Bonjour, comment vas-tu, amour?
Do you ever find yourself listening in on other people's conversations when they're within earshot of you? Especially if it's in another language? Oh, I could sit on a park bench in the middle of Paris ALL DAY LONG just to listen to people walking by. (OK, I might also be there for the baguettes and wine, but that's another story for another day). It fascinates me. Language. Communication. The whole bit. But eventually, what ends up happening (at least with me) is that I get a little frustrated because I'm not understanding any of it (and how I wish I could). Which brings me to my point....the importance of speaking and understanding someone else's language.
Robert and I dated for a long time before we embarked on this journey called marriage. I guess you could say that we even had the privilege of watching each other grow into the young adults we were becoming. It wasn't the type of relationship where you meet someone in your adult years and you both have so much experience in love and life that you bring to the table and that you have to discover about each other. No, we were both in our teens and really got to learn about ourselves and each other. So when we got engaged, it would have been safe to assume that we both knew just what to do, or just what to say, to express love to the other person. After all, we had spent so many years practicing being together. However, we were about to learn that we had a lot to learn.
The date of our nuptials was coming up and we enrolled in a class that our church was offering to prepare engaged couples for.....well, married life. In that class, we were presented with material from a book called The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. We were given some writing prompts as well as a questionnaire to complete. All of this to help us discover what our own love language was and to learn what language our future spouse "spoke." To me, this insight was pure gold. As mentioned previously, I love observing communication - both verbal and nonverbal. I revel in seeing the exchange of thoughts and emotions between people. So to get to explore and uncover more about myself and my future husband and the way that we can communicate love to one another was priceless. The concept of these languages was born out of Dr. Chapman's work as a marriage counselor. Over 30 years of counseling couples, he discovered that people tend to interpret and receive love in five different ways. He observed the ways that people express love to others, and analyzed what husbands and wives complained about most often, and what they requested from their significant others. While Robert and I were taking our questionnaire, we were about to find out which of these categories we fell into.
*Acts of Service
*Words of Affirmation
Incredible, right? You can fill someone's "love tank" just by knowing what their love language is! And isn't that what we most want for our spouse to feel? To truly sense our overwhelming love for them? But what happens when you try to learn a new language? What is necessary in that learning process? Simply enough, you need to PRACTICE SPEAKING IT. Let's say I enroll in French 101. I would learn zilch (and forget about being fluent in it) if I didn't actually practice it. If I weren't intentional about my actions, I wouldn't learn French. Same thing goes for a love language.
Now, let me also clarify that while speaking the language that your sweetie understands the best is beneficial, blurting out the opposite of that language has its own disadvantages. For example, when Robert helps clean up the kitchen after dinner, I am seriously filled with gratitude. Whenever he speaks Acts of Service and does something to ease the burden of my responsibilities, I feel like he's showing me how much I mean to him and how much he values me. Especially if I don't have to actually ask for his help. But when my to-do list gets longer because of a broken promise, or carelessness, or because he has prioritized something else in his day (albeit not maliciously), I get angered and frustrated. "What the heck??? Where's the love? Why doesn't he care about me?!!" And don't get me started on that darn coffee spoon that CAN NEVER MAKE ITS WAY TO THE DISHWASHER.
Robert's primary language is Quality Time, which happens to be my secondary language. The language of Receiving Gifts falls way, way low on both of our profiles, which is why instead of a tangible gift, we would much rather receive an experience, like a weekend getaway for just the two of us. We've had to learn the importance of carving out the time and space for quality time to happen (and have felt the implications of not making this happen). For many years, "date night" was not the norm. Far from it, actually. And at the end of our days, especially after becoming parents, we were both depleted, exhausted, and just not in the mood to have deep conversations. Not exactly the quality time that he craves. And so, the concept of our "Tuesdate" was born. Every Tuesday, while the kids are in school (yes, we're saving money by not paying for a babysitter - genius!), we meet for a lunch date. We are alert and energized, focused and excited to spend some time together. He has my undivided attention, and it's glorious to have a conversation without interruptions (can I get an AMEN from any parents out there??).
We are now twelve years into our marriage, and I think we're finally getting good at speaking love to each other. It has taken lots of practice in the art of communication and listening on both our parts. We still need to mindfully check in with each other to see if we're on track. But someone once told me that a strong relationship is made of two strong people. Meaning, both people in that relationship have to be active and willing participants. All the time. That's how you cultivate a strong relationship. Say what you need, mean what you say, and listen. Really listen. And if our highest calling is to #1: Love God, and #2: Love thy neighbor, and my spouse is the closest neighbor I will have in my life, then the work that we put into our relationship is so, so very worth it.
Valerie admires truth-seekers, yearns to learn more about God and herself through life's circumstances, and believes that good food plus good wine plus good company equals happiness. She and her husband are high school sweethearts, and they have the privilege of raising two beautiful daughters. She is not a huge fan of talking on the phone, but would much rather catch up with someone in person. Most days, you'll find her in yoga pants and a ponytail.