I sincerely recommend Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages”. While no one such book has all the answers, it is an incredible insight into how people work in relationships…
My wife and I read it, we loved it and we figured out that our primary love languages are “Words of Affirmation” (me) and “Acts of Service” (her). For both of us, our secondary love language – and there is always more than one – is “Quality Time”. At the time, I felt pretty good that we at least had something in common.
OK, so problem solved. I do good stuff, she says nice stuff, we walk hand in hand on the beach every now and then… all good right? Match made in Heaven? If only…
Turns out there is a bit of effort involved as well. The effort, I think, is in overcoming expectations. What are expectations? I will somewhat boldly offer a definition that seems to work for me… They are closely linked to hope, but not in a very good way… I think the simplest definition is that an expectation is “a hope, with a penalty”. A penalty for non delivery.
Expectations come from different places, some of them quite strange. Some part of them are from what we saw in our own home growing up, in the way things got done between our parents. Some are from our own dreams of marriage and partners. Some are a result of our brokenness, the damage we have sustained on our own paths. Abuse, disappointments, loneliness, fears, betrayals, etc… Basically our expectations, however flawed, create our personal view of how the world should be. Our definition of “Normal”, or “Right”, or “Acceptable”. This view of how the world should be becomes our safety zone, our standard by which we evaluate things.
Anyway, with that as a backdrop, back to the topic…
I have discovered that our instinct is to show love to our partner using our own love language and not the others. And the same in reverse. So we both instinctively express our love in a way that is not easily received by the other, as “love”. The very real problem with this, (and I am speaking here from my personal understanding only) is that we expend a great deal of energy doing what we believe is right to make sure our partner feels loved, and then we have EXPECTATIONS. Expectations that there will be joyful happiness and a satisfied glow. Expectations that love will be returned and bliss will prevail. Expectations that there will be peace in the home. (Us guys love the idea of peace in the home) And above all, we have expectations that we are building up this huge reserve of good will, where our failings can easily be forgiven because we have this huge positive emotional bank balance stored up.
But we don’t have this huge positive bank balance… In fact, because we have been using OUR love language and not HERS, the “love deposits” all got lost and our bank balance is in the red. WAAAY in the red. And our expectations, which govern our world, are not being met.
The problem with emotional bank balances being in the red, is that our resilience crumbles. Resilience is that incredible quality that we have as people, to absorb impacts, and return to our normal shape. It is the ability to rise above unmet expectations with benevolence and grace. When resilience is gone, the ability to be gracious and kind is compromised, and then a bitter cycle of being dominated by our unmet expectations starts.
“You don’t react like I believe you should. I lack resilience and I get frustrated. My
frustration shows, and you lack resilience, and respond unhappily from your own unmet expectations.”
All of a sudden we are not thinking about each other, and what the other person needs; we are thinking about ourselves, what we need, and why the world is being unfair to us.
“All this effort, unrewarded? How ungrateful can they actually be?”
But that’s not it, is it?
If we want grace and resilience from our partner, to create for them an abundant place of trust and goodwill, and provide a level of freedom and flexibility when we fail, we need to have made some “love deposits”. Deposits that actually ARRIVE in the other persons bank account. To guarantee that, they have to be in the receiver’s language, and not in our own.
Here is the problem, I think. I think we have a perception of the other love languages – a sense of how they feel to us when we use them. And I think we object or at least struggle to speak the other love language because of how that love language feels to us.
I speak Words of Affirmation, not Acts of Service. When I use the language of acts of service, I feel like a slave, weighed down by all the stuff that I have to do for you to make you happy. It’s all about do, do, do. The list never ends! And I am not anybody’s slave!
I speak Acts of Service, not Words of Affirmation. When I use the language of words of affirmation, I feel like I am being dishonest, words are just words. How can I say nice things and be kind when you are so inconsiderate to me all the time? It’s just hypocrisy! And I am not a hypocrite!
We have to get over the feeling of how speaking the other persons love language makes us feel. How we feel is not important. Well, not as important as laying that down and being more concerned about how THEY feel anyway.
Its hard work. It feels peculiar. It feels “not right” and as if we are being forced and manipulated into things that we don’t naturally do. Well, I think it’s time we got over that “me me me” perspective… Hey, who am I fooling? Its time I got over it.