Do you sometimes feel like you’re drained and empty in your relationship? Do you at times feel like your partner is unsatisfied despite all the effort you put into making him or her feel loved? I’ve felt that way and I still do sometimes. But when I end up feeling this way now, I’m no longer stumped. I understand the situation better and know what I need to do and quickly get it done. Hence, Rusky and I are almost always overflowing with love- not just for each other but for ourselves as well.
So how have I made sense of these feelings? I read a book by Gary Chapman back when I was in college called The Five Love Languages and it has helped my relationships (not just my marriage) a great deal. In the book, Chapman coined the term Love Tank. Think of it as the gas tank of a car. Filled up, the car runs smoothly and performs well. As it brings you around the city, the fuel runs out and alarms start sounding off telling you that you need to go back to the gas station. Similar to us, when our Love Tanks are filled, we are happy and generously share ourselves with our partner and others. As we give more and more of ourselves, our Love Tank gets drained. It needs to get filled up again. When you’re in a relationship, you usually get “gas” from your significant other but sometimes, no matter what the other one does, the tank doesn’t seem to be filling up and we feel unhappy. I’m all for making yourself happy and not being dependent on others fully but Gary Chapman talks about the Five Love Languages that show us how we can fill up others’ love tanks and vice versa. He explains that we each have our own Love Language and when others “speak” this language, our tank gets filled up and we feel loved. If your significant other is “speaking” another language then no matter his or her effort, you end up empty. Let me run down the Five Love Languages and give a couple of examples as to how Rusky and I practice it.
Words of Affirmation
Compliments and words of encouragement. Sometimes, I’m shy to voice out my feelings for the fear of sounding so cheesy. But, in a marriage, it’s good to be cheesy at times so I muster up the courage to tell Rusky that I admire him for being so hardworking or that he smells oh so yummy. When I really feel like I can’t be verbal, I resort to writing- from lengthy love letters to notes written on post its. I also make use of technology and text, email or message Rusky affirming him that he’s doing a great job at work, at being a daddy, friend or hubby. Once, I attached post its on individual pieces of chocolate- one word per chocolate, haha!
Kissing, hugging, holding hands and sex (for married people only!). I admit when Mattina came, this department suffered a little (it shouldn’t!) as we got used to the sleepless nights and constant child care. Once everything settled, we made it a point to be intentional in being physical. We hold hands in the car, hug at various times throughout the day, kiss (not torridly) in public and have the kids sleepover their Mamita’s house. Of course sex is better when spontaneous but with little kids, I’ve come to realize that scheduling alone time works as well. Sometimes, you have to pave the way! Take it a step further and make codes for alone time and physical bonding. I think the secret language (like “let’s have coffee” for sex) makes the physical act even more exciting.
I always say it’s the reason for buying the gift that means more than the actual thing. So it follows that gifts need not be expensive or even bought. You can just make them! Rusky is four years older than I am and so when he was already working and earning his own money, I was still studying. He constantly bought me things and I couldn’t do the same. Plus, I’ve always believed that handmade things meant more (and I really just didn’t have the funds to buy him perfume) and so I made him paper mache cakes, origami filled jars and birthday scrapooks. Again, there’s thought behind them and they’re certainly personal.
Acts of Service
Instead of receiving gifts, some people would rather you help them with their work. The book gives examples such as washing dishes, doing the laundry and helping with the kids but I guess that’s more apt to the Western setting. For us at home, as much as I love serving my family by cooking, taking care of the kids and cleaning up, I still had to “personalize” my Acts of Service by finding out what kind of help Rusky needed in the home. It turned out, Acts of Service for Rusky meant me being more aware of our finances. Since we’ve communicated this, I’ve taken the extra effort to comb through our credit card bills, wait on the phone to talk to credit card services when something needs to be reversed and take more notice of how much things are when I buy them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just buy without taking note of the price. I do and often compute for the cheapest alternative but then after I buy it, I completely forget about it so I can’t tell Rusky how much it is when he asks me. I guess you have to understand what is valuable to your partner and try to put more effort into valuing it yourself.
This is MY Love Language and I really ASK for it. Rusky says it’s a good thing because it grounds him as well and he’s reminded of the things that truly matter when he’s so caught up in work. Quality Time need not be spent outside the home though I recommend that you go out on a date once in a while for a change of environment. We work with what we have and create date nights at home. Again, I’ve given it a special name so that it becomes more personal. So once in a while when I want quality time with my husband and we haven’t arranged for my mom to watch the kids, I tell him I want to have Tea Time and we do. I take out our nicest tea pot and cups, pick out yummy smelling tea and prepare some cookies. We then sit somewhere quiet while the kids sleep and talk. No phones, no TV, sometimes Rusky even plays music. Simple but that’s OUR time.
Your love language is not necessarily your partner’s. The key to the Five Love Languages is to know yours and your partner’s and to COMMUNICATE it to each other. If you’re both aware then you can act according to each others’ Love Language and become more effective lovers. Take the test! http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ Find out what makes you feel loved.