Happy belated Valentine’s Day. (At least I hope it was a happy one.) I’m late with my column, but I hope you weren’t late with your love! My Val-Day was fine, but being a veteran “valentiner,” the wife and I keep it pretty simple, with cards and little gifts. Valentine’s Day can be a very nice day, or kind of cold, if you are single, divorced, or have been somehow valentine violated. Don’t worry, be happy. I am going to “valentell” you a few tips.
In our culture, we are very confused about love, and as a result we can get “valentarnished.” This column is going to help you go forward, or possibly improve a relationship. Unfortunately, the media and music can give some confusing and negative messages about love. In relationships, love needs to be talked about, after all, people can’t read your mind. You also need to understand love. Dr. Gary Chapman, a counselor, has written several books on the topic, but his main bestseller is “The Five Love Languages.” It is an excellent tool on how to better care (love) for others, and strengthen a relationship. If you are yet to be married, he also has a book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, which rocks. We even give it away free, as part of our pre-martial counseling program at the Son-Shine Counseling Center. Want a better Valentine’s Day next year? Order the books, read them, and give them to you partner, child, or even your boss. (Chapman also wrote a book for bosses.)
Here is your list of love languages. A couple of them are easy to do, because that’s what you learned growing up. What is tricky: loving in the language your partner wants you to. So listen up to the list. They are not in order of importance. Your partner’s feeling will determine what tops your list. The first is Service, where we do things for the other that they need or want done. Common examples are cooking, taking out the trash, washing the car, helping clean the house, fixing things, and more. It is being a helper, and it is more powerful love when things get done without asking. Volunteering is “valentinish.” The service language is also sacrificial. Not easy, but when done, people appreciate it.
The next is Quality Time, where we spend time with the other person doing things they like doing. It can be simple like just watching TV with the other, and letting them control the remote. Going places also fit the bill. The wife likes the mall, so when asked, I don’t stall, but go alongside her. With our children, it is when we get down on the floor and play Barbie’s or Legos. For teens, which is harder, it may be taking them to a rap music, or Justin Beiber concert.
When we say positive things about others, it is the language of Affirmations. Research shows that growing up, in most homes, children hear more negative than positive. We affirm, and love on the other when we say things like “I love you,” “Great dinner,” “Good job,” “I appreciate all the hard work you did,” or, “It made me feel happy when your teacher told me what you did.” Affirmations aren’t always about what some did, but who they are, their character, and the values they uphold or demonstrate.
The easiest language, and the most culturally encouraged is the “Bling Bling Thing,” where we buy and give stuff. Now a days, gifts, cards, candy, and jewelry are all important, but they are a shallow substitute for other types of love. Too often, in the divorce or counseling office, we hear,” I don’t want him to work more, I want his help with the kids, or to spend more time with us.” Too often, pursuing the American Dream (house, cars, and bank account), isn’t really taking care of the family, but seeking love through financial security. Sometimes, enough stuff, is invisible when the family is neglected in receiving the valuable.
The final affection is Physical Contact. Sex is overemphasized, but little things like touches, hugs, holding hands, or just having your kids ride on your shoulders, all speak love in volumes. One thing I like about the Latino culture is the shaking hands every time you greet, and of course the hugs. It is a healthy custom that needs to happen more in families.
Here is a challenge: love more, love differently, and love longer. Identify a person, preferably your spouse, who you can lift you up with a different love language. It may feel awkward, but so did riding a bicycle for the first time. And don’t do it for a reaction. That often is not a service, but selfish. Just do it for the sake of being a better, more loving parent or partner. So, you have been “Valentold,” and it is up to you to volunteer.