THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES
Gary Chapman has written:
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate
The Five Love Languages of Children,
The Five Love Languages of Teenagers,
The Five Love Languages for Singles.
The Five Love Languages Men's Edition: The Secret to Love that Lasts
The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People
and many more
The 5 Love Languages:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Everyone has a primary love language. This is how you know/ feel that people love you. You could tell someone you love them until you are blue in the face, but if their love language is physical touch and you rarely touch them - they will not believe you love them!! This is especially important with children in my opinion, but in all relationships knowing their love language (and your own) keeps you from getting frustrated and relationships from ending miserably. Unfortunately it's not always totally obvious what someone's love language is, and some people are "bilingual." (although usually with a preference for one over the other).
Don't forget that just because something is not spoken in a person's primary love language does not mean it is not appreciated! Even if Gifts is not your primary love language (in fact it is the last on both Hubby and my list!), that doesn't mean we don't LIKE gifts - they tell me that someone is thinking about me and making an effort to make me happy!
I use the love languages daily. Not just to help me understand my husband and family and express my love to them, but with every person with whom I come into contact. With my employees, it helped to know how to best reward their achievements and motivate them. With friends, I can figure out how best to express my appreciation or provide support.
One more area knowing my love language helps me with? ME! It may sound selfish. It kind of feels selfish, but that old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, ” is true! When my love tank is drained I have nothing left to give, not to my family, my friends, or my church. I become depressed and shut down. When I have better insight into myself and find ways to fill my love tank, I am able to be a generous person. I am also able to give my time, energy and affection to people who aren’t able to give back (like my attachment-challenged children).
There are ways to explore and discover others, and your own, love language.
There are tests you can take (http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/), and reading the book(s) really helps, but even then, it can still be hard to tell what people's love languages are (especially if their love tank is drained and has been for a long time). Some languages are obvious, like Bear's (quality time), because they demand it. Others not so much. Sometimes how a person expresses their love to others is a good clue, but that can be altered by experience (for example, my mom speaks ACTS OF SERVICE all the time, but her love language is actually Words of Affirmation. I don't know if she was trained to do acts of service, it’s definitely a generational thing, or, more likely, she learned that if she does things for others they are more likely to praise her and give her the Words of Affirmation that she needs).
The Five Love Languages is often a required book for engaged couples getting premarital counseling (a really good idea by the way!). I highly recommend the book to help couples better understand each other's expectations, before they get frustrated and resentful that their partner is no longer meeting their needs. People in the "courting" stage of a relationship tend to go out of the way to speak many love languages (bringing little gifts like flowers or candy, doing things for the other - like making brownies or washing her car, sending love notes and paying compliments, going out of his/ her way to spend time together, hugging and kissing... After marriage, people tend to drop a lot of these little things and stick to their primary language never realizing that their partner feels deceived that they misrepresented their love.
Young children (under age 8) need ALL FIVE languages and most do not have a primary love language until they are early elementary age. Don't forget that developmentally (emotionally/ socially) many kids of trauma are a lot younger than their chronological age so this can include them, even if they are teenagers. Also, trauma can cloud or mask a child's love language - especially when their love tank is empty. Young children needing all 5 languages makes a lot of sense if you think about it --babies especially need ALL of these things done for them (holding and cuddling, doing things for them - like food and changing diapers, giving them what they need, cooing and talking to them in a loving way, being with them all the time.
There are some ways to determine a child's love language if it's not obvious:
- Try completely removing one of the love languages and seeing if it makes a difference (like not touch the child for a few days).
- Try flooding the child with one language one and see if the kid blooms (this would be my preference - especially while we're still trying to get some of our kids to attach!). My kids would love treats and presents for a week! (Gifts)
There is a 5 love languages book for teens as well. It has some practical advice on how to love your teens without embarrassing them (too much). My adopted children are better served by the child’s version of the book, because developmentally they are much younger than their chronological years.
Finding out someone's love language is essential! It effects peoples' self-esteem if no one loves them (and if you're not speaking their language then they usually feel you "don't love them!"). Also, if your "love tank" is empty then you are unable to give love or really even function well. You need love!
It’s not fair to expect one person, even a partner, to be the only one to fill your love tank!
It's important for me to remember that because half my kids are attachment disordered they are not able to fill my love tank. Dealing with them regularly drains it in fact. Because I am the only Words of Affirmation speaker in the house, it is not easy for me to get the words of love that I need to function. I have learned to encourage my family and others to speak in my language (they can be taught!! *grin*) and I have learned to go elsewhere for ways to fill my tank. This is one reason I blog and moderate a FB group!! I love hearing from others that I'm doing a good job and helping others.
I try to remember it’s not fair to expect my spouse to be the only one to fill my love tank – especially because we don't have the same love language. For many years I was a resentful bitter person, because no one in my family speaks my language (Words of Affirmation) and I expected my husband to telepathically know what I needed and magically be able to give it to me. He is an introverted person who grew up in a family that didn’t talk much, especially not compliments, and are not a physically affectionate family. His love language is Quality Time, and I have serious abandonment issues that cause me to be naturally distant (plus insomnia keeps me from going to bed at the same time). By learning each other’s love languages, not only do we get more of what we need, but we also have a better understanding of why the other person isn’t giving us what we need, and appreciate even more their efforts to do so.
With friends, I can figure out how best to express my appreciation or provide support. I also find it helps me in choosing how I want to help others. My love language is Words of Affirmation – if I find ways to contribute that help me get what I need then everyone benefits. My husband is an introvert with a love language of Quality Time – having him organize a group of volunteers would be a bad match for him, but put him in the back of a pumpkin truck (for the annual church Pumpkin Patch) and let him shift pumpkins for 8 hours and he’s happy as a clam. I’m an extroverted Words of Affirmation with a STRONG secondary language of physical touch. I’ve loved working at Vacation Bible School, usually in Recreation! I choose to regularly attend an adult Sunday school class rather than church, because I get a chance to develop personal relationships and give and receive hugs. For me, a formal church service doesn’t provide me with what I need.
What is your primary love language?
What makes you feel most loved by your partner?
Three ways to discover this include;
1. What does your partner do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply?
The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love language.
2. What have you most often requested of your mate? (or wished you had the courage to ask for?)
The thing you have most often requested is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.
3. In what way do you regularly express love to your partner?
Your method of expressing love may be an indication that would also make you feel loved.
If you are regularly doing acts of service for others, this may be your love language. If you are consistently, verbally affirming people, then Words of Affirmation is likely your love language.
5. What do you complain about most often?
When you say to your spouse, “I don’t think you would ever touch me if I did not initiate it,” you may be revealing that Physical Touch is your love language. When your spouse goes on a business trip and you say, “You didn’t bring me anything?” you are indicating that Receiving Gifts is your language. The statement, “We don’t ever spend time together,” indicates the love language of Quality Time. Your complaints reveal your inner desires. (If you have difficulty remembering what you complain about most often, I suggest that you ask your spouse. Chances are they will know.)
6. What do you request most often?
If you are saying “Will you give me a back rub?” you are asking for Physical Touch. “Do you think we could get a weekend away this month?” is a request for Quality Time. “Would it be possible for you to mow the grass this afternoon?” expresses your desire for Acts of Service.
Important to Remember:
You may have scored certain ones of the love languages more highly than others, but do not dismiss those other languages as insignificant. Your spouse may express love in those ways, and it will be helpful to you to understand this about him/her.
In the same way, it will benefit your partner to know your love language and express his/her affection for you in ways that you interpret as love. Every time you or your significant other speak each other's language, you score emotional points with one another. Of course, this isn't a game with a scorecard! The payoff of speaking each other's love language is a greater sense of connection. This translates into better communication, increased understanding, and, ultimately, improved romance.
If your husband has not already done so, encourage him to take The Love Languages Profile for Husbands. Discuss your respective love languages, and use this insight to improve your marriage!
The First Love Language: Words of Affirmation
Words of Affirmation - this is me and my Mom! This is being told you are doing a good job at something, hearing "I love you," validation and praise, little love notes, even wolf whistles...
If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults and negative comments can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.
Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. They are best expressed as straightforward statements of affirmation. The object of love is not getting something you want but doing something for the well-being of the one you love. But when we receive affirming words we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate.
Encouraging words means “to inspire courage.” All of us have areas in which we feel insecure. We often lack courage, and that lack of courage can hinder us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. The latent potential within your partner in his or her areas of insecurity await your encouraging words. Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from your mate’s perspective. We must first learn what is important to our partner. Only then can we give encouragement.
Kind words. If we are to communicate love verbally, we must use kind words. Sometimes our voices are saying one thing, but our tone of voice is saying another. Your partner will usually interpret your message based on tone of voice, not the words you use.
Words of forgiveness. Love doesn’t keep a score of wrongs. Love doesn’t bring up past failures. None of us is perfect. In a relationship we do not always do the best or right thing. We have sometimes done and said hurtful things to our partner. We cannot erase the past. We can only confess it and agree that it was wrong. We can ask forgiveness and try to act differently in the future. If you have been wronged by your
partner and they have confessed and requested forgiveness, then you have a choice. You can extend justice or forgiveness. If you choose forgiveness, intimacy can be restored. Forgiveness is the way of love. We can choose to live today free from the failures of yesterday. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy, not to hold the offense up against the offender.
Humble words. Love makes requests, not demands. While dating or in marriage, you and your mate are equal adult partners. We are not perfect to be sure. If we are to develop an intimate relationship, we need to know each other’s desires. The way we express those desires, however, is all-important. If they come across as demands, we have erased the possibility of intimacy and will drive our partner away. If, however, we make known our needs and desires as requests, we are giving guidance, not ultimatums. When you make a request of your partner, you are affirming his or her worth and abilities. A request introduces the element of choice. Your mate may choose to respond to your request or to deny it, because love is always a choice. Your partner may comply with a demand, but it is not an expression of love. A request creates the
possibility for an expression of love, whereas a demand suffocates that possibility.
- Give indirect words of affirmation about your partner to others when s/he is not present.
- Affirm your mate in front of others.
- Consider an experiment - write out a list of positive traits behaviors of your partner. For one week suspend all criticisms. Instead give daily verbal appreciation of their positive traits and behaviors.
Words of Affirmation
• Let me express myself without agreeing or punishing
• Let me know about your day
• Tell me about when you feel proud of me and why
• Tell me how you feel, your intimate thoughts
• Tell me when you like the way I look.
• Talk directly to me about your feelings – don’t clam up
• Compliment me in front of others
• Tell me I’m doing a good job.
• Tell me something you appreciate about me.
• Say you’re sorry.
• Picture something positive about our future together.
The Second Love Language: Quality Time
Quality Time - this is spending time together. (This is Bear big time! If you are not spending time with him, listening to him talk, then you do not love him!) This doesn't have to be talking. It can be just hanging out, going places together, looking into each other's eyes...
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this person is critical, but really being there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby – makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Quality time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.
Togetherness. Togetherness has to do with focus, giving your mate your undivided attention (not sitting on the couch watching TV together). It means that we are doing something together and that we are giving our full attention to the other person. The activity in which we are both engaged is incidental, it is simply a vehicle that creates the sense of togetherness.
Quality Conversation. Sympathetic dialogue involves shared experiences, thoughts, feelings, and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. Quality conversation focuses on what we are hearing - drawing out your partner’s thoughts, listening sympathetically, asking questions (who, what, how, where, gentle why) with a genuine desire to understand.
- Maintain eye contact when your mate is talking.
- Don’t listen to your partner and do something else at the same time.
- Listen for feelings (glad, mad, sad, bad or afraid).
- Observe your partner’s body language.
- Refuse to interrupt.
Learning to Talk. Self-revelation does not come easy for some of us. Awareness and expression of our emotions (glad, mad, sad, bad or afraid) is essential for a healthy relationship. Emotions are neither good not bad. They are simply our psychological responses to the events of life. In each of life’s events, we have emotions, thoughts, desires, and eventually actions. It is the expression of this process that we call self-expression.
Personality Types. How we communicate has a great deal to do with our personality type and gender.
Are you a “Dead Sea” or a “Babbling Brook?” Men and women tend to have basic differences in how and what they communicate, and how they problem solve. Become aware of your own and your partner’s personality style and shape your communication accordingly.
Quality Activities. These can include anything in which one or both of you has an interest. The emphasis is not on what you are doing but on why you are doing it. The purpose is to experience something together, to walk away from it feeling “My partner cares for me. S/he was willing to do something with me that I enjoy, and did it with a positive attitude.” The essential ingredients in a quality activity are: at least one of you
wants to do it, the other is willing to do it, both of you know why you are doing it - to express love by being together.
Does having quality activities mean careful planning? Yes. Does it mean we have to give up some individual activities? Perhaps. Does it mean we have to do some things we don’t particularly enjoy? Certainly. Is it worth it? Without a doubt.
- Get your “Daily Minimum Requirement” - establish a daily sharing time in which each of you talks about three things that happened that day and how you feel about them.
- Consider taking a personality test (Myers-Briggs, 16 PF, Taylor-Johnson) and then discussing the implications of your personality types in your relationship. Read “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” together and discuss each chapter.
- Come home for dinner together
- Plan time to be alone with me
- Focus on what I’m saying – rather than being distracted when I talk
- Read a relationship book with me
- Make weekend plans with me
- Be protective of our time together
The Third Love Language: Receiving Gifts
Gifts - this is the love language that Hubby and I do not have at all! It is, however, my dad’s love language. Not that everyone doesn't like getting gifts, but this person has a special place in their heart for the gift. It is a symbol of that person's love for them. They can tell you where they got it, who gave it to them and under what circumstances. They usually keep it in a special place and take great care of it. Think “The Last Doll” in The Little Princess movie/book.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.
Gift giving. Gift giving is a universal part of the love relationship, it is a fundamental expression of love that transcends cultural barriers. You must be thinking of someone to give them a gift, and the gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money, gifts may be purchased, found, or made.
It's the Thought That Counts. What is important is that you thought of your partner. And it is not just the thought implanted in the mind that counts, but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as an expression of love.
The Gift of Self. The gift of self (or presence) is an intangible gift that can speak more loudly than a gift that can be held in one’s hand. Being there when your partner needs you is a priceless gift, your body becomes the symbol of your love.
- Make a list of all the gifts your partner has expressed excitement about receiving through the years (given by you or others).
- Recruit the help of family members who know your mate.
- Don’t wait for a special occasion.
- If you are a “penny-pincher” you may resist spending money on gifts. Remember you don’t have to spend a lot and the money you do spend is well invested.
Giving / Receiving Gifts
- Small surprise gifts
- Buy me my favorite magazine
The Fourth Love Language: Acts of Service
Acts of Service - this is how my Mom expresses love (although it is not her love language). This is doing things for others (making a meal, knitting a sweater, getting up and getting a drink for someone, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, filling their car with gas, taking out the trash...
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.
“Serve one another in love.”(Galatians 5:13). Acts of Service means doing things you know your partner would like you to do. You seek to please them by serving, which requires thought, planning, time, effort, and energy. But requests for service cannot be demands, manipulation by guilt or coercion by fear.
There are three principles to keep in mind:
- Remember that what we do for each other before marriage is no indication of what we will do after marriage.
- Before marriage, we are carried along by the force of the “in-love” obsession. After marriage, we revert to being the people we were before we “fell in love.” Love is a choice and cannot be coerced. Each of us must decide daily to love or not to love our partners. If we choose to love, then expressing it in the way in which our partner requests will make our love most effective emotionally. Your partner’s criticisms about your behavior provide you with the clearest clue to his/her primary love language. People tend to criticize their mate most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.
- Overcoming Stereotypes. Learning the love language of acts of service will require some to reexamine their stereotypes of the roles of husbands and wives. A willingness to examine and change stereotypes is necessary in order to express love more effectively. Remember, there are no rewards for maintaining stereotypes. But there are tremendous benefits to meeting the emotional needs of your partner.
- Make a list of three or four things you would like your partner to help with. Then exchange your lists. Don’t add any more than 1 request per month. Remember, your partner can only choose to do what is on the list, it cannot be demanded.
- This love language of service has different dialects. The acts of service that you are willing to do may not be the ones your mate needs most from you.
Acts of Service
- Groom yourself in preparing for time together
- Do one of my regular household chores
- Do tasks around the home
The Fifth Love Language: Physical Touch
Physical Touch - a big one with guys. This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship.
Physical touch is a fundamental expression of love and meets an essential biological need within each of us. Holding hands, kissing, embracing, back rubs and sexual intimacy are all ways of communicating emotional love to your partner. Since touch receptors are located throughout the body, lovingly touching your mate just about anywhere can be an expression of love. But remember your touch does not always
need to be sexual in nature or intent.
- Not all touches are created equal. Some will bring more pleasure to your mate than others.
- Your best instructor is your partner. Consider doing a sensate focus exercise. Caress your partner and try to discover the most sensitive areas of his/her body and the kind of stimulation s/he enjoys most. They may, for example, prefer a gentler touch, or perhaps a rougher one, than you yourself would enjoy. Your partner can use a “spectrum rating scale” to describe how positive or negative your touch is on different parts of their body. “1” up to “10” is for positive touch and “-1” down to “-10” is for negative touch.
- Remember, loving touch does not always need to lead to sexual intimacy.
- Keep in mind that a time of crisis is a particularly important time to extend the gift of touch to your partner.
- Embracing, holding hands, a reassuring kiss can be sorely needed encouragement during loss.
- If a back massage communicates love to your mate, then the time, money, and energy you spend in learning to be a good masseur or masseuse will be well invested. If sexual intimacy is your partner’s primary dialect, reading and discussing the art of sexual lovemaking will enhance your expression of love.
- Spend more with being affectionate
- Tell me more about what pleases you sexually
- Show me affection that doesn’t lead to sex
- Hold me when I’m upset
- Give me a back rub
- Give me a foot massage
- Comb my hair
Take the Love Language Challenge:
16 Ways I Blew My Marriage
(By Dan Pearce)
The other night I was sitting with my family, most of whom are very successfully married. We were going in a circle giving our best marriage advice to my little sister on the eve of her wedding. It’s somewhat of a family tradition.
But that’s not what blows. What really blows is that I realized I don’t have any good marriage advice to give. After all, I’ve never had a successful marriage out of the two marriages I did have.
And so, when it was my turn, I just made a joke about divorce and how you should always remember why you loved your spouse when you first met her so that when times get tough, you can find someone new that is just like she was.
There were a couple courtesy giggles, but overall my humor wasn’t welcome in such a beautifully building ring of profunidity.
They finished round one, and for some reason started into another round. And that’s when I realized. Hey. I don’t have marriage advice to give, but I have plenty of “keep your marriage from ending” advice (two equivocally different things), and that might be almost as good.
It eventually came to me again, and what I said would have been such great advice if I were a tenth as good at saying things as I was at writing them.
And so, that night, I sat down and wrote out my “advice list” for my little sister. You know… things I wish I would have known or done differently so that I didn’t end up divorced (twice). After writing it, I thought maybe I’d share it with all of you, too.
I call it my “Ways I Blew My Marriage” list. Also, for the list’s sake, I am just going to refer to “her” instead of “them” even though they almost all were true in both marriages.
1. DON’T STOP HOLDING HER HAND
When I first dated the woman I ended up marrying, I always held her hand. In the car. While walking. At meals. At movies. It didn’t matter where. Over time, I stopped. I made up excuses like my hand was too hot or it made me sweat or I wasn’t comfortable with it in public. Truth was, I stopped holding hands because I stopped wanting to put in the effort to be close to my wife. No other reason.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d hold her hand in the car. I’d hold her hand on a star. I’d hold her hand in a box. I’d hold her hand with a fox. And I’d hold her hand everywhere else, too, even when we didn’t particularly like each other for the moment.
BONUS! When you hold hands in the winter, they don’t get cold. True story.
2. DON’T STOP TRYING TO BE ATTRACTIVE
Obviously when I was working to woo her, I would do myself up as attractively as I possibly could every time I saw her. I kept perfectly groomed. I always smelled good. I held in my farts until she wasn’t around. For some reason, marriage made me feel like I could stop doing all that. I would get all properly groomed, smelling good, and dressed up any time we went out somewhere or I went out by myself, but I rarely, if ever, cared about making myself attractive just for her.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d try and put my best foot forward throughout our entire marriage. I’d wait to fart until I was in the bathroom whenever possible. I’d make myself desirable so that she would desire me.
BONUS! when you trim your man hair, guess what. She returns the favor.
3. DON’T ALWAYS POINT OUT HER WEAKNESSES
For some reason, somewhere along the way, I always ended up feeling like it was my place to tell her where she was weak and where she could do better. I sure as heck didn’t do that while we were dating. No, when I dated her I only built her up, only told her how amazing she was, and easily looked past all of her flaws. After we got married though, she sometimes couldn’t even cook eggs without me telling her how she might be able to improve.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I wouldn’t say a damned thing about anything that I thought could use improvement. I’ve learned since my marriage ended that there is more than one right way to do most things, and that the imperfections of others are too beautiful to try and change.
BONUS! when you tell her what she’s doing right, she’ll tell you what you’re doing right. And she’ll also tell her friends. And her family. And the dentist. And even strangers on the street.
4. DON’T STOP COOKING FOR HER
I knew how to woo a girl, for sure. And the ticket was usually a night in, cooking a nice meal and having a romantic evening. So why is it then, that I didn’t do that for her after we got married? Sure, I’d throw some canned soup in the microwave or fry up some chimichangas once in a while, but I rarely if ever went out of my way to sweep her off her feet after we were married by steaming crab legs, or making fancy pasta, or setting up a candlelit table.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d make it a priority to cook for her, and only her, something awesome at least every month. And I’d remember that meat in a can is never awesome.
BONUS! candlelit dinners often lead to candlelit bow chica bow-wow.
5. DON’T YELL AT YOUR SPOUSE
I’m not talking about the angry kind of yelling. I’m talking about the lazy kind of yelling. The kind of yelling you do when you don’t want to get up from your television show or you don’t want to go ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS to ask her if she’s seen your keys. It really doesn’t take that much effort to go find her, and yelling (by nature) sounds demanding and authoritative.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d try to go find her anytime I needed something or wanted to know something, and I’d have both gratitude and manners when I did. I always hated when she would yell to me, so why did I always feel it was okay to yell to her?
BONUS! sometimes you catch her doing something cute that you would have missed otherwise.
6. DON’T CALL NAMES
I always felt I was the king of not calling names, but I wasn’t. I may not have called her stupid, or idiot, or any of the other names she’d sometimes call me, but I would tell her she was stubborn, or that she was impossible, or that she was so hard to deal with. Names are names, and calling them will drive bigger wedges in communication than just about anything else.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: Any time it got to the point that I wanted to call names, I’d call a time-out and come back to it later. Or better yet, I’d call her names, but they’d be names like “super sexy” or “hotness.
7. DON’T BE STINGY WITH YOUR MONEY
As the main bread earner, I was always so stingy with the money. I’d whine about the cost of her shampoo or that she didn’t order water at restaurants, or that she’d spend so much money on things like pedicures or hair dye jobs. But seriously. I always had just as many if not more things that I spent my money on, and in the end, the money was spent, we were just fine, and the only thing my bitching and moaning did was bring undo stress to our relationship.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d tell her I trusted her to buy whatever she wanted, whenever she felt like she needed it. And then, I’d actually trust her to do it.
BONUS! sometimes she will make bad purchase decisions, which leads to makeup purchase she felt like. Remember we all make bad decisions, like that new gadget you’ve had your eyes on.
8. DON’T ARGUE IN FRONT OF THE KIDS
There was never any argument that was so important or pressing that we couldn’t wait to have it until the kids weren’t there. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist or super-shrink to know why fighting in front of the kids is a dangerous and selfish way of doing things.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I would never, ever, not even once fight in front of the kids, no matter how big or how small the issue was. I’d maybe make a code word that meant, “not with the kids here.”
BONUS! when you wait to fight, usually you both realize how stupid or unimportant the fight was and the fight never happens.
10. DON’T POOP WITH THE BATHROOM DOOR OPEN
I don’t know why, but at some point I started thinking it was okay to poop with the bathroom door open, and so did she. First of all, it’s gross. Second of all, it stinks everything up. Third of all, there is literally no way to make pooping attractive, which means that every time she saw me do it, she, at least in some little way, would have thought I was less attractive.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d shut the damn door and poop in private.
BONUS! when she does think of your naked body, she’s not going to be thinking about it in a grunting/squatting position.
11. DON’T STOP KISSING HER
It always got to a point when I’d more or less stop kissing her. Usually it was because things were stressful and there was tension in our relationship, and so I’d make it worse by refusing to kiss her. This of course would lead to her feeling rejected. Which would of course lead to arguments about it. Other times I had my own issues with germs and whatnot.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d kiss her in the morning when she looked like people do in the morning. I’d kiss her at night when she’s had a long day. I’d kiss her any time I felt like she secretly wanted a kiss. And, I’d kiss her even when my germ issues kicked in.
BONUS! she feels loved when you kiss her. That’s bonus enough.
12. DON’T STOP HAVING FUN TOGETHER
Age shouldn’t matter. Physical ability shouldn’t matter. Couples should never stop having fun with each other, and I really wish I wouldn’t have gotten into so many ruts in which we didn’t really go out and do anything. And, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that when the fun is missing, and the social part of life is missing, so also goes missing the ability to be fully content with each other.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d make a rule with her that we’d never stay home two weekends in a row.
BONUS! awesome stories and awesome memories come from doing awesome things. And so do cherished embarrassing moments.
13. DON’T PRESSURE EACH OTHER
Pressuring each other about anything is always a recipe for resentment. I always felt so pressured to make more money. I always felt so pressured to not slip in my religion. I always felt so pressured to feel certain ways about things when I felt the opposite. And I usually carried a lot of resentment. Looking back, I can think of just as many times that I pressured her, so I know it was a two-way street.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d make it a point to celebrate the different views, opinions, and ways that she had of doing things. I’d find the beauty in differentiation, not the threat.
BONUS! authentic happiness becomes a real possibility. And so do authentic foot rubs.
14. DON’T LABEL EACH OTHER WITH NEGATIVE LABELS
Sometimes the easiest phrases to say in my marriage started with one of three things. Either, “you should have,” “you aren’t,” or “you didn’t.” Inevitably after each of those seemed to come something negative. And since when have negative labels ever helped anyone? They certainly never helped her. Or me. Instead, they seemed to make the action that sparked the label worsen in big ways.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I would learn to stop myself before saying any of those phrases, and then I’d switch them out for positive labels. Instead of “you should,” I’d say “you are great at.” Instead of saying “you aren’t,” I’d say “you are.” Instead of saying “you didn’t,” I’d say, “you did.” And then I’d follow it up with something positive.
BONUS! the noblest struggles become far more conquerable. And you don’t think or believe that you’re a schmuck, which is always nice.
15. DON’T SKIP OUT ON THINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO HER
It was so easy in marriage to veto so many of the things she enjoyed doing. My reasoning, “we can find things we both enjoy.” That’s lame. There will always be things she enjoys that I will never enjoy, and that’s no reason not to support her in them. Sometimes the only thing she needs is to know that I’m there.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d attend many more of the events that she invited me to. I would actively participate and not tell all the reasons why I’d do it differently or how it could be better or more fun or time better spent.
BONUS! go to something she knows you don’t enjoy and the gratitude gets piled on later that night, like whipped cream on a cheesecake.
16. DON’T EMOTIONALLY DISTANCE YOURSELF AFTER A FIGHT
I never got to experience the power of make-up sex because any time my wife was mean or we got in a fight, I’d completely distance myself from her, usually for several days. Communication would shut down and I’d avoid contact at all cost. This never let things get worked out, and eventually after it had happened enough times I’d explode unnecessarily.
IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I’d let myself communicate my emotions and feelings more often, and I’d make sure that she knew I still loved her any time we had an ugly bout. Sure, we’d give each other some distance. But not days of distance.
BONUS! Fantastic make-up sex. Or at least that’s the theory.
I had lots more written out, but the list started getting super long so I’ll stop right there and maybe do a part 2. It’s amazing when you’ve had relationships end, just how much you learn and know you could have done differently, isn’t it?
My sister and her new husband will be amazing. Hopefully she’ll always be giving amazing marriage advice in the future and never have to hand out the “keep your marriage from ending” advice like I get to.