Feels like love to me. . .

- posted by the Sous Blogger

It’s become apparent that it’s up to me to provide blog content this week.

I thought we’d talk about a book that’s become a pop standard in the world of relationship counseling. I heard about it originally from a client who’s a Christian counselor, which made me hesitate, but there’s a good central idea in it. It’s easy to teach, and the religion part didn’t whack me over the head.

Another part of my early bias against this book is that it was written by a man, and what on earth could a man say about relationships that would be useful? (OK, I have completely repented from my earlier sexist belief about that. For new readers, I am a second-wave feminist, left-of-liberal, straight psychologist. And I actually like men. A lot of men. OK, some men. Anyway, I’m not a man-bashing feminist.) (Moving on. . . )

The book has a cheesy title, in my opinion: “The Five Love Languages,” written by Gary Chapman. Since it was first published in 1992, Mr. Chapman has created a kind of Love Language/Chicken Soup franchise, and I can’t vouch for any of the subsequent iterations.

In the original book, there’s a very strong section on the nature of adult love (Chapter 3, right around page 30) which talks about loving vs. being “in love,” heat/romance/chemistry vs. partnership.

The premise of the book is that we all need to give and receive love in several ways, and it’s helpful to know what your own “love language” is (see, the words are kind of cringe-making). And, just as important, to know the love language of your partner, or your friends, or you kids, or your boss. (Thus the franchise, I guess.)

Chapman says there are five ways that we can show love, and perceive love. In a healthy relationship all five are happening, but we each have our own hierarchy of importance for them. We do better if we give and receive love according to what feels like love to the other person, and we have to know what that is in order to do it.

Here’s the list:

1. words of affirmation (saying I love you, saying thank you, speaking carefully in a hard conversation, giving compliments, verbalizing appreciation)

2. quality time (spending time together, shared activities, being mindfully engaged with the person and not just two lumps in front of the TV)

As an aside, there was a nice little piece in the NYTimes a few months ago about old relationships that have lost their energy. It said that people need to do *new* things together, and not always go back to the same old same old. Doing what we’ve always done, even in the name of tradition, is the stuff of staleness. Discovering new stuff together feels like dating.

3. gifts (we have a friend who swoons when she gets flowers. she calls herself a flower slut - flowers feel like love to her. on the other hand, i despise red roses delivered from the florist. i’ve seen too many relationships where the guy - yes, it’s usually the guy - behaves terribly, and then calls Bachman’s the next morning with a credit card number, thinking it’s all fixed now. fortunately, mr. sous knows this about me, and brings home flowers from the grocery store, along with the milk, bread and peanut butter.)

4. acts of service (my own personal favorite. make me a grilled cheese sandwich? Oh. My. God. that feels like love. be in charge of the recycling? I swoon. you are soooooo hot. finish painting the dining room? GASPING!! you’re like a god to me. OK, yes, I wish it hadn’t taken 15 months, but OMG that feels like love.)

5. physical touch (sexual and non-sexual)

I like that there’s only five on the list. It’s a manageable number. And it’s kind of a fun conversation to figure out the order of your list, and of a partner.

(This blog post was sponsored by my 11:00 patient, who blew me off, and will be billed for the time. And now, back to The Caring.)


rootbeerlady said...

Dear Doctor Sous,

Thank you for your leaned post.

"two lumps in front of the TV" made me chuckle and not because that doesn't happen in my house. Actually trying to move us out of a pattern of predictableness and the sense that life was passing us by is kind of what motivated me to push us into the land of cabin building and owning. A lovely place, I agree, but accompanied by a steeper price tag (financial) than I ever imagined. Of course, I guess we could have lost about half of it in the stock market ...

I think I need a little self-prescribed chocolate therapy. Lent. Sment.

Stephanie said...

Should we be concerned that I, having over-looked the "-posted by the Sous Blogger" headnote, did not figure out that this was NOT written by Scott until the end of point #3? I admit to being a bit confused by "Scott's" claim to being a straight feminist who likes men, but hey! I can be very open-minded about the labels that people choose for themselves. It wasn't until the part about getting grocery store flowers from Mr. Sous that I really started to question things.

But now I have it all figured out, and I feel much better.

To Dr. Sous: I also strongly dislike red roses (from the florist, grocery store, or anywhere), specifically because I think they're the closest thing the Mindless Man thinks he has to a Get Out of Shit Free card.

And this does sound like an interesting book.

Anonymous said...

I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want a "Get Out of Shit Free" card on occasion.

Alas ...


Stephanie said...

Of course we all *want* Get Out of Shit Free cards, but personally, I'm never willing to offer more than a coupon for substantial savings off Getting Out of Shit!

John said...

Glad to see a review of a book like this! I enjoy the "self help" type books as much as a novel or biography, but never see many reviews, so thanks.

And as a florist, I've always wanted to write a post about men sending their "get out of shit free" card (roses). YOU ARE SO RIGHT!

We will have a really good frequent customer, like a guy sending roses and before you know it, the couple is split up...he'd been sending the roses out of guilt after being an asshole.

Even worse, this happened the other day...the customer pays cash, signs their own card--which evidently he didn't sign his name.

The recipient called us to find out who sent it. After we tell her it was cash/customer wrote card...we respect the customer's right to privacy, etc. She then gives a description of the guy and says she has an order of protection against him and he just violated it by contacting her like that. And we're caught in the middle!

So while I DON'T ever recommend anyone buy flowers at the grocery store (many florists have gone out of business for this reason), I do recommend instead, stopping at the flower shop, and buy from experts in flowers.

Sorry for long comment...I would have did it as a blog post, but I try never to mention flower, florist, etc, since I have google ads...I do not want rip off fake florist ads on my blog!

Stephanie said...

This all reminded me of a story . . .

Several years ago, when I lived in DC, I went away on a multi-week business trip. Jeff watched my apartment while I was away--picking up mail, watering plants, etc.--and in exchange, he had free use of my car.

When I got home, I walked in and saw a beautiful bunch of daisies waiting for me on the table. Was my first thought, "Oh, how lovely and kind!"? No, mean-spirited bitch that I am, the first thing that popped into my head was, "Oh, God, what did he do to my car?!"

I sat down to read the "Welcome Home" note he had left, telling me about the status of mail and bills. No mention of the car. I thought about going down to the garage to check it, but my Better Angel took over, and instead, I just called Jeff to thank him for taking care of everything, and for the pretty flowers. His response was, "So, did check on your car before you called?" There was nothing wrong with it, he just knew I'd assume that's why he bought flowers.

Sometimes, it's not nice for someone to know you *that* well.

deb said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

I'm actually a huge fan of the work of florists. I love flowers, and am completely flower-arranging impaired. It's kind of tragic, really.

I'm also in love with the idea of a Get Out of Shit Free card, and will be stealing that for therapy purposes in the next few days