“Have you heard about The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman?” our dear friend Richard asked as we soaked naked in their hot tub and talked about life with Richard and his wife. The summer night was cool; the stars glowed.
“But it’s an interesting idea,” Richard protested. I imagined his scowl, but it was too dark to see it. “You need to know the language of love essential to your partner. It may not be the same as yours.”
“OK. Tell us,” I said.
“Quality time. Touch. Gifts,” Richard began.
“What else?” I asked.
“Hmmm… Acts of Service and something about affirmation. Oh yeah. Words of Affirmation.”
“Affirmation,” Vic said. “That is top of your list.”
“And you are clearly an Acts of Service guy,” I popped back.
I loved affirmation, spoken words of appreciation. I thrived on compliments about the food, the beauty of the flower gardens, or a piece I’d written. I never tired of hearing that I was beautiful. Vic appreciated the small things I did for him and told me so every day. Affirmed, recognized, and loved, I was easily persuaded to pack his suitcase for a trip even if I wasn’t going along, or cook pasta and tomato sauce for dinner when I’d prefer brown rice.
Acts of service made Vic feel loved. He sweetly requested rather than demanded help when he needed it. Packing that suitcase or a vegan lunch for work, sticking a little love note on the wax paper wrapping of his tofu sandwich, helping him choose clothes that were color coordinated. I didn’t complain about reading his book galleys when they came in the middle of an Arizona vacation even though I wanted to go hiking—or I didn’t complain as much as Vic did.
“This is what you always wanted,” I teased after Vic became ill, when there was little to joke about. “I’m devoting my whole life to serving you.” We laughed, but we knew. He needed a motherly nurse and I was willing to do anything to keep him alive. He affirmed me with gratitude until his death.
We liked being physically close so agreed on the Gift of Touch. We craved small caresses, pats, and hugs. Vic awoke early and was downstairs at his desk drinking coffee by the time I finished meditating in the morning. I came into his office and stood beside his desk chair. He put his arm around my waist or patted me on the butt. I caressed his hair and rubbed his neck.
“Did you have any dreams?” he’d ask. I’d tell him if I did.
“And did you dream?” I asked. Or when he was sick: “How are you feeling, top of head to toe and did you sleep?” We were interested in each other, so all our time together was quality.
Gifts? No problem. Neither of us cared much about gifts. Instead of Christmas gifts, we saved money for a trip in March or something we wanted for the house or a tractor implement.
I would add a sixth language of love: Tolerance. I could be irritable and anxious. He could be testy and rushed. I got tired of his need for mothering and the demands his career. He became exasperated by my lack of self-confidence and excess of complaints. I was exhausted from the last two years of care-taking. But he rarely forgot how hard it was to care for a dying man. Our intolerances were replaced by love and sorrow.
We usually spoke each other’s language of love. When we forgot, we still had tolerance.
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Originally published at Elaine Mansfield. Reprinted with permission.
Photo: Adam Carter/Flickr; Other photos courtesy of author