I was having a conversation with my mom about what to give a few people on my gift list this year. I had asked a few friends for advice too. My mom's response is always something about making a donation to charity in the person's name. One friend mentioned that she and her husband haven't exchanged gifts since they were dating. Another friend mentioned that he gives his wife gifts, but not his brothers. I gave some serious thought to all of these methods and discarded them all.
The thing is, I enjoy giving gifts. I enjoy finding something that would be perfect for that certain person and gifting it to them. I like to see people happy as they unwrap gifts. And, to be completely honest, I love receiving gifts! I would be very unhappy if Ken and I decided not to give each other gifts anymore. (He would be delighted, because he doesn't like people to buy things for him.)
I was trying to explain to my mom how enjoying actual gifts does not make me a greedy person, when I got to thinking about a marriage retreat Ken and I went on last year. One of the main focuses of the weekend was communication. We had a great chance to learn about how communication works, what can hinder communication and how people communicate in different ways.
We took a test of "Love Languages." I had actually done one before and had a good idea of how my answers would turn out. Ken had never done it, and we both learned a lot about ourselves individually and as a couple.
If you are interested, you can go take the test here:
There is a version for single people, wives, husbands and children.
As I already knew, my love languages are receiving gifts and acts of service. Receiving gifts does not mean that I want Ken to buy me jewelry and roses once a week. It means that I enjoy being thought about. For example, one night he came home from the grocery store and brought me some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It's nothing extravagant, but I loved the thought that he had been thinking about me while he was out at the grocery store. Another time, I had a friend who bought me a personalized keychain. It really meant a lot to me, because I never see my name on anything. She had gone out of her way, when she saw a place that hand-carved them, to request one just for me. It's not really about the actual gift; it's about the thought that went into it.
My other love language is acts of service. To me, this one is all about thought too. Frequently when my parents come over, my mom will empty and refill the dishwasher for me. Sure it's great to not have to do that chore, but it's really about her doing something for me to free up my time for other things.
The things about Love Languages is that not only determine how we "hear" love; they determine how we tend to give love as well. Remember how I said that I enjoy giving people things? That's one reason Christmas is hard for me. I see things all the time that I think would make great gifts for someone. Some people would buy those things and set them aside for the next gift holiday. I tend to buy them and want to give them right away. I also enjoy doing things for people. All you have to do is ask, and I will make you dinner! Have a baby, move, change jobs, etc. and I will almost insist. This is obviously easier when you live near me!!
When I taught preschool, I was surrounded by little kids all day long. They bump into you, hug you, sit on your lap, etc. all day long. By the end of the day, I would be all "touched out." Then I would be in the kitchen washing dishes or making dinner and Ken would come up behind me a give me a hug, or kiss my neck. It used to really annoy me. When we learned that Ken's love language is physical touch, I figured out why he does that! That information, coupled with the fact that I no longer teach pre-school has made a huge difference!
One thing that has been especially difficult for us is the fact that my two high scoring languages are Ken's lowest and vice versa. He doesn't like people to buy him things or do things for him. He likes to feel very independent in those areas. Personal touch and quality time were my lowest scores and Ken's highest. It doesn't mean that I don't like to be touch or be around people. It just means that those action mean different things to me. I enjoy spending time with my husband, my kids, my friends and my family. Honestly!! I just don't hear those things as love. Same with Ken. It doesn't make him mad when I buy him stuff; he just doesn't always recognize it as me saying, "I love you."
Tuning in to how we receive actions from others can make a huge difference in our relationships with those people. I used to get annoyed when my mom always reminded me to drive safely. As if I don't!! Now I recognize the care and concern behind the words and usually respond with "I love you too!"
My next mission, is to get the kids to take the children's version of the quiz. I would be interested to know how my kids receive what I am telling them and if they would prefer to be approached a different way.
I also have a few more gifts to figure out, because I enjoy giving them; but mostly because Christmas is getting really close!!