Although this is something I encounter every day, sometimes I am given a slap-in-the face kind of realization that Tyler and I are different. Not just, he’s a boy/I’m a girl different, or even the fact that we are different people, but the fact that the way that we show and perceive love is different. We speak different love languages. I am all about the words (who woulda guessed) and he is (as many men are) a “show-er” of his affections. When it comes to showing love, the signs are not as obvious as you might think. This doesn’t necessarily mean roses and chocolates and bubble baths and the like (although those things pop up from time to time also), but love manifesting its presence.
Lately what this has meant is that while I’ve been working long hours at the office (which I HATE), Tyler has been spending extra time doing chores around the house. In my mind, chores are chores. I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to do them and I appreciate having a clean house and I appreciate the balance and efficiency that our division of labor suggests, but they don’t scream love to me. In my mind, vacuuming is cleaning the floors, not an expression of eternal love. But for Tyler, that’s what these things are, at least in this situation. He is cleaning, not just to clean, but because he loves me.
He shows his appreciation for me by spending HOURS working hard around the house so that when I get home from work, I don’t have to do anything. Now, on my days off he expects a little help, he’s not my slave after all ; ). This message really hit home late the other night. I had been gone from the house for nearly eleven hours. I drove home through harried rush hour traffic, hurrying because we had guests for dinner (who were already there). Tyler had cleaned (and gone above and beyond what needed to be done), prepared dinner, and entertained our friends. I had a lovely evening but I hadn’t had a moment to decompress and I rely on our time in the evenings to unwind. We normally sit together on the couch, talk for a bit, and watch a television show. That night, after our guests left and the clock was ticking later and later, Tyler began doing chores again. Cleaning up the kitchen, doing laundry. I was annoyed and a bit anxious. I had another very early morning at work and I wanted to watch a tv show with him before I went to bed. I tried to find out what he was doing as I stared at the clock. He was so focused on folding laundry he didn’t even look up. The conclusion of our evening felt like a huge insult and in my tired, work-hating state, I felt anxious and panicky. Not only did Tyler not want to spend time with me, he was inconsiderate of my schedule and my needs and depriving me of relaxation. I went to bed. He was in bed moments later but I couldn’t fall asleep, partly due to the tension and partly due to the disruption of our routine. We both felt like the other one was mad at us. I didn’t speak up because I felt Tyler had done too much for me already and I had no right to complain, like a prima donna, that he wouldn’t do one last thing for me and Tyler felt slighted, too.
It wasn’t until the next day that I realized that even the work at the end of the evening had been an extension of the love Tyler had showed through his earlier projects. Tyler hadn’t been withholding affection by folding laundry fast and furiously, he was trying to finish all the projects he’d begun for me. I was just too impatient and selfish to realize that at the time. We both get tunnel vision when we are working on a project, but I didn’t give him a chance to finish the project before I wrote the whole evening off as a “failure” even though everything had been wonderful and his help had allowed me to enjoy a stress-free evening with friends. I was too blinded by me vs. the laundry to realize the laundry was for me. Anyway, it’s a work in progress, this whole communication thing, but I’m starting to realize it more and more. I’m pushing myself to think of ways to “show” Tyler my love, since it resonates so well with him.
Food works well, and I’m trying to make an effort to cook things Tyler likes, even though I don’t. This mostly means all manner of beef ; ). If it is served with a side of chocolate chip cookies, all the better.
Love is on a lot of minds at this time of year and I wonder – do you realize what love language your partner speaks? If you take the time to understand them and how they show their love (and prefer to have it shown to them), your relationship will be much more satisfying. I’m talking about love languages in a general sense, but there is a book on the subject interested parties may like to peruse. Check out this website – there’s even a quiz to get you started.