed up at my door that evening full of remorse and apologies – after he saw the hurt in my eyes (Demerol had taken care of my back).
Then he understood. Vowed to do better. And he tried.
But that’s the problem with words. If they don’t come naturally to you, it is the most difficult love language to learn. You can’t just buy a bauble, throw in a load of laundry, turn off the television or hold hands. You have to communicate. You have to want to communicate. And even then, you have to learn the right words and then learn how to use them. It is really a tough, unforgiving language and it gets even worse when you realize that it’s not a one-off. You don’t just get to write one perfect email or send three delightful texts or engage in one soul-baring dialogue. We word-people are a greedy lot and we want what we want every day. Several times. Maybe even more than several. We are a lot of work, especially if you’re a touchy, gifty, serviceable, quality-time kinda guy.
Which brings me to my Blackberry. More specifically to my love/hate relationship with that exceptional little piece of technological heaven/hell. Because as you may (or may not) know, when you instant message a Blackberry contact, you know exactly when they have read said message. It tells you, clever little interloping busybody that it is. You can also see (if you happen to be staring at the goofy little gizmo at that exact right moment and I swear I never, ever do that, hardly ever) exactly when the other person is writing a message back to you. So of course if you’re a word-girl like moi, you sit there panting audibly, possibly with tiny beads of sweat dripping off your brow, waiting for that next message to arrive. Because damnit you can see that he is writing something. It’s like foreplay, I swear. The fine folks at RIM in Waterloo have figured out cellular foreplay!
What’s my point? Yeah, yeah … I do have one.
There is a new guy in my life and he is actually, for the most part, very good at speaking my language. Mostly because he is smart, aware and (thank you, God!) gifted with words. None of these lovely attributes has anything to do with me (I just lucked into them). But he does listen to me and that is huge. Because if you don’t listen to your lover’s language, how can you ever hope to speak it? Yes, I am decidedly grateful for this smart, aware, wordy boy.
But there was this recent evening when we had just spent some time together and now were apart (as geography and our lives would have it) and I was socializing with other friends but he and I were connecting via Blackberry magic and he texted me so I snuck into the bathroom and texted something back, something you know, kinda mushy. Like I miss you or something. Nothing earth-shattering, honest. I know better than to mush-out that boy. Just kinda a little mushy.
That’s when I had my first altercation with that damn Blackberry tattletale. The little snoop told me that my message had been read and was being responded to at that very moment. And so I waited. Put some lipstick on, lest my hosts wonder what the hell I was doing for so long in their powder room. I waited some more. I wanted to read those words.
The tattletale went blank. Which typically means at the other end there has been a flurry of delete, delete, delete. Hmm, wondered I. He must be re-thinking his response.
Bam! The tattletale blinked back on. He was writing again! So I waited a bit longer and brushed my hair (damn, I was going to look good when I re-joined the party). Perhaps. But my procrastination was in vain because the tattletale went blank again. And stayed blank. There was no forthcoming message. Nada. Zippo. Nothing. That was it. I returned to the festivities and my Blackberry remained decidedly quiet until the following morning when texts and emails reconvened and creepy little tattletales were forgotten.
And this, dear reader, is where modern technology totally messes with my love language. Because I want words, yes, but I shouldn’t be able to actually see when he is thinking (or composing) a hundred miles away. I shouldn’t be able to see when he changes his mind or thinks twice. I should just be happy to know that he is speaking my language. He is trying. And to be honest (as opposed to all those other times I’ve lied to you) he is succeeding. I am a word-glutton and would no doubt feast until I was ill. No need, I have learned. I am sated and content with my current word-quotient and, as long as the buffet remains open, I will be one happy girl.
So what about me, I know you’re asking. Am I succeeding with his love language? I’m not quite sure, because I’m still not quite sure exactly what it is. Neither is he (yes, I have asked). So I try the multi-lingual approach and hope something sticks. When he visits I make sure there is beer (gifts) which I don’t typically drink. I cook dinner and breakfast and hell, I’d probably throw in a load of laundry if he asked (he never would, but there are your acts of service). I try to ensure that I don’t talk too much (usually epic fail) and that we enjoy our (quality) time together and I touch him as much as he’ll let me because there is most definitely no sacrifice there. And of course, word-aholic that I am, I share texts and emails freely, call when I feel like talking and relish every moment that he returns the favour.
Could this also be his love language? I have no idea. So until the day his primary love parlance makes itself known (so that I can log onto it with all the fervour we love-linguists possess) I shall continue to speak them all as best I can. Because methinks when it comes to relationships tis better to over-speak than under-articulate. And as Nelson Mandela so eloquently stated: If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Mr. Chapman couldn’t have said it better.
And neither can I.
Although damnit you know I’m gonna try …