Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Support Languages


"I feel so alone in this. It's bewildering."
It didn't matter what the issue was: It could be anything, but that's what my husband and I were telling one another recently. Intellectually we knew we were in this together, but it felt like we were not. Ambivalent is the word we kept coming back to, because while we felt loved, each of us felt the other spouse was not particularly invested in things that really mattered to us. What was maddening was that we really do care! It just wasn't getting through.

Does that feel familiar?

It did to us. It reminded us of Dr. Chapman's books The 5 Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology. The idea behind the books is that individuals weigh some expressions of emotion more than others based on personal needs and experiences. Dr. Chapman cites 5 categories for expressions of love: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch and Closeness, and Words of Encouragement. I've never met anyone who didn't need quality time, but additionally, to show affection I am a snuggler. As a words guy Daniel turns into an all-out cheerleader. Of course the way we show love is also how we crave it, so we have worked hard to become more fluent at making one another feel all-out adored, and to honor the less familiar expressions. That's why we were so surprised by this disconnect.  

So we came up with a new phrase: Support Languages.

Daniel kept saying "But I have shown up to everything! I’ve pitched in! What more do you want?” and I was wondering “I have kept up to date on every detail of this! I ask you about it every night! How could you think I wasn’t interested and supportive?” As it turns out, Daniel was needing some Acts of Service, and I value an inquisitive listening ear.

Is this really different than love languages, or have our needs and habits shifted over time to neglect some forms of support? I don't know. In some ways it doesn't matter as long as we add this new question to our marriage toolbox: "What kind of support would be most meaningful to you right now?"

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