I’ve been pretty reflective the past several weeks and I’m sure it’s due to the fact that I’m moving into a new stage of life. One of our children is entering her final year of high school, and another beginning the first official year of her homeschool journey. Our family is in a transitory period. I’m introspective by nature, but all of the milestones of the coming year have made me even more so.
Today is also the first of my last five days as a 30-something. After spending most of this year dreading the looming milestone, I’ve settled into a thankful anticipation of what the latter part of my life will bring. Despite our culture’s obsession with all things young, there is something to be said for the wisdom and experience that comes with having lived a bit. Many of the biggest lessons I’ve learned have come within the context of my marriage. Since this is Wednesday, the day we talk marriage around here, I thought I’d share one of the lessons I’ve learned after spending almost all of my adult life with SAM: Pay attention to how my husband receives love, and act accordingly.
I have a little book on my bookshelf called The Five Love Languages. It’s an interesting little book and for those who have never read it, I highly recommend it. The gist of it is that each person has a love language, or a way that they most readily perceive and receive love. You can find a synopsis of the love languages here. It’s s good resource because our natural tendency is to love and relate to others in the way we most readily respond. For a woman whose love language is words of affirmation, being married to a man of few words can create some tension if she’s not paying attention. And for the first few years, I wasn’t.
This subject took shape in my mind after reading this post from Cindy. It was about the problem of women “letting themselves go” after marriage and childbirth. She asks some good questions and got me to thinking. Y’all know I have a thing about weight, am constantly striving to look my best for my man, and encourage other wives to do the same. But I don’t think a wife should measure her attractiveness on any scale except her husband’s. To do otherwise is a mistake. After you examine yourself, your husband is the final arbiter of whether or not you’ve let yourself go. No one else can do that, since they don’t know the time and effort you put into doing whatever it is you do to care for yourself, for him, and for your family. What does this have to do with love languages or paying attention? Well, everything!
My husband is really into me. This is just true, and the feeling is totally mutual. It’s obvious to anyone who knows us very well. In a world where youth is worshiped and perpetual youth is marketed as the key to happiness, it feels good to be settled and content in a relationship based on shared values, shared history, and shared faith. A relationship where love made is truly love made is satisfying in ways difficult to put into words. After 5 babies with the resulting up and down weight loss, and not a few abdominal stretch marks, SAM still thinks I’m beautiful. Part of it is because I’m just his type, which luckily for me isn’t the Hollywood standard of beauty. More importantly, I think it’s also because I learned his love language, and make a real effort to love him the way he needs instead of the way that I need or the way someone else has prescribed as “the way” to love a man.
His language is physical touch followed closely by acts of service, preferably acts of service where I help him fix the car or cut the grass. He finds me most attractive not only when I’m all fixed up, but when I’m dirty from helping him do “man stuff.” I’ve applied that lesson I learned, and he has learned that a few words fitly spoken are worth far more than diamonds and pearls. Date nights are far less important to me than words of affection and appreciation. Given the choice between having his wife sit next to him and rub his back or spend half an hour shining the kitchen sink, my husband will choose the hands on his back every time. A neat house is good, a super clean house not so much if it means I can’t sit close to him because I’m cleaning it. Filter what you read at Flylady through the prism of what works in your own marriage and family. Nothing personal against the Flylady. I rather like her. I’m just sayin’.
If there’s one thing that has struck me about online conversations, it’s how they can get you thinking about things in an unhealthy way if you’re not careful. For example, I never really thought much about my looks, except for my weight which multiple pregnancies has caused me to watch closely, until I stumbled into the blogosphere. All the talk of modesty and femininity and such was good in many ways, and not good in others. The same can be said of spiritual issues. There are a lot of ideas floating around the Internet and it’s a landmine for those not secure in their faith, values, and beliefs.
In other words, any prescriptive advice I offer to a wife whose husband’s love language is words of affirmation may cause more harm than good because I’m used to dealing with a man whose love language is physical touch. Forgive me if the marriage posts may begin to seem redundant around here because the most valuable lesson I’ve learned in the past 17 years is to pay attention to my own husband, learn how to best love him, and act accordingly, no matter how I much it requires me to step out of my comfort zone. It’s the best advice any wife can offer to another.
Fortunately for me, touching my husband is very comforting. Resisting the urge to talk his ear off? Well, that’s another story. Funny thing about preferring another before yourself: it is deeply gratifying once you get over yourself. I’m not sure why preferring others gets such a bad rap.
Our culture has created a billion dollar industry from books detailing the differences between men and women. Volumes are written with catchy slogans like Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Counselors charge hundreds of dollars an hour to tell you that you can’t love your man properly until you fully love yourself. In other words, they take your money to give you advice that lands you in divorce court, all under the guise of helping you save your marriage.
There’s one thing I know for sure: Love is by definition focused on its object. If I’m thinking about me, I am not focused loving my man. “How do I love thee, let me count the ways…” makes my heart swell, but that’s just not his thing. And that’s okay. I have learned to speak his language, and he has learned to speak mine.
It’s the best linguistic study. I highly recommend you try it.
This post is a part of Wifey Wednesday, hosted by Sheila at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. Click on over there for more wifely encouragement.