Some Unsolicited Love Advice From Jaybird
According to Doctor Gary Chapman, there are Five Languages of Love. Essentially, there are five ways that you are most likely to communicate that you love someone and most likely “hear” that you are loved when someone else uses them.
The five are: Touch, Words, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Quality Time. If two people happen to have the same “Love Language”, this tends to work out better than if two people have very different ones. For example, imagine two persons in a relationship. One: a person whose love language is “Words” and Two: an “Acts of Service” person. When we put them in a couple we can easily imagine them complaining about stuff like “She’d rather do the dishes, mow the lawn, wash the laundry, and take out the trash than spend five minutes talking to me”/”All she does is flap her gums about how much she loves me but you can’t get her to pick up her towel after a shower!” Heck, a “fun” game is to take any two of those and come up with how one would complain about the other. (I’m sure that, right now, you’re thinking about a bad breakup in your past, if not your own, one of someone close to you and you’re saying “He was this language and she was that language and they talked past each other with every interaction they had until it ended acrimoniously.”)
Part of this, it seems to me, means that one person’s “best thing ever!” will be another’s “oh no, not again”. The person who loves to spend an evening doing a puzzle could very well find going out to the club to be excruciating, and the person who finds the club to be nirvana could see spending an evening in, doing a puzzle, to be, well, wasting a perfectly good evening… and the thing to take away from that is that there is a chunk of people out there who get their proverbial tanks filled doing things that other folks just don’t “get”. A caveat: like all attempts at categorization, this theory is prone to oversimplification and we should watch out for that… but I imagine that you know what your primary (and secondary?) love language(s) might be and, even if you don’t, you know more than a handful of folks who are close enough for blogging when it comes to how this may describe them. With those assumptions made, I’m going to start by looking at a particular group of folks that this theory describes (and then work out from there): People who can have their proverbial tank filled despite being in a long-distance relationship.
Now, *MY* experiences with Long Distance Relationships are very much like the 2nd quarter of the movie “Her”. You’ve got this voice, this beautiful voice, on the other end of a phone. You’ve got this text, this perfect text (I mean, there are some syntax problems but they’re all deliberate tweakings in order to provide a clear voice), on a monitor. This voice tells you cute stories about her day, tells you that your stories are cute, and you can both laugh and say “I love you”. Hear it back. Hang up. Read a book, tell her about the book, hear what she thought about the book. Disagree. Agree. Log off. Read another book.
Periodically, of course, you’ll get to/have to see the other person when you’ll get to/have to do things as a real, live couple except in a distilled form. Go out to eat at one of those places where you can take over a booth and talk for an hour. It’s a date. Make out. Go to the mall and get each other some kind of trinket. It’s a date. Go to the grocery store to get the pop/potato chips that you can’t get in your area. It’s a date. Heck, make out. Go here, go there. It’s a date. Hurry and get some more dates in there, one of you is going home in a handful of days. Better make out again, just in case. Go home. Recover.
The problem comes when it comes time to, as classy people say, “fish or cut bait”. Except in the rarest of circumstances, the questions will arise: Is the relationship going to turn into something else? Something where you actually have to be in the same room when you’re *NOT* on a date? Well beyond achieving “fart comfort”, we’re talking about “jointly running a small non-profit comfort”? If you can’t see that happening, well, time to let go and move on. If you can, well… it might be time to settle down and actually live in the same building. Perhaps even say the “M” word and then get M’ed… and it’s at this point that the love languages come back into play.
Assuming phermonal compatibility (without which we probably wouldn’t have gotten this far), we’ve now reached a point where love language incompatibility is likely to enter play. People, for a host of reasons, stop throwing everything they possibly can and speaking every language they’ve ever heard of and going back to speaking the language that they themselves are most likely to speak. They do this without even really noticing. Someone who never felt more spoken to than when their partner, say, snuck a note into their jacket pocket spends weeks/months/years unconsciously checking his or her pockets every day… and getting frustrated without ever knowing why. Someone else might see a day spent together as building up to a great makeout session instead of the day spent together as being the point and getting frustrated as a result. So on and so forth (we’re back to the “fun” game) and the frustration of speaking and being misunderstood, fundamentally misunderstood, has great potential to warp and twist into resentment (or worse).
According to the Love Language theory, the folks in the relationship both need to figure out how to best speak the language of the other person and how to best hear the language of the other person. Knowing that the other person is saying “I love you” when they mow the lawn or when they want to go up and down every single aisle at Costco, even the dumb ones, or when they constantly make origami elephants out of dollar bills or, I suppose, say “I love you” is what will help the relationship flourish in a way similar to how it flourished at the beginning, when everyone was throwing everything at the wall.
When love is a long distance relationship, it’s got a great deal in common with pure communication. When the time comes for two people to actually be practically on top of each other for a good chunk of the day/week/month, the communication can get muddled. For some folks, folks who happen to speak the same language (and keep speaking the same language), the muddle is something easily avoided and both are constantly filling each other’s proverbial tanks. It’s when the communications start being regularly missed that people stop having their tanks filled and thus stop feeling loved.
As such, it seems to me that a fairly important part of being in a relationship that one intends to last for longer than “a while” would require something like figuring out how to make the other person hear what you’re saying (and filling their tank) when you’re saying “I love you” and being willing to (sometimes) change how you say it in order to ensure it.