I know I've wrote about this before, but Mike and I had this on-going conversation for years.
I love you more..... No. I love more than you love me. Oh No! I really love you.
And he'd say, "You SAY you love me all of the time, but your actions don't always show it." And I'd say, you do nice things for me all the time, but your words don't speak of it.
That boggled my poor brain for years. I just thought, Dude! If you could take a peek into my heart and head, you'd see what love really looks like. I'm totally digging you dude! And he'd have said the same thing.
We were seriously lacking in so many ways, but one was this. Mike is super-duper loving with actions. He's always doing things for me. He'll fill my car with gas so I don't have to get out in the cold or heat, he'll make dinner, buy gifts, plan trips, etc etc. He's all about actions but a man of few words.
It's no secret that I love words. My love language is words of affirmation. That was not his strong-suit.
I, on the other hand, was full to the brim with words of affirmation, but stunk at going out of my way to make someone else feel loved with actions. Mike would say things like, "just pack my lunch. That's how you can love me well."
And I'm like, "Dude! No! Packing lunches is one thing I despise doing. I'll do anything, but I am not packing your lunch."
So in my eyes, I was loving him the way that I wanted to be loved (with words) and he was loving me the way that he wanted to be loved, (actions) and we just couldn't figure out how to really love each other well.
I started making a hobby of reading books about loving others. And I quickly came to realize that I SUCKED at being loving. I mean, I'm nice and kind and friendly and sweet enough, at least I think most people would agree to that, but did I really go out of my way to love people the way they want to be loved???
Did I even know HOW people wanted to be loved???
Nope! Nope! and Nope!
This was my thought process....
I can't stand Mike's messy car. I'll clean Mike's messy car or closet for him and think, I cleaned your car for you. Don't you feel so loved by me?
Ummm. No! He didn't care about the messy car in the first place, otherwise he'd have cleaned it himself. I cleaned the car because I couldn't stand it. It was more of a gift to myself than him.
Or to my girls. "I cleaned your room today." Implying, don't you feel so loved? And again, Nope! Not really. Had they wanted clean rooms, they would have cleaned them themselves.
Or I'd buy them clothes, that I wanted to see them wear. And be like, Here! Here's this dress that I want to see your wearing, and I felt like Mother-of- the- Year for it. Never mind if they even cared about the darn clothes. Or the room.
I spent a ton of time doing things for people that "I" wanted done and buying things for people that "I" wanted them to have and I called that LOVE.
Don't get me wrong, it is so so so good to take care of your family and their need. And it is good for you to take care of your needs. If clean bedrooms are important to you, by all means, clean your kids' bedrooms and husband's car. Do things that make you feel good and happy! BUT when you think about how you love others, what motivates you? Is it selfish, self-serving love, or is it really love for the other person.
Some people consider going to work and providing a home and food and clothes love. Yes! Absolutely, those things are one million percent important and should be done, but do you love outside of yourself and think about what is important to other people?
When is the last time you did something for someone else not because it would benefit you in any way, but truly as a gift for the other person? Do you know your family's love languages?
Some days we are just in survival mode. And that has to be good enough. No pressure from me to be a super woman or super man 7 day a week! Heck no! Getting everyone from A to B and fed and to bed is all that we can do some days. And that is A-okay. But I challenge you to make a practice of selfless love.
For two of my kids it means rubbing their back at night. To be honest, I don't like rubbing people's backs, but I know it is their FAVORITE thing on earth and I do it anyway. (Not every single night!) When I ask them, "Do you feel loved? How do you know Momma loves you?" those two will always include, "Because you rub my back at night" in their list.
For the baby it's reading her the same Beauty and the Beast book over and over when I'd definitely prefer a little more variety!
Mike does this by remembering to say "Thank You" for tasks done, even if they aren't that important to him. He has an awareness that women need to feel appreciated. When I was teaching my kiddos the importance of practicing gratitude, he jumped on the bandwagon, and it makes a huge difference in our home.
He will also do small task like getting gas for my van. I have learned to notice, love and appreciate this simple act of love. Somedays he'll make the bed for me. It's not at all how I do it, but I have learned to be so thankful for his effort and appreciate his messy way of doing it more than my perfectionist way. I'm learning to embrace love over perfection. He couldn't care less about the bed being made, but he knows it's important to me, so when he does it, it makes my day! I don't buy sweets at the grocery store, but if he runs to Wal-Mart, he'll always bring me back a treat. Mike and Ike's, York Mint Patties, Ice cream. Anything with sugar is my love language! It's a small gesture that simply says, I'm thinking of you. I want to make you happy. In the summer he'll wash my van and he might as well bring me home a winning lottery ticket. I feel so loved when he thinks, this is not going to do anything for me, but I want to make "You" happy.
And everyone is made to feel love in different ways. Our oldest is all about gifts. That is her jam. We've struggled to jive because I am the WORST gift giver and I've really been an awful gift receiver. I'm just now learning how to give and receive gifts with the other person in mind. In other words, I'm buying them gifts that THEY will love and accepting gifts that they want me to have.
Lust is a feeling. Love is an action. Love is doing something to put someone else first.
I love to make Mike coffee and have it ready when he wakes up. Or give him time away with friends without a single complaint or phone call to say, "hurry home!" He loves buying things for our kids, so I have learned to zip my lips and just let them have their moment rather than griping about too many toys or wasted money on another trip to DQ.
My biggest way of loving him is respecting him and his ideas. Supporting him even when the idea is not my own or something I care about. Rather than an automatic "No" for an answer to everything, I try to keep a mindset of, if it's important to you, it's important to me. Not being a nagging or grumpy wife is probably the greatest way to love your spouse. (It is totally okay to disagree about things too! Kids should see how to have a HEALTHY disagreement with two grown-ups problem solving for a WIN-Win solution or a "you win this battle because it's wildly important to you" and "I'll win the next battle that is wildly important to me!") With no one keeping score and no one acting as a full-time doormat or bully!
All of this writing to simply say, How are you loving outside of yourself? Are you flexible? Can you bend your plans for the sake of your spouse, even if it's not what you had in mind? Do you let your spouse pick the show on TV? The restaurant? The vacation destination? The weekend plans? Are you willing to go to places you don't really want to go or be with people that aren't your cup of tea for the sake of your spouse? Your kids?
Can you do it without grumbling? Fighting? Complaining? Can you zip your lips and say, I'm going to suck it up and go with it because I care about you?
It takes a LOT of practice. It take a lot of time to grow toward this mindset. It takes a lot of patience. It takes a brand new mindset. It means you start stepping out of your own shoes and into someone else's because you love them more than (or at least as much as) you love yourself. It means you regularly ask the question: How can I love you better? Do you feel loved? What do you need from me?
If you aren't doing this already, try it! You'll be wildly surprised at home much Joy you will find in loving others well, when nothing is expected in return.
(If I were not 1 million percent certain that this is a common struggle in marriages, I would NOT share it! How humiliating would that be!?!?! I want to be so bold and brave with this writing, realizing that we have a loooooooong way to go in our own house to love others well. We are just past the "acknowledge we even had an issue" and "we have a small clue about what to do differently" phase at our house. Better late than never, right?)
Please, I beg you, please, do NOT think I am writing because I have my life together. Or I am wiser. Or better. No! No! Heck NO! Every time we make a step forward, some other little thing pops up and keeps me HUMBLE and begging for wisdom and Grace and Mercy!
I hope the writing will inspire you with new ideas. I read every chance I get, everywhere I go, always looking for ways to be a little bit better version of myself, for the sake of myself and all these people that I am entrusted with loving and taking care of each day.
Some insight from Proverbs...
When you are kind to others, you help yourself;
when you are cruel to others, you hurt yourself.
"Arrogance and pride - distinguishing marks in the wicked--are just plain sin." Proverbs 21
"Watch your words and hold your tongue; you'll save yourself a lot of grief." Proverbs 21
And from the 13th book of Corinthians, Love cares more for others than self. Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others; Trust God Always, Always looks for the best.
Oh boy! A lot of great reminders to me of how much work I have left to do! It's okay. It's a process and we are trying to grow a bit in love each day.