Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Love Languages

When Jeff and I got married, we had to read The Five Love Languages in order to "pass" pre-marital counseling. We passed (thanks for asking!) and, as it turns out, learned a lot about each other. Even 10 years later, I often stop and marvel at the power of a love language.

The premise behind the book is that there are five love languages, or ways that people express and receive love. Each of us has a primary love language. When people in our lives -- spouses, family, friends -- speak the right love language to us, we feel loved. On the other hand, when they are focusing on the wrong love language, all their efforts may be in vain. They love us, but we don't feel it. They care deeply for us, but we don't know it.

So, what are the five love languages?

1. Words of affirmation -- words are powerful. Words of affection or endearment, words of praise or encouragement, words that give positive guidance all say, "I care about you."

2. Quality time -- the most important part of quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together. Quality time is focused attention.

3. Gift Giving -- the giving and receiving of gifts can be a powerful expression of love. Meaningful and thoughtful gifts need not be big or expensive. It's the act of giving that counts.

4. Acts of service -- helping others in a selfless manner shows we care. Small task or big request, it doesn't matter. We respond and love happens.

5. Physical touch -- people who are hugged, kissed and held feel loved. The author says, "Physical touch is one of love's strongest voices." Only if it's your love language, however.

My love language is acts of service. When Jeff fixes something around the house or carries in the groceries before I can ask, it shows me he cares. When he gets the boys up and dressed in the morning so I can sleep for a few more minutes, it's pure love. Most are small things, but they add up in a huge way for me.

For Jeff, his love language is words of affirmation. Although I feel like I show him how much I love him, he needs to be told. It needs to be verbalized all the time. I'm always amazed at how his expression will change instantly when I thank him for loving us so much. He grins and I can tell immediately that little bits of love are just pouring in.

Along the way, I have been shown over and over again the power of focusing on that primary love language. Do not waste your time perfecting any others. It's been a hard lesson, but I've learned. Because no matter how hard you work, no matter how much love you give, no matter how much you bend over backwards to make someone happy, they usually only funnel love inward in one way. That's the only way you need to know about, my friends. The rest? Well, it's just fluff. Let it float away.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Baby, I'm Moving On

I cleaned out the nursery tonight. Sold the crib. Packed away the baby clothes. Looked through the photos of when my boys were born. Swept up all the remnants of baby and brought in something new.

The truth is, I've been on the fence a long time about having another baby. Ever since we brought Tuck home from the hospital, I've wondered if we should do it all again. Jeff only wanted two. I always thought I wanted one, then I had two, and then I started thinking about number three. A girl would be lovely, no doubt, but even another boy sounded fine. I always felt like I had more love, but never enough time or energy.

I then questioned every mother I met. So, how did you know you were done? Did the baby fever ever go away? Do you wish you would have had more kids? No conclusive answers. Just confident women who seemed content with the number of kids they had.

Ironically, it was the pregnant women around me that finally provided the answer. An amazing friend at work is having baby number four. I actually woke up in a cold sweat one night thinking this was me, my life, and realizing I can't deal with that many kids. Another friend recently moved, took a new job and became pregnant. I was so thrilled for her, but not one bit envious at all these new adventures in her life. And then, when doling out advice to another friend about fertile times of the month, I almost had a heart attack when my period failed to show up on time. False alarm, thank goodness, but I fretted enough to know what side of the fence I had landed.

It was time to move on. Instead of a nursery, I now have a room of my own -- an office, a personal sanctuary to write, a rocker to read (instead of nurse a baby) and pictures of those I love all around me. I even dusted off my favorite poetry books and lined them up like proud, little soldiers in my new room. While I love the babies I've been blessed with, I feel confident tonight. Something new is about to begin. For the first time in a long time, I think I'm ready.