Things I Really Wish I Knew about LOVE

Having just ended my second trip through The Five Love Languages by Dr. Chapman, there are things I really wish I could get through my thick skull.

Apropos: We just got through Valentine's Day and the occasion seems right.

1. Being "In Love"Ends

I remember my friend Dannah my freshman year.  She was one of the strongest women I'd ever met.  She had the grit and determination of her military dad, a sharp wit, and a heart as big as Dayton, Ohio.  But there was one thing.

Dannah was terrified that her hometown beau, Tom, was going to "fall out of love with her."  They'd been in love for years, and with distance and experience, it seemed like that ooey-gooey feeling of "love" was going to stop. did.  The thing idiots like us didn't realize was: IT ALWAYS STOPS.

Chapman argues in his book that the "in love" feeling that consumes you and spackles over every bump in your relationship might last about 2 or so years on average.  After that, as my old pastor used to say, "Love is not a feeling, it's a choice."

In and of itself, this isn't a bad thing.  This "In Love" is like the steam catapult on an aircraft carrier, flinging your plane from zero to flight speed in no time.  It gets you started.

What nobody seems to tell you is: You'd better have your engines running once that initial boost is over.

I did not.  I was so happy to have found the love of my life again in 2001 that I surfed that overwhelming wave of oxytocin to the alter in 2005, right as "reality" was about to hit.  I was a husband, a step-father overnight.  Also, I was an overgrown baby inside.

No, seriously.  I was an emotional infant.  If I were an emotional toddler, I'd at least have had a vocabulary to express a few things.  I simply did not.

Intellectually, I understood the "in love" feeling would wear-off.  But I'd been a serial monogamist through my 20's.  I was used to that feeling; I craved it.  When it disappeared and the real work began I became bitter and resentful.  I flailed about in dumb, selfish ways for over 7 years like that in one way or another.

In any case, everyone comes to the point where he decides: "Am I in or out?"  If you haven't, you will.  Brace yourself.

2. People Feel Love in Different Ways

Okay, let's not confuse "Love" for sex.  Let's also not confuse "Love" for "infatuation/being 'in love'." 

How do you FEEL LOVE?  What makes you feel special, cared for, and simply belonging in a relationship?

More importantly, how does that work for your spouse?  There's only a small chance it's like you.  Let me explain with a little meeting I had the other day at work...

On Cognition

I was leading a discussion at work about how people use websites.   In a book I'd read, the author described two ways of navigating websites:
  1. Using the search bar function to get where you want
  2. Using the left-hand navigation to select from a category/sub-category tree.
I found this ridiculous.  "Any sane person will just use the search function.  It's the fastest way to get there."  I posed this question offhand to my book discussion group.  The response shocked me.

Fully HALF the room NEVER used the search function, always using the categories on the left.  The other HALF was basically like me.  there was no one in the room of 12 who varied from either extreme.  It was a huge "ah-ha" moment.

People have very deep-seated, varied ways of doing things.  Moreover--germane to the discussion about love--they don't examine why they are that way.

The Five Love Languages

So coming back to love, Dr. Chapman espouses 5 ways people give and receive love:
  1. Affirming words:  Verbal appreciation from your Significant Other
  2. Quality Time: Being present with the person and sharing life at the same time: Couch time, dates, walks.  Just generally being together
  3. Gifts: Exchanging physical tokens of affections you make, find, or buy.
  4. Acts of Service: Doing things the other person wants done, perhaps like washing her car or cooking meals for him.
  5. Physical Touch:  Holding hands, hugging, touching.  Skin-to-skin contact.  Notably, sex is part of this, but it's certainly not all.
Learn yours

Mine (for example):
11Quality Time
9Words of Affirmation
6Acts of Service
4Physical Touch
0Receiving Gifts

This makes perfect sense.  Gifts mean very little to me, and I'm a tightwad.  I'm making slow progress on both fronts.

3. Seasons of Life, or "Reasonable Expectations"

Your marriage is going to ebb and flow.  There are going to be days where you're 100% with your spouse, and other days where it's a piece of paper between to very different (and hurting) people.  Thus the vow: "For Better or Worse."

There are going to be days where it's not about you.  That's okay.  Maybe years, when your spouse is finishing residency or on a deathmarch project for 18 months.

However, what's needed is communication.  You spend 15 minutes a day and share your life with your spouse.  What happened.  What's worrying you. What's making you happy.  Who you are today.

4. Bonus: People Grow and Change

I'm not married to the same woman I wed in 2005, even though she has the same social security number.  She's grown, changed, evolved.  People DO NOT stagnate.

You get to learn this new person and fall in love with them again and again.  That's kind of wonderful.

Final Thoughts

This book is just a model, but it's a very "bottom up" model, derived from >20 years of practical counseling from Dr. Chapman.  It really bursts the balloon of both the "In Love" feeling and the folly of chasing after it time and again.  It won't satisfy you; rather, a trusting relationship where both parties understand one another and make the most of showing love to their spouse.


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