Home from college, Fave Son introduced me to Gary D. Chapman’s philosophy on love, The 5 Love Languages.
We have many common traits, me and that boy of mine.
Needless to say, we tend to butt heads and rub each other the wrong way.
We had one such heated discussion the other night, but then—by some astounding feat—we settled into a beautiful discussion.
“You have to read this book. There are five love languages,” he said.
This is what I remember him telling me: “They are Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gift Giving, and Physical Touch.”
He went on to explain that each of us offers up our love based on our own hierarchy of what is most important to us.
But if that inherent love methodology is different for the receiver, he/she may not necessarily feel the depth of the giver’s emotion.
He cited explicit examples from his life to attribute to each of us.
Honestly, I was pretty amazed at the thought he’d invested into the subject matter.
“I remember how you used to make us breakfast sandwiches before you went to work, leaving little messages with them,” he said, “that was an act of service, something that goes above and beyond what is expected. You often did little things like that, so I know that is an important piece for you.”
He went on to say that he felt quality time was not at the top of my list, “because what I remember is you being in your office and Dad being out here watching television.”
I have often thought about that, the amount of time I spent at the end of the day at my computer screen, long before wireless options were available, and then afterward, simply because Dial-Up was the only option in our neck of the woods.
It was both a retreat from the day’s stresses and an escape from the familial battles I faced each and every day.
I tried to explain to my son that that the computer was my way of unwinding at the end of the day, whereas his father’s was to plop in front of the television.
Being the oldest, he didn’t have the benefit of modern technology, and hasn’t seen how I now take my laptop into the living room, where I can be with the rest of the family, but also enjoying some down time as I like it.
And, unfortunately, by the time Warren and I—and our children—were able to begin reaping the rewards of the counseling Warren took part in after his second affair, Fave Son was a high schooler who spent little time at home.
But he’s a smart boy, one who pays attention, so he has noticed some of the subtle differences in our relationship.
And, like his mom, he’s not afraid to discuss the delicate and difficult topics.
In our conversation, he proceeded to share with me a comment Warren made some time ago about our sex life, or lack thereof.
Yeah, I know…
Fave Son shared with me about how physical touch is so important.
I felt as if he were insinuating that Warren’s affairs were due to a lack of sex in our marriage.
That is one of the topics I am passionate about when it comes to infidelity: It’s NOT about the sex.
The adulterer may say it’s about a lack of intimacy or intercourse. But, really, it’s about one’s own perceived ideology on the subject.
And, let’s face it, there’s a reason that millions of Relationship books and people like Dr. Phil exist.
Martians and Venutians rarely speak the same sexual love language when the realities of home and marriage and family set in…
But there are better ways to address the subject than to violate vows and put other people at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases…
“This Love Language Theory doesn’t take into consideration unhealthy views or dysfunction,” I said to my boy, “because it wouldn’t have mattered how often your father and I had sex, it wouldn’t have been enough for him.”
At first he didn’t agree and shared with me how he felt when a past girlfriend tempered her affections.
“One of the things your father discovered in therapy is that his worth was wrapped up in sex and how others made him feel, and that well was never filled.”
He argued a little more.
“When we don’t feel good about ourselves, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says or does, because we don’t ever really believe it.”
My boy nodded his head and his eyes opened wide with that spark of recognition.
He talked with me about how Chapman encourages his readers to hone in on their partner’s love language priorities.
“Gift giving isn’t at the top of my list,” he said, “but I think it is for you, so that’s why you brought up about me not doing anything for people for Christmas.”
“That’s interesting,” I replied, “because I’d say that Acts of Service is at the top, then Words of affirmation, and then gift giving.”
He reached behind him and picked up his cell phone, pushed a few buttons, and handed me the device. “Read this.”
It went something like this: “Mom. 1. Acts of service. Do nice things and help out without being asked. 2. Words of affirmation. Pay attention to EVERYTHING she does and let her know I appreciate it.”
“I haven’t done any of this since I’ve been home, but I did think about it. And I wrote this all down before we even had this discussion,” he said.
I was humbled. I was in awe. I was happy.
Figuratively speaking, I had no idea our children would reel in something this big all those years we were teaching them to fish.
Just in case you’re not at this place with your child, and feeling frustrated about the relationship you have with your breaking-away-from-Mom-bundles-of-joy, fast forward a few days…
This morning I went to warm up the car for my mother who’s visiting for the holidays.
The gas gauge read about one-eighth of a tank.
Suffice it to say there were no nice words of affirmation in the F-Bombs spewing from my pursed lips as I furiously stomped snow from my shoes before reentering the house.
So much for acts of service and tapping into my love hierarchy. I fumed.
Fortunately for both of us, he’s still in bed after his long road trip and New Year’s celebration.
His absence gives me time to think about what I want to say about him returning our car with trash in it and an unfilled tank.
And how I want to say it…
Calling him selfish, rude, and inconsiderate certainly won’t endear him to me.
I wonder which of his books Chapman would recommend for me at this stage of my parenting phase? The 5 Love Languages of Children? or The 5 Love Languages of Men?
I know how I’ll be spending the Barnes & Noble gift card I received for Christmas.
I also know that this, too, shall pass… 😉
What about you? Can you relate to Chapman’s philosophy on love and our interaction with others? Do you have an example you can recall? Share a little of the love here!