“Take my love, my touches, my kisses, my hands, my body, and my heart…Into your dreams. And they will love you, protect you, comfort you, and ravish you, all night.”
My lover generously extends himself to me through his words, his poetry, his writing, all the way from England, across the ocean and over an entire continent, all the way to where I am staying in San Diego.
He warms my heart and fills my soul with an expressive, strong, and stable love—the kind of love I have always wished and longed for since I was a little girl.
Three weeks is a long time to be apart from a lover, a partner in joy, a coconspirator who I want to experience all parts of life with. As day passes into night and turns into day again, he relentlessly showers me with all the love that he has, using the love language that is most comfortable for him: Words of Affirmation. (Gary Chapman outlines the five known love languages in his book, The Five Love Languages.)
We totally gelled in our love languages—or so I thought. We both prized Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch. Love is given and received from each of us, and so far in our relationship we have had smooth sailing—or so I thought.
With each new day apart, and each sweet thought my darling would send me, I felt a strange yet persistent weight start to fall on my shoulders. A sadness, a despair, a sense of pure impotency developed in my body. What was this? Why was this? I have always dreamed of having someone so expressive, and so full of love for me—and finally, here it was…and yet, it was beginning to feel like a hopeless burden bearing down upon me.
No longer content with hiding, pretending, or ignoring my feelings, I spoke up and told my lover what was going on inside of me. We started to twist the Rubik’s cube of unexpected emotions to try and clear the sticky web of strange feelings that suddenly seemed to enshroud me.
As I honestly and lovingly shared my inner experiences with my sweetheart, knots began to loosen, and realization dawned on me like a beautiful, Caribbean sunrise. While I heard (or received) love through Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation, I became abruptly aware that I spoke (gave) love through Acts of Service.
I was insecurely wobbling on the balance beam of feelings because while my man was supplying me with all the love and affection my heart craved, I felt paralyzed to return an “adequate” amount of love to him. How could I cook him a delicious, healthy meal from 5,000 miles away? How could I tenderly make his home space comforting, cozy, and secure from my hotel room in San Diego?
While I received his words well, I suddenly recognized that words were not my main way of extending my love to him. I could only say so much, and then it began to feel strange: not that the words weren’t true, just that they weren’t able to contain my feelings nor could they demonstrate to him my love in a powerful and meaningful enough way for me to feel satisfied.
Gently, my lover reminded me that Chapman examines this phenomenon in his book. Apparently, it is quite common to speak in one language and hear in another. And as our conversation continued, we both realized that my guy doesn’t hear love through Acts of Service.
He became quite distraught as this occurred to him. “Baby, all those times you have done those nice things for me—I haven’t thanked you enough, have I?”
As I continued my studies with neuro-linguistic programming, I discovered that we delete, distort, and generalize stuff all the time—based on our beliefs. When I grabbed that little fact and stuck it together with this seemingly messy love language issue, something hit me so hard and so solidly that I knew it was a truth for me, and then I got excited. Truth always gets me excited.
The truth was, any love language that I found I was having difficulty understanding, receiving, or was not “fluent” in, I could apply the illuminating spotlight of self-awareness and make an interesting discovery: there was baggage in the room.
The tattered, blue bag from my father, full of: “You’re too much,” or the worn out, grey bag from my mother, pleading with me: “Don’t be a drip.” (She liked to call my firehose gush of love that burst out as “dripping.”)
My ex, and his tall, dark, mysterious looking bag loaded with, “You are too needy,” sharing with me that he was uncomfortable with my outward expressions of love words. There were smaller bags in that room too—but the big ones take up the most space.
My lover noticed the same was true for him. Under the floodlights of his own awareness, he discovered that my “doing” for him shed light on some of his own baggage, and questions in his head would toss around like tumbleweed. “Why are you doing this for me? Are you thinking I can’t do this for myself?”
Now, he too could see all the bags occupying his room that were getting in the way of his ability to comprehend Acts of Service.
By becoming aware and shining our focus, we found we could easily and effortlessly see all of these bags, decide that they are old, crumbly, and taking up space, and toss them out the window.
And just like that, we have become fluent in languages that moments before seemed foreign to us.
In doing so, we discovered that this baggage no longer has power over us. These feelings can coexist with us in our joyful, fun, and secure relationship. How cool is that?