Many years ago I came across a book titled “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. I heard talk about it here and there but never actually took the time to read the book. During a rough patch in yet another failing relationship, I decided to give the book a try in an attempt to salvage said relationship. Two words: MIND BLOWN. The way I looked at relationships changed forever. However, my relationships didn’t necessarily change and honestly, I didn’t understand why. Shit…I had just discovered the “key” to happiness! Why wasn’t I happy yet!
What I didn’t realize at the time was I had ONLY scratched the surface. I knew people communicated love differently, but I didn’t know why? Or HOW they learned their preferred language in the first place. I didn’t realize those components were important…but they were. Not only for understanding other people, but for understanding myself.
The premise of the Five Love Languages is that most challenges in your relationships typically stem from your inability to communicate or be receptive to how your loved ones show love. It’s like speaking to a person in Spanish and them responding back in German. You could be saying the same thing, but since you’re hearing and speaking in your own native language you’re unable to understand each other in theirs.
As I tried to apply this to relationships, I experienced varying degrees of success. One of my friends love language was quality time so I tried to make myself more available to her and not cancel plans when I was tempted to curl up on my couch and vegetate. In another relationship, a love interest’s love language was physical touch so I made a concerted attempt to hold his hand, kiss his cheek and other stuff to show that I was present and connected. Though I TRIED to communicate love to them in a way they could fully understand and receive, I still felt incredibly UNCOMFORTABLE. Try as I might those languages were hard to sustain for any extended amount of time and eventually I would find them upset with me and me again trying to right another wrong.
My mother was a natural and incredible communicator. She wrote poetry, was a motivational speaker, and a published author amongst other things. She always spoke words of love and encouragement and even wrote her children a poem that we had to recite in the mirror titled “I Like Myself”. Naturally my love language is/was words of affirmation. I’m quick to offer words of encouragement or speak life into a person or situation because that is how my mother (caregiver) showed me love.
But, she was also absent. My mother was busy and didn’t really have a lot of time to invest in her children. So not only is “quality time” not my love language, but having to accept absence from my mom, taught me how to accept it as an adult. QT was never an indicator of love FOR ME because it wasn’t shown as an indicator of love.
Let that sink in. Come back to that after you finish.
This allowed me to sustain relationships for long periods of time, with the minimum amount of time spent because I grew up not getting time from my mother. (I hope you guys follow me). I used to boast about not having to see my boyfriend “every day” because I had a life (ha, ha, ha)…and I do. But I was also just living out learned patterns from my childhood. Absence never equated a lack of affection…even when it did.
The physical touch part was a little harder and actually took me going to therapy to discover why that was “not my thing”. The funny thing is that it not like I am not a physical person, it just typically took me a while before I was COMFORTABLE being touched romantically unless of course I KNOW and trust the person before any notion of romance enters the equation (and this time frame is normally WAYYYY longer for me than others…). This explains why I’ve almost exclusively had relationships with people I’ve known for extended periods of time (friends of friends..or “this guy I met at this event that knows this person I know” kind of deal). However, once I discovered (in therapy) that I had been sexually assaulted as a child (repressed memory much…but more on that another time) it made sense that affection towards those I deemed as strangers made me feel weird.
It wasn’t until I worked through those traumatic childhood events that I could stop responding to things happening to me as an adult how I responded to them as a child. This process is helping me develop a more healthy point of view of quality time and physical touch that is appropriate as an adult. Addressing the issue essentially removed the issue.
Earlier today, I did a broadcast on Periscope (@hittlistblog so check me out there too) titled Teach vs Tell. I spoke about how important it is to tell people how to treat you, but to also understand that you may not be able to teach people how to treat you. I think the distinction is important because often times, unless people have worked through their own history, they may be unable to treat you how you want to be treated…despite you telling them over and over and over again. Their markers for what is respectful, what is appropriate and even what is kind or necessary may be rooted in experiences that do no match yours…hence why telling them may not result in a change in behavior..not until the understand WHY they behave that way in the first place.
WHEW. How the fuck was that for a first blog post back…
Hey ya’ll…but for real..it’s good to be back though!
The Mistress of All Things Fabulous!