Sunday, October 22, 2006

Love Languages

The Big Dude and I had one of those tiffs last night that are not major, melt-down arguments, but are still reflective of an underlying frustration that just doesn't seem to go away.

All day yesterday, I was struggling to get through all the household tasks I normally do over four days in two days. That's the trouble with working long hours - everything else has to be crammed in around the edges. And I was also trying to keep the Little Dude with me all day, in order to give the Big Dude a day to himself. And I did it all. I managed it.

And all day, despite everything I was doing and his having had a day off, the Big Dude seemed half pissed at me. It seemed like every second sentence he said to me was either a direct or implied criticism or just an impatient, semi-rude implication that he wished I wasn't there.

To be honest, it really peeved me when he got annoyed that I was doing the dishes "too loudly" while he was watching a movie. A big tip to husbands and partners everywhere: If you need your woman to do a lot of work around the house, don't grump at her while she is doing it because its making it hard to hear the TV! She will have a lot of difficulty not seeing you as an insensitive prick, lying on the sofa and calling oafishly for more service while she does all the work.

A lot of the time around here, I really feel like an unappreciated household drudge. I know the Big Dude loves me. I know he thinks I'm attractive and interesting. I know this, deep down. But a lot of the time, he really doesn't act like it. He stares at the TV when I am talking to him. He hints around about things he wants me to do that I haven't done, or some inadequacy about the way I've done them. He just says "fine" and clams up when I ask him about his plans, his interests and his feelings. That's not a conversation - that's a fob off!

And when its like this, I feel like there just isn't a connection between us as a couple. I feel like we are just co-parents or roommates. I am not expecting "romance" in the form of moonlight and roses, or even regular sex. I know he has limitations on his energies. But I am wanting to feel like I am special to him and appreciated, not just for what I do for him and the Little Dude, but for who I am. I know this is a common problem. Digger, for instance, has things much worse than me in this respect.

Some time ago, during one of our Naked Dates, we looked at the list of Gary Chapman's "love languages":

1. Words of Affirmation: Expressing words of encouragement to someone so that they know they are loved.
2. Quality Time: Spending quality—and quantity—time with someone who especially appreciates personal attention.
3. Receiving Gifts: Giving thoughtful gifts connects with some people like no other expression of love.
4. Acts of Service: Doing things for others that they might have difficulty or little time to do themselves.
5. Physical Touch: Touching another appropriately with a sensitive pat, a caress, a hug, hand holding, or sex.

Many of you will know about this approach. The idea is that people have different ways of expressing love, and also different ways that they want love to be expressed to them. If someone mostly needs physical touch in order to feel loved, giving them gifts doesn't make them feel that love as much as touching them would. They may even feel that their partner is deliberately giving them "things" instead of intimacy. If we want our partner to feel loved, we should try to become literate in their language - finding out what means love to them and trying to love them in the way they want, rather than just in the way that comes naturally to us.

Now, when we looked at these, the Big Dude said that he felt kind of confronted by the fact that he could see that I spoke all of these languages with him to varying degrees, and he really liked that, but he really only spoke "acts of service" with me. For him, acts of service were mostly what he wanted from a partner. This had always been the case for him, but was now even more so since he was sick, because there are so many things he couldn't do for himself. And he realized that, while acts of service was something I also wanted, and gave to him, he had no trouble pinpointing that I also wanted and needed words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch. He knows me pretty well.

I felt good about that conversation, because I could see that he really got it. I didn't have to try to argue him into it and I didn't have to say anything that might make him feel bad or inadequate. But unfortunately, not much has changed since then.

My frustration is this. The Big Dude will do just anything for me and the Little Dude in the acts of service line. His ability to actually do them varies with his health, and sometimes he forgets, but the general willingness is quite high. You need a guy to do the night shift and let you sleep? Most of the time, he is that man. And I know many women would kill for that. And I do truly appreciate it. I do read these acts of service as expressing love, and I do things for him as well because I know it makes him feel good.

But, oh, I have such a backlog of longing for the others. When I am working so hard and trying so hard on so many fronts, I so need encouragement. I so want him to see everything I am achieving and just say, "You are doing really well". When I am telling him I am feeling inadequate as a mother, I just long for him to say, "You are a great mum" (words of affirmation). When I am feeling lonely or bored, I am just mentally begging him to turn off the TV and start a real conversation with me and seem to be enjoying talking to me. Or even to just ask me how my day was and seem genuinely interested in my answer (quality time). When I am feeling overburdened and tired, I just so yearn for him to give me an occasional hug or kiss that I haven't had to outright ask for (physical touch).

Occasionally, very occasionally, he does these things and I light up like a Christmas tree, so inspired, so ready to do anything for him. I know he wants me to be happy, so why doesn't he just do them more often? Honestly, sometimes he half tries to give me a compliment and his whole face struggles with the effort like he is going to choke on it.

Just at the moment, thinking about something like FTN's Romantic Achievements with tents and roses and board games just makes me want to cry. Truthfully, I feel like if the Big Dude ever did anything like that for me, it would make me so happy that I would be able to perform any act of service he ever wanted, perfectly and without complaint.

And last night, after he had been grumping at me all day, I told him how I felt about how he had been acting and I turned on my heel and went to bed in a huff. And I lay there, tears leaking out of my eyes, until I fell asleep.

Self-pitying, I know. But it was actually an act of great restraint on my part, given that what I wanted to do was just stand there shrieking, "I am a WOMAN, goddammit, not your fucking servant!"


Blogger C-Marie said...

Oh How I can echo these very same thoughts and feelings, dear Emily!!! I don't think I could've said it any better...
Hugs to you!!

2:45 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

"When I am working so hard and trying so hard on so many fronts, I so need encouragement."

Great post Emily, sad to say. I say "sad to say" simply because it's so true for many of us. A little atta-girl or atta-boy at home or at work is worth so much more at times than all the gifts or raises in the world that anyone could receive. I know too that when someone does give out words of praise (be it a life partner or a friend or a colleague at work) that deep down that person is doing it because they too would like to receive a little of the same in return. So that all said, just remember this: we your blog readers all appreciate you, for what that may be worth to you. Hang in there lady.

3:44 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

I can certainly relate and I know I couldn't have said it better.

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Rosie said...

I bought the book you mentioned several months ago after seeing it mentioned - maybe by you. I think it is wonderful - easy to read and understand and straightforward. It really is worthwhile. Sigh now if only everyone in a realationship would read it and take it to heart. As you've said it explains so much about what signifies love to a person. We can spend years 'loving' someone and they never feel it. But all women know how it feels to be a care-giver/maid.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Digger Jones said...

Yeah, I can pretty much relate. While some speak a language or two, some seem deaf and dumb. Arwyn took a test on the love languages and acts of service and quality time were her highest areas, while physical touch and words of affirmation were mine.

The problem is that each person defines their own "language." What I regard as quality time, Arwyn finds a waste of time. "Acts of service" for her are not the same as what they might be for me. And just because she likes acts of service does not mean she will DO acts of service. Again, she defines what she likes and what she is willing to do.

Big Dude didn't consider and of your languages and even if he did he likely would have gotten them wrong.

It's a great theory but requires a lot more communication than one might think. And if you are doing it that much and that well, you are going to be alright anyway.


12:25 PM  
Blogger Dewdrop said...

You say "I wanted to do was just stand there shrieking, "I am a WOMAN, goddammit, not your fucking servant!" Well, I do that ALL the time. I never go to bed and cry - I just fucking let it ALL out. That's why I'm such a cow. lol

12:31 PM  
Blogger flutterby said...

Reading about your day, I couldn't help but feel so lonely. You must have felt very alone and bereft. (hugs)

Emily, as one mom to another, I want to let you know how important you are to your family. Doing the work that you do, working full-time, mothering, housekeeping, taking care of Big Dude as you do. That's a lot for one woman to carry. I hope that you can realize what a competent, valuable partner you are in that relationship and just how much you're needed.

Sorry if that sounds sappy, but I just felt that you prolly needed to hear it after a day like that. (Hey, we all do sometimes)

Hope there's some better days to come... :)

11:14 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Thank you all for listening to me and for being so sympathetic and encouraging.

And yes, I do feel appreciated by the readers of my blog. I am really touched by the things you say.

I started this blog completely on impulse, with no idea whether I would continue past a single post.

But I could definitely get used to letting out all my thoughts and feelings and having people comment back so sympathetically even when most of it is whining.

No wonder there are so many blogs and people find it so addictive. Its like a little community!

Except easier than my last experience of a community because none of you are getting on my nerves by doing things like using up all the toilet paper and leaving the toilet roll unreplaced! :-)

5:02 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

"none of you are getting on my nerves by doing things like using up all the toilet paper and leaving the toilet roll unreplaced! :-)"

AND, I remember to always put the toilet seat down after using it! (evil grin)

5:23 PM  
Blogger FTN said...

One thing that I thought of is to put a sheet of paper up in the bedroom or bathroom with each of your five "love languages" in order, and perhaps each one defined for each person. A gentle daily reminder.

Actually, I was thinking of doing that for me and my marriage...

12:12 PM  

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