Friday, April 27, 2012

The Flowers Will Have to Wait: On Marriage, Kids and "Love Language"

This afternoon at the end of my workday, I read a post by my friend Dwija over at Catholic Exchange about a couple's "love language." It's goofy terminology but the concept is simple: we all have different ways that we like to be loved. And we should try to love one another they way the other wants to be loved.

I thought about my marriage of nearly 20 years. My husband feels loved with Acts of Service: when I do things for him or the family, mundane but important things like shine the kitchen sink or fold laundry. (As for me, I am all about Words of Affirmation: I feel loved when he says he loves me.)

I checked my email one last time before heading home. My husband had emailed: "call me asap." 

Yikes! His annual work review was today. Did it go all right? Is one of our parents ill? Are our boys OK? Then I thought: maybe this is about carpooling. And that is when I took a deep breath and thought about love language.

You see, he was going to drive our older son to a sectional rehearsal for his chamber orchestra 25 miles away from our home. My job was to pick our son up at home at 4 with his double bass, and switch cars so Greg could take the van and I could then go to our younger son's middle school baseball game and then take him to his soccer goal keeper clinic by 7.  I really liked that arrangement because it meant I could finally finally finally plant the flowers I had bought about two weeks ago for our front lawn.

Oh the best-laid plans.

It turns out Greg's annual review went very well but that there was an emergency at work involving some student protesters. He was fielding media calls and there was no way he could drive our son Gabe to his sectional rehearsal.

I think if I hadn't thought about love language today, if I hadn't read Dwija's piece, I would have made a big dramatic sigh, talked about how stressful my special-education teaching job was this week and how tired I was because I had stayed up late helping our younger son type citations to his history report. And yeah, I'd take Gabe to his rehearsal.

But did my husband need all that? In the end, what matters most is we have these boys to raise and a marriage to nurture and things that need to be done. And he needs to know his wife is happy to participate in the process.

So I said no problem, even thought I was thinking about the flowers and how very little time I've had to myself these past few weeks. But being married isn't about me; it's about us. And really, had my hard-working husband had any time to himself lately either?

This is why I am sitting in our van in a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot enjoying its free wi-fi and wondering whether it would be tacky to use their restroom to pee or if I have to buy a latte first. It's Friday night. I am nowhere near where I had planned to be even three hours ago. I am in a somewhat sketchy urban neighborhood that does not look wonderful for walking. It's kind of cold out because while it is still sunny, it's windy.

In the grand scheme of my life, this hardly qualifies as a huge sacrifice. But it's the one I am making right now.

Way back in 1956, Rev. Gregory Smith, O. Carm., wrote this: "Not for more delightful getting do Christians marry, but rather for more fruitful giving."

Those front-yard flowers are just going to have to wait.


  1. What a great post - I loved reading every word. I enjoyed it all the more, having met you and your family!

    And it doesn't hurt that I am reading this the night before my 5th anniversary.

    1. Happy Anniversary! I still remember that great diner meal we had together...: )

  2. My husband and I enjoyed reading the Love Language book too. We discovered that he is an affirmation guy/physical touch and I am a quality time girl. The funny thing is that hardly much has changed in what we do for eachother in affirmations and quality time, but we have grown in an understanding which is more important than anything. Like you said, doing what you can, and letting the marriage take fruit in the sacrifices is what is all about.

  3. So sweet, Allison! It's incredible how perspective can do so much to really change how a situation feels to us...and how we feel about our spouse and life once the day ends. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Great post Allison. Beautiful example.

  5. Such a good post for a newlywed to read :). Thank you for sharing this!