As you make every effort to speak respectfully to your husband as your best friend and as the adult man that he is, you may recognize how much more loving you feel toward him when you talk to him. You may also feel as if the scales of communication are tipping out of balance when he doesn’t reciprocate verbally to the level of your expectations, which brings us to another way to nurture intimacy: learning each other’s love language.
…Most men speak fewer words than women speak. But that doesn’t mean they don’t communicate — they simply communicate in different ways. If we don’t understand this, we may fail to pick up on what our husbands are telling us. Although I’ve had multiple experiences with such failure, one in particular stands out in my mind. We had been married one year and I often mailed cards from my office to Greg’s. Every other month I would spend one of my lunch hours at the Hallmark store, stocking up on all kinds of sincere, clever, or hilariously funny greeting cards to say, “I love you!”
However, not long after our one-year anniversary, I noticed that I had never received a card from Greg. Not one. Not even a sticky note. I felt so neglected and furious over all the time and money I had spent picking out all these special cards, when there had been no reciprocation at all. Rather than ask why, I stopped sending cards, gave him the silent treatment, and withdrew emotionally (as if this were going to inspire him to send me a note of appreciation!).
I fumed for several days until I finally blew my top while standing in the kitchen crying into my tuna salad. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve stopped sending you cards each week! You’ve never once sent me a card! Do you know how much that hurts? Or do you even care?”
My outburst shocked Greg, who waited until my screaming silenced to softly respond, “But I mow your yard each week…and I wash your car…and I…”
“Well of course you do those things,” I interrupted, “You live here too! Those are your responsibilities!”
“But I do them out of love for you, Shannon!”
I wasn’t convinced until Greg brought home the book, The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. We read the book together and I realized that Greg was right. “Acts of service” is a legitimate love language and although it isn’t my primary love language (mine is gifts), it is Greg’s primary way of expressing love to me. I also learned that the same way Greg’s acts of service didn’t fill my love tank, my Hallmark cards weren’t really floating his boat either. Our love languages are opposite each other — his highest (acts of service and physical touch) are my lowest, and my highest (gifts and words of affirmation) are his lowest. We’ve had to be very intentional about speaking and understanding the other person’s love language so that we can recognize each other’s loving expressions.
One anniversary not long afterward, Greg gave me a gift that I will never forget. It was a Hallmark card (finally!), but this one was full of hundreds of little pink squares of paper. At first I thought this was his meager attempt at surprising me with homemade confetti, but as I read the card, it touched me far more deeply than confetti ever could. It read:
Shannon, I know that I don’t do near as good of a job expressing my love to you as you want me to. I’m not making any excuses, but my one desire is to be able to recognize when you need affirmation of my love without you having to feel neglected or angry. So I’m giving you all these slips of paper and asking you to please drop one where I’ll see it whenever I’m falling down on the job of making you feel as special as you really are to me. Whenever I see a little pink slip of paper, I’ll be reminded of your need for me to express my love and commitment to you. Hopefully there are enough slips to get us through this lifetime, but if not, I’ll cut some more.
~Your loving husband, Greg
I think I’ve only resorted to planting a pink slip of paper in Greg’s car twice in all the years since he did this. Just knowing how Greg wants to meet my emotional needs keeps my love tank full, whether he’s been speaking my love language or not. And I’ve learned that if I want to express my love for him, I just do his laundry or weed the flower bed instead of driving to the Hallmark store.
To be continued…