Mother’s Day was great. There were no flowers or gifts waiting for me when I woke up, no breakfast in bed. Not even a card.
And that’s just how I like it. It’s the one day, even more than my birthday, that I feel completely deserving of anything I ask for.
And what I love to receive the most from my husband and kids is action – for them to take a few items on my never-ending household “to-do” list and make them happen. Nothing makes me happier, or makes me feel more loved, than having them put in the effort to take care of something that is important to me. I know they don’t care if the garage is unorganized, but I do. They don’t see the weeds behind the barbecue, but I do. And when they take care of these things, something deep in me sighs and relaxes, and I feel taken care of too.
It took a while for me (and even longer for them) to understand that my wanting to “get things done” is not just me being a nag. When I finally understood what “doing things” does for me, I could ask them for what I need without judgement or blame by saying “I want to feel taken care of, and doing things for me without having to ask is what makes me feel that way.”
It’s my nature to anticipate needs and fill them. I’m great at taking care of others by doing for them – as are many women, and especially moms. Being of service is how I express my affection for others, and how I understand affection when others serve me in any way, big or small.
Acts of service are what author and marriage counselor Gary Chapman calls one of five emotional languages – the way that people speak and understand emotional love. Chapman says that “actions such as cooking a meal, setting a table, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, changing the baby’s diaper, picking up a prescription, keeping the car in operating condition — they are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.”
If your love language is acts of service, then “actions speak louder than words.”
It’s important to know what your “love language” is in order to fill yourself back up – if you know what you need, you can ask for it. Giving and doing for others without tending to yourself is depleting. Feeling loved and cared for is just one way to “fill up your cup.”
The more you are able to receive, the more you have to give. And, recognizing the language of your loved ones lets you act in ways more fulfilling to them, and in turn enriches your life through deeper, more meaningful relationships. This deeper connection fills you up too.
The following adaption of The 5 Love Languages describes the other ways we express and feel love. Though he speaks to marital relationships in particular, Chapman’s work applies to all close relationship. Do you recognize your “Love Language”?
Words of affirmation
One way to express love emotionally is to use words that build up. Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. They are best expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as:
“You look sharp in that suit.”
“I really like how you’re always on time to pick me up at work.”
“You can always make me laugh.”
Words of affirmation are one of the five basic love languages. Within that language, however, there are many dialects. All of the dialects have in common the use of words to affirm one’s spouse. Psychologist William James said that possibly the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated. Words of affirmation will meet that need in many individuals.
By “quality time,” I mean giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. When you spend time that way, Netflix or HBO has your attention — not your spouse. What I mean is sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, devices put away, giving each other your undivided attention. It means taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and looking at each other and talking.
Time is a precious commodity. We all have multiple demands on our time, yet each of us has the exact same hours in a day. We can make the most of those hours by committing some of them to our spouse. If your mate’s primary love language is quality time she simply wants you, being with her, spending time.
Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest.
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him or her a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of him or her. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love.
But what of the person who says, “I’m not a gift giver. I didn’t receive many gifts growing up. I never learned how to select gifts. It doesn’t come naturally for me.” Now that you have made that discovery, get on with the business of learning your second language. If your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts, you can become a proficient gift giver. In fact, it is one of the easiest love languages to learn.
We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research projects in the area of child development have made that conclusion: Babies who are held, stroked and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.
For some individuals, physical touch is their primary love language. Without it, they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled, and they feel secure in the love of their spouse.
Implicit love touches require little time but much thought, especially if physical touch is not your primary love language and if you did not grow up in a “touching family.” Sitting close to each other as you watch your favorite television program requires no additional time but may communicate your love loudly. Touching your spouse as you walk through the room where he is sitting takes only a moment. Touching each other when you leave the house and again when you return may involve only a brief kiss or hug but will speak volumes to your spouse.
By Julia Novak, LSC, Intuitive Consultant. www.julianovak.net
Adaptation from The 5 Love Languages