I tell everyone that once I got married, I realized how different men and women truly are, but I didn’t realize until I had a son, that men are born different. Many years ago, a good friend shared with me a book about how a couple’s love language can affect their marriage. I, mistakenly, apparently, thought that my husband and I shared the same love language. I mean, I speak English and he speaks English, and we love each other, which is a whole lot easier than couples like my parents whose shared language is not their native tongue. Or so I thought. In fact, perhaps because we assume we know what the other is talking about because there are no obvious language barriers, it sets us up for miscommunication.
So we sat down and took this quiz about love languages that my girlfriend had shared with me, and I fully expected us to be at least somewhat compatible. Not true at all it turns out. My primary love language is gift-giving. It gives me great joy to give gifts to others. My happiness and anticipation in giving a gift is almost as good for me as I hope it is for the recipient of my carefully selected gifts. My husband’s primary love language on the other hand is service. He likes to do things for other people, and shows his love for others by doing. Now this quiz not only identified primary love languages, but also laid out in descending order of importance the other love languages. At the bottom of mine was service. At the bottom of his was gift-giving. So we were, in fact, complete opposites.
All of this is leading up to a conversation we had recently about the Valentine’s Day present he had bought for me. As always, I am inherently practical, and so even though I love receiving flowers, in the back of my mind, a little part of me thinks about how they will be dead in a few days. So this Valentine’s Day, my husband really nailed it. He not only bought me my favorite flowers, he went one better and bought me 2 lilac bushes, live ones that needed to be planted in the ground. I was pretty impressed considering our past history of gift exchanges (remember, his lowest rated love language is gift-giving).
And so, I set them down by the back door. And there they sat. So last week, we had the same conversation we had been having for a month. “So what about those lilac bushes? Where do you want to put them?” my husband asked. “Right across from the patio doors so we can see them when we are sitting at the dinner table,” I replied again. But here the conversation took a little turn. “So when are you going to plant them? They’re going to die if you don’t get them into the ground,” he said. I turned to look at him quizzically. “When am I going to plant them?”
“Yes, when are you going to plant them?”
“I thought you were asking me where I wanted you to put them, ” I said.
“Me? They’re yours. I gave them to you, and they’ve just been sitting there.” he said.
“Yes, you gave them to me and then kept asking me where I wanted them, and then you never planted them. I thought it was because you’ve been so busy.” I said.
You see, in my family, when you give someone something that needs to be planted, you plant it for them. That is part of the gift. That is not, however, how it works in his mind.
“No, I’ve been asking you for weeks where you are going to put them,” he said, shaking his head.
That is not at all what I heard when he asked me the question. And my response told him I knew where I wanted them, so he could not understand why I didn’t get on with it and put them in the ground already. Is it any wonder that we can’t get the world to agree on anything when we can have such clear miscommunication within our own households?
And so we had an impassioned discussion, involving much hand-gesticulating, exasperated chuckles, and poll-taking of others in which we discovered this key difference between us which we had never known.
So, what ended up happening? My loving, service-oriented husband accepted his wife’s viewpoint as strange, but agreed to plant them with me, and has probably vowed never to buy me anything that needs planting again. 🙂
Today I am thankful for a marriage that can still surprise me even after all these years. I’m grateful that I have a partner who is willing to sit down and hash out in a non-judgmental way all the issues that can come up between two very different people, and I’m thankful to have my very own lilac bushes in this high desert place that we now call home.
Here is a link to the quiz for the 5 love languages established by Dr. Gary Chapman: http://www.the-relationship-coach.com/five-love-languages-quiz.html