Wellness Wednesday: Love Languages

I spent my day listening to instrumental piano music, looking outside my window at the snow, and writing/working from home, which I think was needed after the start of this week. Overall I am not feeling very “well” for a variety of reasons, and I don’t feel like writing today, but I’m trying to stick to my at least once a week posting habit like I did last year, which seemed to work well for me. My classes are over, I am teaching now and in the dissertation phase of my PhD program… yikes, the life of an academic. I didn’t think I would get here, ever. I didn’t know I wanted to be here, and sometimes I still question my choices. I still sometimes think about quitting everything and just living as a hermit writer. Life is short and sometimes I think I spend too much of it anxious and stressed out. I’ve tried to be better about that.

Nothing is guaranteed. That was evident to me on a drive home earlier this week. It was dark, the road was slick and I rounded a bend. I was the first driver to come up to a 5 car crash that must have just happened. Of the 3 lanes, 2 were blocked by crunched up cars with the people still in them. The one in the center lane was completely dark and I almost hit it because I was in the center lane. I moved to the left lane as I braked. Wrong choice. Another crashed car was in that lane. I put flashers on. I had to stop. Some people were emerging from their cars and calling 911. After I dodged the first car and stopped, I looked up in my rear view mirror just in time to see headlights of cars speeding toward me from behind and braced myself to get hit… I honestly don’t know how I didn’t. All of this probably happened in less than 20 seconds. I really try not to take anything for granted, but when close calls like that happen it forces you to be grateful and present. Anyway…

I read the 5 Love Languages book some years ago. It resonated with me and I found it practically helpful, though I am not sure/can’t recall how much actual research backs it… there goes the academic in me.

I do think it is important for people to understand what they value in connection/intimacy whether it’s with good friends or romantic partners. That way, they can directly ask to get their needs met instead of hoping your friend/partner is a mind reader. What matters to you in a friendship/relationship? Here are the five love languages:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

The professional counselor in me knows and understands that people value the different love languages. Each has merit and can be tremendously important to different people. It is wonderful that people can become fulfilled through unique avenues. Personally, though, there are some that I don’t understand. I don’t care about receiving gifts. It does make me feel good when I can tell that someone put thought into making a gift individualized to me … but I really don’t need them to feel cared about. Acts of service is another that I don’t really understand. One of my best friends tried to explain it to me. She says she loves when she comes home and her husband has done some of the household chores that were allotted to her. I can appreciate that intellectually, but I don’t know if that necessarily makes me feel loved. She swears, though, that acts of service is her top one. It’s always so fun and interesting for me to hear about other people’s relationships and what makes them feel loved/valued.

For me, my top choice is quality time and then physical touch/words of affirmation probably tie for second. I don’t understand how people feel cared about in friendships or otherwise if their friends or partners don’t prioritize/initiate spending time together. I think that’s where my issues with making plans come in/pet peeves about being late. I do take it personally when people are repeatedly late to hang out. I tend to think they don’t care about spending time with me, so why bother making plans? When I’m hurt, I withdraw. This exact thing happened recently between one of my best friends and I. She apologized for being really late a few times in a row, but we haven’t hung out in a while… by my choice. I think, too, experiencing loss drives home for me that the most valuable thing you can give someone is your time, and it’s hard for me to understand how people feel fulfilled in friendships or relationships and don’t seem to value that above all else. If not spending time together, then what is your friendship/relationship? I don’t know. It drives me crazy when people say that they want to hang out with me and then it never happens. I would rather people just not bring it up at all then, if they don’t actually want to do it. When I say things, I mean them, and I will act on them. I get so confused sometimes when other people don’t operate how I do.

Words of affirmation have always been important to me, but I think my take on it may be a little different. I don’t care about receiving compliments about my looks/qualities. I care more about verbalizing wants/desires/processing/getting feedback about just life and the time spent together. If I care about someone I care about their inner experience of the world around them, which includes me. I don’t know what’s more intimate than that– discussing shared time together/talking about what you like or don’t like in general. This isn’t just with lovers, I like having deeper conversations with friends too.

Physicality has evolved for me over the recent years. Physical touch probably wouldn’t have been on my list … even 3 years ago. I had a lot of trouble with that early on in my life, but more recently have become open to physical displays of affection/closeness when it used to repulse/scare me for a variety of reasons. One of my best friends is “a hugger.” I remember the first time she hugged me when we started working at the same place (we met at school), I just stood there, surprised, and felt awkward. It was hard for me to understand someone wanting to be in my physical space. That manifested in intimate relationships too– but I think the safer I began to feel with it, the more I welcomed and wanted it.  I now see how it can definitely be affirming and not a scary thing, and something that I want.

Generally, it is important to think about what fulfills you, so you can communicate that to other people. This is definitely hard, and something to be practiced, but I think with effort it can get easier. And in turn, friendships and relationships can become more fulfilling.

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