I’m not one for keeping up appearances. I don’t want to smile just because people are looking, fake being happy, or act like I have a perfect marriage. I don’t. My husband and I have had our share of ups and downs, disagreements, arguments, nights with him sleeping on the couch (for reasons other than his snoring).
We are two regular people in a relationship that has its phases. Some phases last longer than others but at the end of the day we are in agreement that we both want this and we are both putting in what it takes to make this work. That’s not to say that it has been easy. It hasn’t, it has taken a lot of soul searching, internet scouring, book reading, meditating, and hanging on by the tips of our fingers to get here. Looking back at the past 8 years I see that we have both grown. We have grown and matured both as individuals and as a couple.
I often think that it is difficult for two people from different backgrounds, family dynamics, cultures, religions and whatever else might distinguish these two unique individuals that come together and form a unit. As a person you evolve, who you are today isn’t necessarily who you will be a year from now or ten years from now. Aside from that, being in a relationship in a time of instant results, instant gratification, and acceptance of divorce is a tight rope to walk. Divorce doesn’t have the taboo that it once did. So choosing to stay with someone in spite of their flaws, after you’ve seen them on their best and worst day, and making the choice to spend your life with them is a pretty special thing in my humble opinion.
At this point two years ago I was considering throwing in the towel. I’m not one of these women that expects my husband to read my mind. He doesn’t do all of these little things that drive me crazy and then can’t figure out what’s wrong because I didn’t tell him. No I clearly told him what I wanted and needed from him- time; and he wasn’t giving it to me. He was giving me what he wanted (gifts, compliments, etc.) and expecting me to be happy with it. It was like a slap in the face for him to know what I wanted but constantly give me something else. We tried talking more, we tried counseling, we went through all of the channels you do when you are on the brink of divorce but none of it seemed to work.
There was just nothing more to do. I felt unloved, unwanted and I was just no longer happy. I came across a book that I knew would make the difference. It wasn’t a magic book of love spells, it was a book on languages. Love languages. It clicked. Before I even opened it I knew that what we needed was to read this together because it would explain things in a way I obviously wasn’t doing efficiently (although lord knows I tried a million ways, a million times, over many years).
Within days of reading the chapter about my love language, things changed. Not just with him but with me. For so long I thought that he was a different person. I felt like I had been duped. When we first started dating he did all of the right things and as time went on he got complacent and stopped trying. I realized after reading the chapter on quality time, that isn’t exactly what happened.
When we started dating we did what most couples do in the beginning and spent lots of time together. Quality time. We talked on the phone for hours, went for drives, went out to eat, we spent all of our spare time together. What I didn’t know then is that quality time is my main love language. So here he was speaking my love language for months on end without me realizing it and then as time went on eventually real life caught up and things shifted. Real life kicked in and we had to actually do things other than talk on the phone on my drive to work and back, spend every spare moment together, flirt and eat pizza and hot wings. Late nights at work, baseball league, and taking care of kids soon became regular facets of our lives.
Over time, I found myself wishing for the honeymoon phase, not because of the excitement or the butterflies but because I felt desired and connected. I missed the fun we had, the long conversations, going out to dinner, being together just the two of us.
After reading that chapter I realized that he didn’t suddenly change, he wasn’t a different person, we just didn’t realize that he was speaking my language. All of the walks, the conversations, the time we spent alone, the random texts to let me know he was thinking of me, the day trips we would take, all of this was love poured straight into my heart.
I realized why I was so hurt and disappointed, a prime example is baseball. It wasn’t the fact that he played, I want him to have fun, hobbies and an identity outside of us as a couple or him as a dad. It was the fact that games were on Sunday, the only full day we both had off and he would spend it at the game. Now in fairness, if there was some moderation I probably would have been able to compromise better. Perhaps if he played, and came back after a beer or two and we went on to have a family day, that would have been alright by me. Instead he went to games for the day every other Sunday and stayed home the other two but in a bad mood because he would rather be at the game. So while he was physically with me, he wasn’t really there. It didn’t feel like much of a compromise at all, either way I was losing. This turned into anger and resentment because neither one of us was getting what we wanted. This snowballed over the years and carried on into other situations and at the end of the day I was hurt and felt unappreciated and he just didn’t want to deal with me being in a bad mood.
After reading this, he was able to see the situation from my point of view. He understood where I was coming from, why I felt the way that I did what he could do to make it better in the future. It opened the floor for open, honest conversation, not one sided talks, not accusatory or defensive tones. Just the two of us talking and understanding one another. On the other hand I was able to understand myself and see why I would get so upset, why I would feel so slighted and why I would take it so personally when he chose to do things with his free time that didn’t include the kids and I. I’m not some crazy, obsessive, controlling wife. I understand and encourage individual identity and alone time. With quality time being my primary love language, I just took my husband’s choice of how to spend his spare time personally because that’s what means the most to me.
While he would often get me little things to show me how much he loved me, I would think, “Really?! You can stop by the store to pick out a shirt for me, but you can’t make time to go on a walk tonight? If you hadn’t gone to the store, we could have gone for a walk”. He would do things to try to help and I’d think, “Really? You have time to do laundry even though you know I’m doing that on Saturday, but you don’t feel like taking Curly Girl to the park and playing catch with us?”. He would make an honest effort to spend time together but it would be watching a movie or doing something that didn’t involve us actually focusing time on one another. He would think that he was doing what I asked, spending quality time together and I thought he was taking the easy way out, going through the motions and not putting in the effort. If I wanted to watch a movie on the couch, I could have turned Netflix on and done that myself! As you can see, I was constantly evaluating his choices and more often than not, feeling slighted. It got to the point that all I could see was what he wasn’t doing and not what he was, and even when he did try to do the right thing he still missed.
It has been 6 months since we read the chapter on my love language and our relationship hasn’t been this good in a while. He understands me better, I understand myself better. When I talk to him, he understands where I’m coming from. I don’t know if it was “hearing” it from an outside source, the way the information was communicated or a combination of the two but what I do know is that my relationship is in a much better place because of it.
After reading the book, we took the test (which I will post about at a later time), and he took a screenshot of my results to remind himself of the order of my love languages. Every now and then he can tell I start to get testy and he takes a peek at that screenshot to remind him of something he can to to speak to me in my love language. This hasn’t all been one-sided but I was primarily the one feeling off balance in the relationship because my needs weren’t being met.
Obviously sometimes there are deeper issues in a relationship that a book can’t fix, but if you are looking for something to help your relationship, even if it is not troubled I highly recommend this book. It will help you not only understand your partner better but you will understand yourself better. The simple act of reading the book together was speaking my love language because we dedicated a few moments each night to reading and discussing the book together before we went to bed.
Have you read The 5 Love Languages? Did you read it with your partner? Did you benefit from it? Did you read it once and that was enough or did you have to refer back to it every now and then? Did you discover things about your partner and yourself that you didn’t realize? Don’t be shy! If you have something to add, write a comment, start a conversation.