There are many different ways of expressing love and affection. Gary Chapman breaks it down into 5 distinct love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch(1). Different people have specific styles, and preferences, for both giving and receiving affection. Sometimes people, such as myself, are a mix of more than one style. When I first took the assessment(2) I wasn't surprised to learn that one of my top two preferred methods of recieving is quality time. I was surprised to learn that almost tied with that is physical touch. But it made sense looking at the questions. Something I yearn for, and don't get nearly enough of, is time with loved ones and lots of good deep hugs and cuddles.
But I digress. This entry is about words. One of the ways I try to show affection is through words of affirmation. Remembering to say thank you and tell people how much I appreciate them. I find this is especially helpful with long distance relationships. Most of my nearest and dearest are several hours away by car, and three require a plane ticket. Also, many people in my life aren't touchy feely like I am. Some of it has to do with place and time. One friend, Louis, always gives me a loose hug. I tease him about that. But when I've had need he has held my hand, albeit in a private situation.
I am a word nerd. I LOVE rhetoric, vocabulary, and learning word origins. I studied communications in college and learned the axiom "words construct reality". You can learn a lot about a person from what words they use and how they use them. About their upbringing and opinions. Then when I started studying alternative medicine I learned the axiom "thoughts construct reality". So philosophy, medicine, and communications are blending with modern physics. For these reasons, I choose my words carefully as much as possible. I do not wish to offend, but beyond that I do not wish to reveal parts of myself to unknown individuals. And I wish to construct my reality in the way that best benefits me.
Easier said than done.
There are times, though, that I need words. One particular friend, Jenny, she NEVER hangs up the phone or says goodbye from a physical visit without telling me she loves me. She also gives really long, tight hugs. The kind you can sink into and never want to leave. A Deaf-World hug if you will. Both do my heart good. I never heard those words enough as a child, or at least that's how it felt for a long time. Nor did I hear my parents often tell me they were proud. My father has gotten much better about it since I left home, but he tends to say "love ya, kid". I've come to understand that my father is more about quality time and acts of service. My mother acts of service, gift giving, and quality time.
But there are times that I really NEED the words. Although, when my emotional needs are being met, the words become less important. I'm secure in my life and in my relationships. Refer to my other blog, Tales of Recovery, if you wish more insight into how my twisted little mind works. The entry about my brother, Josh, speaks very keenly to my relationship with my parents.
So what made me think to write this blog now, today? Last night before bed, I told Louis that I love him. I don't know if I've done so before, or in that way, but for some reason it felt important for me to tell him. We often text off and on throughout the day, and check in one last time before bed. I texted "Good night, Louis. I love you." He responded with a smiley face, which is what I'd expect from him. Louis means a lot to me, and has really helped me get through some shit since the beginning of this year. Louis is far less about words, and more about sharing himself. For Louis, quality time via text or IM is his way of showing support. It is an act of service.
Overachiever that he is, he combines 2 into 1. ;)
I should clarify that Louis is VERY happily married. I do not have designs on him. I value him in a myriad of ways and would never do anything to upset his apple cart. We have fun flirtations from time to time, but it doesn't go beyond that.
I didn't expect Louis to say the words back, nor do I ever expect him to do so. I imagine he saves those for his wife, children, mother, and sister. Maybe a few other select few. Louis does use other words quite a bit, affirming a person's worth and abilities. But those "three magic words" that can help or wound depending on the relationship have not passed his lips. And again, I don't expect it. Telling him I love him last night wasn't exactly MY need, but for some reason it felt appropriate. Maybe a little voice in my head said he needed a pick me up. Maybe it felt like a good time to actually tell him outright. I don't know. Words of love are not to be taken lightly or bandied about.In all actuality we have been friends for a very short span of time. An INTENSE span of time in my world, and I'd classify our friendship as strong, deep, and nuanced.
When the L word is uttered, the individual have any expectation to hear them back. Actual love means taking a person as s/he is. Not wanting to change the other to suit your own wants or needs. An act of love is freely given without the prospect of reciprocity. Too often the phrase "I love you" is uttered casually, inappropriately even. It's used to manipulate. It's said to placate. It flows freely without any real emotion behind it.
I VEHEMENTLY disagree with this.
Now, the English language does stink and the phrase "I love you" can be used to communicate a great deal of friendship, respect, or admiration for a person. I can also be used ironically. I admit to being guilty of this on a semi-regular basis. Someone will tease me, saying something truthful with a slight edge. I'll respond "I love you, too" but the words "thanks for that" can achieve the same meaning. We also use the word love to connote a great degree of enjoyment. Some people love ice cream. Many other languages give different options. Such is life.
But when using the phrase, I love you, I would far prefer to NOT hear them than have them used without their true intention. Though, again, not all people use words. There are many people in my life that I KNOW love me dearly. Saying the words isn't their thing. Their deeds, support, gifts speak volumes. Understanding the love languages has helped me realize how much more there is to intimacy than previously realized. Part of me understood, but it had never been spelled out to me before. Making time for someone who is in need when your own life is hectic and in the toilet, THAT is love.
Louis is my friend. I care for him tremendously, and he probably already knew it. Now I have said the words. I may never say them again, or not in such an earnest manner. I know he cares for me in the way he listens and supports me. I know he trusts me becuase of the things he has shared with me. Things I'll wager he hasn't shared with many others. He goes out of his way to make me smile when I'm having a bad day. And much to my consternation, he is one of the few individuals who can make me blush.
I have said the words. There is no need to say them again, although I may. We show each other through respect, listening, and quality time that we value our relationship. And THAT my friends is more than love, it's intimacy. Because as any wise adult will tell you, sometimes love just isn't enough.
1- I highly reccomend checking out the site and taking the assessments. Very interesting. The books are worth a read also. But be warned, they are mostly written from a married couples and Judeo-Christian perspective.
2- When I intially took the assessment, I did it from the wives perspective. The assessment for singles wasn't yet available. I took it in book form, instead of internet form, which I preferred. The assessment consists of 50/50 type questions, much like the Myers Briggs personality tool. I am FAR more complex, and picking one is semi-difficult. Every time I take Myers Briggs I can't choose JUST one on most of the questions. I pretty much split down the middle except for the 4th. I am DEFINITELY a J archetpe. So when scoring my love languages assessment I gave myself many half points. The results were still very telling, though.