May 22, Washington, D.C.: Reading about love languages. A book called The 5 Love Languages, actually. The notion is that each person has their own love language: a love language refers to one person's primary or preferred way of expressing their love for someone. And its usually the way that they prefer to have others express love for them. At least that is what the book suggests. We each have a primary love language, and when love is expressed to us that way, we have a full "emotional tank" in that relationship. But it doesn't mean that you can successfully communicate with a partner in the same language, because your partner can have a totally different preferred language. The languages are things like Kind Words, Acts of Service, Gifts, and Physical Touch. There is one I am forgetting....maybe that's because I don't really value it...I wonder. Oh, its Quality Time. The book suggests that our primary love language is determined by our experiences of needing, receiving, and experiencing love as a child. That had me thinking lots about how I experienced love as a child. I am the child of disciplinarians and learned pretty early to keep my feelings to myself. From my observation...there wasn't much communication about emotions in my house at all, unless it was my parents talking about negative emotions towards one another. And while I often thought that I knew that my parents loved me (because they kept a roof over my head, clothes on my back, our bellies full, and provided us with great educations)...I can't say that my general recollection of my emotional state during childhood was that I *felt* loved. My emotional tank was rarely full, because emotions just didn't seem like a topic that was "in-bounds" at all in our house. "Emotional needs" wasn't even a concept I saw as real. It wasn't until college that I realized that my friends were my emotional support system. At that time, the basis for my interaction with my parents (which was need) began to diminish and the actual relationship with it. When I applied to bschool I wrote about how my friends were my emotional family and how I had, at least in some measure, grown to appreciate that material needs were no more important than emotional ones.
My dad seemed to always be there, taking us to games and practices and showing up for events. Maybe his primary love language is quality time? I don't really know. If quality time involves equal parts listening and disclosure, then I wouldn't necessarily say that. My mom seemed to be more prone to acts of service. She always cooked and kept a tidy house, wanted us to present ourselves well, and made sure we could do so. Hmm, maybe this book can help me understand how to improve my demonstration of love for my parents. One thing is for sure....I don't think we have even reached the level of communication necessary to come to mutual understanding about one another's primary love languages. I am pretty uncomfortable discussing causality when it comes to my parents for a couple of reasons...first, I really don't have the most transparent conversations with them, so they could be learning about my feelings on all this the same way that anyone else can. Second, I know that whatever they set into motion, whether or not I maintain the same direction is completely up to me. Basically I don't want to be blaming them for something that is now completely my responsibility, esp when I haven't really discussed this with them. But I've come to understand that sharing is the best thing for me. And thinking about this stuff in a vacuum will not help me be nearly healthy enough.
Some of my friends know the stories of my dads family and how we basically terrorize the young kids. When I was about 5 (and i remember this very vividly)...at a large gathering at my grandmothers house, the entire family convinced me that the police were coming to get me because I was doing something bad. I recall them telling me to go outside and wait on the porch for them to come get me. And my memory tells me that I actually did it, although I don't know if that is just an embellishment that has come with time (or is that my way of making the actual events match the cruelty I now associate with them). But then I started to think about how that was and is my family's love language. Its also pretty much entertainment for us. And Ive thought that, in general, antagonizing the kids in the family was hilarious. This book only talks about 5, but I think that my family makes a point of showering focused attention on one another by teasing. It happened to my sister. To my cousins. To all of us. And as I grew older, I went from victim to antagonist, helping haze the younger kids through this rite of passage (when I was in town).
And then I thought about my college girlfriend, whom I had teased so badly about being literally cross-eyed (over a period of weeks or even months), that she ultimately had to check the mirror. She wasn't cross-eyed. I think I still thought that was funny until today. And I know I have teased every person I have dated since then. But I think reading about how kind words can effect how loved someone feels (which isn't really a novel concept) suggests to me that the opposite of kind words, which often takes the form of teasing, can have the exact opposite effect. I think that I thought the attention was a positive thing when I was younger, particularly because my family is massive. So having some of the focus didn't seem all bad. And so I thought that saying in those relationships , "I only tease you because I love you," was a fine stance. But maybe people tease because they don't know how else to show attention. Its like when I used to stomp on Deana Warner's feet in 5th grade and the student teacher took us out into the hallway to reprimand me for it. That was the most trouble I ever got in in school, but there was no WAY I was going to confess to having a crush on Deana. At least not without pushing her in the cafeteria.
When my girlfriend asked me to read this book it was to help us be better able to communicate the ways in which we want to experience love...or to discover what our love language is. And that is something that I know will help me get to know myself much better. But I also want to explore how these different languages.....or how I can communicate in these different languages. Because its clear to me that I am better at some than the others.