The other day, I was watching the latest episode of “Desperate Housewives”. Despite its implausible plots, I find myself watching this show. Maybe it’s because once in awhile, the show can offer a bit of insight into relationships. Sandwiched in between plots to bury bodies, bed new neighbors and commit suicide, I was drawn to the exchange between Tom and Lynette, a couple on the show who are currently separated. At Tom’s behest, the family plans a family “pizza night.” Tom provides the pizza so that Lynette “won’t have to cook.” He hands Lynette the pizza box. She opens it. Her disappointment is apparent in her facial expression. She says, “You never remember, I like the thin crust. But it doesn’t matter. Thank you for getting it.” Tom looks dejected.
Cut to what seems to have been a successful dinner. Lynette goes over to the refrigerator and hands Tom a beer. “You got the Belgium kind.” Says Tom with delight. “I love this stuff.” Lynette responds, “I know.”
Later on in the scene, Tom reminds Lynette about her criticism over his choice of pizza. “You had to point out that I didn’t get the thin crust,” says Tom.” Lynette responds, “I know, I know. The second I said it, I knew it shouldn’t have come out.” He says, “It’s a reflex for you. You can’t help it.” She gives him an incredulous look and says, “Maybe that’s because I keep hoping that if I say something enough, you’ll hear me. Twenty–three years of me telling you the kind of pizza I like, and it still doesn’t occur to you to get it. It makes me feel like I just don’t matter.” Tom finally gets clarity and says, “Wow! I didn’t realize.” What he also doesn’t seem to realize is that she not only got him beer, she bought the kind of beer he likes. The problem may not be that Tom is an inconsiderate or selfish man. After all, he did offer to bring the pizza and suggested the family night. It may just be that he doesn’t understand his wife’s love language and she, in return, may not understand his.
I recently picked up Dr. Gary Chapman’s bestselling book, “The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.” Chapman has been a marriage counselor for over 30 years. According to him, each one of us uses one of these languages as our primary way of expressing how we feel about someone we care about. We may also use one or two more as a secondary language. The problem we have is that we tend to love the way we want to be loved and not the way our partner needs to be loved. That’s where the wheels can come off in a relationship.
Here are the five languages:
Spending quality time with your partner. It means giving someone your undivided attention, not staring into the screen of your mobile phone during dinner.
Some people love to give or receive gifts to show their love or feel loved. It doesn’t have to be anything big. A single flower, a nice card, or a token of a moment shared is very meaningful for those with this primary love language.
Acts of Service
Doing things you know your loved one would like you to do such as cooking a meal, keeping the car in operating condition, trimming the shrubs or walking the dog.
Holding hands, kissing, hugging, touching your partner on the back, and having sex. “But,” says the author, “don’t make the mistake of believing that the touch that brings pleasure to you will also bring pleasure to your mate.” Find out what works for your partner.
Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
After reading Dr. Chapman’s book, I realized that my primary love language is “physical touch” and a very close second is “quality time.” I once had a partner whose love language was gift ing. While I ached for the gift of alone-time and affectionate touch, my mate couldn’t understand why his eff orts to woo me with expensive gifts were falling flat. Needless to say, our relationship ended with neither of us really understanding where we went wrong.
My favorite passage in the book is this one: “People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need. Their criticism is an ineff ective way of pleading for love. If we understand that, it may help us process their criticism in a more productive manner.”
“There are only five love languages,” says Dr. Chapman. “Your spouse desperately craves one of them. Make it your goal to discover it and speak it, and their love tank will be full.
Take Tom and Lynette. In the episode, Tom is the one who suggests pizza night with his kids and estranged wife. Maybe his love language is quality time. Lynette, on the other hand, makes sure she gets the exact beer her husband likes. Maybe her love language is acts of service or gifting.
In his book, Dr. Chapman identifies the beginning of a relationship as the “in-love” stage, a temporary emotional high. He reminds us that true long-lasting emotional love is a choice that can last a long time if we can manage to love our partner in the right love language.
EDIE VAUGHN writes a blog about her life as a single, divorced mom living in the suburbs (Edieseden.blogspot.com) and is a media trainer and ex Washington, TV reporter/producer.