“Come. Let us go down and mix up their language. Then they will not understand each other." Genesis 11:7 NIRV
"Honey, my mom is keeping the kids tonight!" Those eight magical words can have such a dramatic impact on the daily routine of a marriage. "What? Really? Has she lost her mind? Does your father know that your mother volunteered to have a sleepover with a tween-age boy and a 4-year-old girl?" Those are some of the typical responses from my wife, Sarah. She will question the sanity of either set of grandparents when they offer (or just agree) to keep the kids overnight.
"Sweet! That's great! How soon can we drop them off? How late can we pick them up?" is more my typical response. Don't get me wrong, I adore my children. But I also love their mother and cherish our time together.
We both recognize that having parents who are healthy and willing to keep our children safe for a night is a true blessing. It allows us the opportunity to finally have some quality time together as a couple. Ahh, there it is...quality time. Just what do I mean by "quality time," you ask?
According to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Languages, there are five ways in which people tend to give and receive love: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time and Receiving Gifts. Each of us can learn these five love languages to express love, but we have a tendency to receive or feel loved by one or two of them. Understanding that your spouse may not speak the same love language that you speak is key to knowing how to let them know they are loved.
Quality Time: spending uninterrupted time with the person you love. That is one love language Sarah and I share as a married couple. It is not the primary love language for either of us, but it is a common need and desire that helps us to balance the polar opposite qualities that we often have. For Sarah, Acts of Service is her primary love language. I am still working on how to speak that to her. I now know that household chores, in fact, DO NOT count as an Act of Service. (Apparently, I am supposed to do something other than scrub the toilets and wash the dishes for her to feel loved.) For Sarah, quality time seems to present the opportunity for us to do some tasks around the house that we never seem to have the time to do, like clean the garage, hang pictures, move furniture, patch and paint the walls, BEFORE we have dinner and drinks on the patio. Acts of Service before Quality Time. This is the exact opposite of what I want to do when the kids are gone. After all, my primary love language is Physical Touch.
Let me explain my perspective on the language of Physical Touch. This includes holding hands, hugging, kissing, a gentle hand on the shoulder, a playful flirty touch, and yes...um..."doing the laundry" (can I just assume we all know what that means?). So when I hear that the kids are staying at Grandma's, I think, "Great! We can have some Quality Time! We can "do the laundry" without locking the door! Heck, we can start the laundry in the living room! We can have dinner and drinks on the patio and even do laundry out there, too! This is going to be a GREAT night! How soon can we drop the kids off?!"
When your primary love language turns out to not be the same as your spouse's, compromises are crucial. I am starting to figure out that Sarah has been teaching me how to show her love with little acts of service for me. She will stop at the store to pick up some coffee for me, just because she noticed I was out of it, or she will cook a dinner that only I like just because she knows I like it. Or she will "do the laundry" even if she doesn't really have a desire to "do the laundry" that night. Simple, huh? It took me a couple of years to understand that what she was doing was actually showing me how to show her love.
Do you remember in the Book of John when Jesus washed the disciples' feet? That was clearly an act of service. He did so without any preamble to let them know that what He was about to do would serve as a life-lesson for them to carry with them. He simply washed their feet as an act of service, an act of love, for his dear friends. He was doing something for them that just needed to be done.
I have been teaching Sarah about my language, too. I tend to reach for her hand when we are walking, I hug her often (too often, according to her), I give her flirty touches. I often try to start to "do the laundry" when the opportunity presents itself. Apparently, these little actions are my way of showing her how to speak my love language.
In the hectic reality of a marriage with two children, it takes a concerted effort to show our true love for each other. Not only is Sarah's primary love language Acts of Service, but she is also very much an introvert. I have been trying to perform an act of service by taking the children out of the house on weekends so Sarah can have some quiet down time. (That is two birds with one stone, right there!). As a result with my attempts to learn her love language, Sarah is trying to learn mine. She now approaches me to hold my hand, remembers to hug me when I get home, and sometimes even initiates "doing the laundry."
Nowadays, when Grandma keeps the children, our internal reactions are still the same. She still desires to do some of the household tasks that never seem to get done, while I still have my hopes for physical intimacy. But, we seem to focus on speaking Quality Time to each other. The last time we had a night without kids was a few days before Christmas. Sarah was able to get some last-minute shopping done, and I was able to work a little later so I could take off early that Friday. One of us picked up a dinner for both of us. Our quality time that night was not exactly what either of us envisioned. Most of it was not even spent together. But we knew that what we were doing during that time was going to allow us to have more time together as a family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our extended family and with our church family. We still find time to be together as a married couple who is very much in love. We take advantage of weekend getaways to our favorite beach for the quality time we both need. And sometimes we both know when the laundry just isn't going to get done.
Jason has long considered himself a man of faith, but only in the latest season of his life has he begun to understand what it means to belong to the Family of God. Jason is a proud father of a 12-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, as well as husband to an amazing woman who has been instrumental in bringing him back to the faith of his youth.
As a Design Engineer, Jason has had a unique career in which he has been able to combine his love for all things aquatic, and his desire to figure out how to make things work. Jason is equally at home on the ocean or 60 feet under the sea, or standing at the beach casting a bait into the surf. He considers the salty air and majesty of the water to be his sanctuary.