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Listen to me

iStock_000005634450XSmallWhy do we get married? I am pretty sure there are more philosophical and spiritual answers to this question but I think fundamentally it comes down to wanting to spend time with the other person. But for some people, quality time is their primary love language and it is the second love language in author Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. 

While quality time is not my mates nor my primary love language, we both still enjoy the time together. I think anybody with kids always enjoys to the opportunity to get out once in a while, go to a quiet place and well, talk about the kids.

Some couples can get out of sync with each other with one couple trying to do Acts of Service for their mate (because that’s their love language) yet the other one only wants quality time. Remember, it is about providing your mate something in their love language not your own.

Quality time means actually giving someone your undivided attention (Chapman 56), not watching TV, staring into your smartphone or day dreaming about being anyplace other than with your mate. I have noticed this can be particularly important with kids. I get so frustrated watching the clueless line of dads sitting at the park, or the museum with their faces all stuck into a cell phone. I have a smartphone too, but I have no idea what is in that electronic device that is far more interesting than watching their kids for the very short period of time that they will be children. One day these Tools will be 50 and they are going to look up  and the kids will be gone – and they will wonder what happened. Life’s happening Dude, look up, you’re missing a really good show.

It was that realization that hit home, particularly when I identified one of my own children’s primary love language as quality time.

The key ingredient in giving your mate quality time is focused attention (Chapman 59). We’ve all seen this clown at the restaurant – let’s call him Dick: Dick sits across from his lovely wife at Red Lobster, completely ignoring her while he talks at full volume on his cell phone and he wants everybody in the restaurant to know exactly how important he is. That is not quality time and unless you’re telling the underling on the other end of the phone that you have $500,000 in small, unmarked bills in your pocket and that you’re unarmed and of a weak constitution, NO one there cares what you have to say. In short, don’t be a Dick.

Quality time also means quality conversation (Chapman 60). Quality conversation means sympathetic dialogue where both people share their experiences, thoughts, feelings and emotions, and this is the most important part, uninterrupted (Chapman 60). If your mates primary love language is quality time this dialogue is crucial to their sense of being loved (Chapman 60).

I know for us guys this can be a challenge. Two guys can sit next to each other and watch a football game for four hours and not say two words and think it was an awesome afternoon. Guys, we have to teach you sort of a new language here, it’s called conversation. Take a breath we will help you through this.

  • Maintain eye contact (Chapman 63). Do not let your eyes wander around the room especially to look at another woman, I don’t care how flipping hot she is. If you just can’t help yourself, at an opportune moment excuse yourself to pretend to go to the bathroom then check her out (just kidding).
  • Don’t listen to your spouse and do something else at the same time, (Chapman 63) like texting the hot chick you just saw walk across the room – that would be bad.
  • Listen for feelings and avoid trying to solve problems (Chapman 63). Men or women typically will let each other know when they want a solution, otherwise they usually just want to be heard. Yea, guys, I know this one is frustrating because we just want to solve problems, but sometimes our mates just want to vent.
  • Observe body language. Watch for disconnects between what your mates body is telling you versus what they are telling you vocally (Chapman 63). Explore disconnects – I also hope by now that when your mate says she is “fine,” that’s the LAST thing she is.

Chapman’s book gives several other good hints on how to become a conversationalist, or at least step up your game a bit. I will give you one quick tip that works for my wife and I. When we go out to restaurants we stopped sitting across from each other and instead started sitting next to each other. We find this provides a more intimate setting, and we can actually hear each other better.

Not talking in someone else’s love language can actually lead to more of a disconnect. I learned this lesson the hard way one year when I was out of town on travel and forgot my wife’s birthday. I tried making up for it by buying her flowers, which I know she likes, but not in this case and that’s also not her primary language. Hers is acts of service – she probably would’ve appreciated it more had I just detailed her car for her when I came home a few days later.

Your mate may speak in the third Love Language, Receiving Gifts (Chapman 75). Gift giving is as much a part of our culture as it is every other culture around the world – and the practice of giving gifts goes back thousands of years. In fact, we organize entire holidays just so we can continue to give gifts to each other. Go beyond Christmas and birthdays and you will find a Hallmark card and some sort of gift suggestion for every occasion. Got hemorrhoids, there’s a card for you I’m sure!

Gifts, such as our wedding rings, are visual symbols of love (Chapman 77), which is why it can have a huge emotional impact when an individual removes their wedding ring when they are either divorced or separated (Chapman 77). I think it is a common stereotype that women want jewelry and gifts and that is it. I’m also not suggesting you have to follow comedian Ron White’s advice in his bit about the De Beers Diamond company. White suggested their slogan should just be: “Diamonds, that’ll shut her up.”

Obviously not everybody is into receiving gifts. We may like to get them but it may not be our primary love language. If receiving gifts is your mates primary love language there are plenty of ways to meet this need and not all of them involve cash – typically the more creative you can be in your gift giving the more the gifts are appreciated.

Giving the gift of self (your physical presence), which sort of ties into the love language of quality time, can be one of the most powerful gifts when they can give to another (Chapman 80-81). You can try leaving a parade of small gifts throughout the day or week, watch for small items while you were together that may have some special meaning, such as a Sandollar on the beach you found while on vacation in Cabo, or even enlist a personal shopper to find things your mate is interested in.

Some of the best gift come by keeping a journal or at least a list. Whenever your mate says they are interested in something in particular, jot it down and you’ll be building their birthday list for them.

If you’re having trouble figuring out both your own and your mates primary love language, then start experimenting. See if total presence is something you or they appreciate – try giving a small gift then watch for the reaction. If you think about it, maybe one of the reasons we get married is to have a day where we both spend time with each other, and all our friends and relatives buy us cool stuff. I’m surprised people don’t do it more often.

Chapman, Gary D. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago: Northfield Pub., 2010. Print.

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