I’ve been doing some research recently to start developing much of MMSL into a couples retreat. There’s a backstory here, and it may all collapse into a heap so I’d rather not say what I’m up to just yet. My long term goals involve in-person teaching sessions, so whether this particular project gets the green light or not, I’ll end up with material to use so it’s all good.
So I said to my new friends,“tell me what you’re currently using.” and they showed me the list of books and DVDs in use. I’d never heard of half of it, and the other half was just the (yawn) same old feminine-beta-emotions-romance-do the-dishes-the-man-is-wrong stuff. Basically it’s a cross between a bad Oprah episode and David after the Dentist. But being a good researcher I ordered used copies of what I hadn’t read yet off Amazon.
At this point I should mention that for a number of years I went to a private Anglican school and have therefore sat through formal ceremonies so long, I have considered quietly removing my appendix with a paper clip to relieve the boredom. I consider that training for wading through the slush pile of traditionally published books I regrettably ordered off Amazon.
“The Five Love Languages” is excellent. Oh to be sure it’s just like every other Christian book in that it takes far too long to actually get to the book’s original content. The good bits are heavily packed in the Styrofoam of faith to ensure the non-religious would never want to read it. It is badly wrong in that it completely ignores sexuality and anything remotely approaching Alpha, leaving nothing but a baby soft Beta.
But that Beta is utterly perfect and on point.
If you want, go read the book. There’s like a trillion in print and you can probably get an older copy for $0.01 plus shipping off Amazon. Or, cribbing the summary of the Five Love Languages from here.
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.
Quality Time: In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Receiving Gifts: Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service: Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch: This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
The basic premise of the book being that each person usually has a primary love language that really connects with them, and the other ones are simply nice/pleasant/okay. I think that’s an excellent insight.
So when I do something expressive of love and commitment (Beta!) to Jennifer like buying her flowers (Receiving Gifts), she likes it, it’s okay, but it doesn’t really make her swoon. Likewise when I tell her I love her, and say nice things about her (Words of Affirmation), it’s the same thing. Nice, pleasant, but she doesn’t melt on me. She does respond well to Quality Time – she gets a little mopey if we’re apart for too long and we both like walking together and just hanging out. She does like being touched, but I’m all over her like a rash, so I don’t think she ever lacks for Physical Touch to ever want it.
But when I do housework, cook dinner, yard work, help her out, go grocery shopping with her… a.k.a Acts of Service… she perks right up and just beams at me. So while all the love languages are good to do at least once in a while, when I want to use a little Beta to hit Jennifer’s sweet spot, Acts of Service are quick, easy and guaranteed points. Not just once in a while, every time.
The giveaway is that Jennifer is constantly doing me little Acts of Service. She actually seriously likes bringing me a sandwich for example. She ironed a couple of shirts for me on Sunday simply because “it makes me feel all wifely”. Um… okay, you can iron my shirts if you want.
If you read carefully above, “I’m all over Jennifer like a rash”, my love language is Physical Touch. I endlessly touch her and playfully maul her like I’m a Labrador puppy.
Gifts do nothing for me – for my last three birthdays I asked for a toaster, a laundry basket and a bathmat. I do like functional items, but that’s about it. Words of Affirmation are nice. Quality Time is nice. Ironing my shirts and bringing me sandwiches are nice… But I feel loved when she touches me. Scratch my back a little and I am yours.
Sometimes when I’m writing Jennifer just slides up to me and runs a hand across my shoulders in passing. It works. I love it. How easy is that?
Ladies, gentlemen… once you figure out your partner’s sweet spot for receiving Beta comfort building, you could probably cut down your overall Beta interaction efforts by half, and yet win twice as many points by getting everything on target. It’s like the difference between a shotgun approach and a sniper rifle.
If you don’t know what they like the best, just experiment and try everything. You’d find it soon enough. Often what they do to you is the giveaway of what they want for themselves.