You all have heard of The Five Love Languages, right? It's been awhile since I've taken one of the quizzes and I know that my top love languages have changed over time along with life circumstances, but "words of affirmation" have always been near the top of my list.
In case you're unfamiliar with the concept of love languages, they are basically different ways people tend to give and receive love. For example, a person who speaks the love language of "receiving gifts" is the type of person to leave little notes, surprise you with flowers, or pick something up at the store just because it reminded them of you; this is because their top love language is receiving gifts, so they're more likely to also demonstrate their love in this way. That person is more likely to receive a love message loud and clear if it comes in the form of a gift because it's a "language" they practice and understand well. Obviously it helps to understand your spouse's top love language because it might not be the same as yours - which means that a good way to make them feel especially loved is to express it in their love language instead of yours. I think you get the idea.
Anyway, words of affirmation has always been near the top of my love languages list. Being told something sweet is a simple way to make me feel loved and appreciated. Personally, I think words of affirmation are easy and take much less effort than some of the others (i.e. quality time, acts of service, etc.)...but my husband doesn't come by that love language very naturally, so expressing his love in this way isn't that easy after all.
Because of this, I feel like I sometimes have to spell out what I might need to hear in a given moment in order to be reassured...which can easily make the reassurance feel a bit forced and makes it lose some of the effect. After all, it's much more encouraging (in my mind) for my husband to say something like, "I like the way your hair looks today," as opposed to me trying a new style and asking whether he likes it or not. Who wants to fish for compliments? Not me.
Since Michael and I have been married, I like to think that I've found a healthy and realistic approach towards this particular love language. When I'm looking for my husband to let me know how he feels about something I said/did/wore I understand that I will probably have to be direct about it and ask - because he doesn't often just tell me without being prompted. And that's okay. I know that what he says is genuine regardless of whether or not I had to bring it up.
Whenever we move somewhere new and I decorate our place, I get really excited to show Michael. I have so much fun asking him things like, "Do you like what I did on this wall? What do you think about this?!" But because I get so excited, I often jump at the opportunity to show him my efforts and ask what he thinks instead of letting him notice and appreciate it in his own time.
Yesterday I was sorting some baby clothes in Gabriel's closet when I came across some boxes. I remembered that one of them held our seasonal decorations and I excitedly pulled out our white pumpkin. I know it's still technically summer, but I was so excited to decorate for autumn that I went ahead and pulled it out. A few minutes later I had this simple little display making our dining room table look festive and ready for fall:
|The wreath is from our wedding table decorations, which means this setup makes me ridiculously happy. Sentimental much?|
When Michael got home from work we had a lot going on...which meant I didn't rush to show him the humble pumpkin display. In fact, I had forgotten all about it. Later on, when we were all sitting down for dinner, Michael casually said three little words: "Nice decorations, babe."
I almost didn't hear him and asked him to repeat what he had said. He repeated himself and I - somewhat surprised - followed up with, "Oh...thanks!"
Those three words were so simple yet so meaningful to me. Not only had my husband commented on something I had fun doing to decorate our home, but he noticed it entirely on his own and - completely unprompted - complimented me on it.
Hours later his words were still with me and I realized that I don't seem to give my husband many opportunities to compliment me on his own. I'm so used to him not noticing or thinking he won't realize what I need to hear that I often ask him for his thoughts before he can tell me in his own time. Too often I ask for the proverbial cookie in his hand without first allowing him to freely offer it to me.
I still think that, with Michael's personality, there are times when it just makes good sense for me to go ahead and ask him rather than waiting for a comment that might never come...but this little scenario with the pumpkin made me realize that there are also plenty of times that perhaps I should just...wait. Let it go, don't seek a response, and...wait. When I do this, his words of affirmation are unquestionably genuine and not forced in the slightest...which makes it a true gift he can offer that I will receive most happily. What an important reminder that gifts, by definition, are freely given.
“Love is always bestowed as a gift -freely, willingly, and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved, we love to love.”