I’ve been doing an online teacher training with Budokon. It’s an amazing physical practice and the reflection essays we’re required to write aren’t bad, either. In no particular order, I’m posting my assignments here. They definitely enter a space of transparency and vulnerability, so please be 1) forewarned and 2) respectful.
The five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Acts of Service (I think Cooking should be another one because it’s kind of beyond an act of service in the sense that it’s a sacred thing to prepare and share a meal with someone—but that’s another conversation.)
In my current relationship, and most relationships I can recall, it’s always a conscious act to remember to give words of affirmation to my partner. It doesn’t come naturally to me (actually, the opposite comes naturally, to offer criticism that’s uncalled for). But it’s a very simple act that normally lightens the air in any situation, and for the life of me I don’t know why I didn’t figure this out years ago. Maybe because it doesn’t come naturally for me, that’s why I always attracted women who require them. Meanwhile, I’ve always felt good *receiving* words of affirmation, but I have trouble accepting them. I seem to feel content simply that the other person is feeling content and saying “you’re welcome” is uncomfortable or feels unnecessary.
Physical touch is huge. I love receiving it and I love giving it. Over the years it’s been weird with physical touch because when I’m super “in love with myself,” I am physically touchy with everyone, especially females, even if it’s not an intimate relationship. Intimately, I find physical touch with my partner is beyond just a love language, it’s a primal means to connect again after some time away. With some physical contact, the body seems to do its own thing without my conscious intent (like release endorphins and all that)… so even if I’m not actively desiring it, or wanting to give it, I always react positively to it. So similar to words of affirmation, physical touch is something that helps me get past my ego and return back to love.
Gifts are fun but I don’t need to receive them. And I only give gifts if I see something in the wild that’s just right. I’m horrible at birthdays and Christmas time, but I give plenty of genuine gifts at random dates throughout the year. Meanwhile my partner LOVES giving gifts and I know it makes her happy when I receive them well, so I try to act like it makes my day. She knows it’s a show, but it still makes her happy. It’s kind of the same thing with post-conflict words of affirmation I offer in order to calm down and generate some empathy from within when I’m upset… she knows I’m saying the things because I regret having left a space of love in our interaction, but she appreciates that I’m recognizing my bullshit, owning it and working with her on it. And the act of digging those words out actually really does tame my lion, so that’s kind of a cool trick I’ve learned: trick myself into getting over myself.
Quality time is also nice but I’m like Cameron… let’s do something productive together! My partner is like that too, but things are different now with a baby, so most of our quality time is one of us playing with the baby while the other person does a household chore in the same room. Same thing with physical touch and words of affirmation, for me I notice that when I’m not desiring it at all, even resisting it, when I make myself put some quality time into the relationship—and by that I mean with no expectation, just to be together with no distraction—I find myself in love again and grateful to live with this woman (mixing in some oxytocin now). I think the most quality time we could have right now is sex, which hardly happens at all lately. It’s good to know the relationship doesn’t need sex to thrive. But it’d also be good to have more sex. (enter in polyamory conversation—for another time.)
I give acts of service, that is me. I mentioned cooking earlier (which I suppose classically would be categorized as an act of service), but when it alleviates her stress I also like cleaning, running errands, or going down on her. I like making life simpler for someone/my partner, especially when it’s something I enjoy doing. Optimizing activities and energy output in a household, a team, a project, etc, is very important to me and my personality. Perhaps it’s not truly *doing* something for someone that is me expressing love, but rather it’s a byproduct of some OCD thing I have, where I need to make sure no one’s wasting time and as many people as possible are doing what they *want* to do as (opposed to what they *have* to do. Or maybe it’s simply both, because I do feel fuzzy inside when others express gratitude for something I’ve done for them. Lately, it’s hard to do anything ‘extra’ in the realm of acts of service, so something that both of us appreciate is preparing a meal or revving up the juicer (and cleaning it after), or taking care of the baby when it’s not their turn.
A common denominator in all these love languages is my resistance to them in my process, only to later discover again for the first time that they are the perfect ‘medicine’ for finding my way back to love. In the past, my ego refused to love the other person when it was upset. I victimized myself and I couldn’t get past that. I’ve come to see that as the root of every conflict regardless of love language… fuck your apology, fuck your hug, no I don’t want to spend time with you until *I* am ready. Me me me, wah wah wah.
I imagine there’s more to the puzzle, but for now I am content with the simple, steady and non-controversial growth happening in my life in this relationship. I suppose it’s easier now swallow my pride and jump into the relevant love language at the right moment because there’s a lack of conflicting ego in our relationship. She mirrors love even when I am expressing myself without control, which has opened up the air for clarity and opportunity to observe this part of me that wants to shout or cry when it’s triggered. Tapping into that, I can acknowledge myself and my pain while being acknowledged by her. And for the first relationship ever, I can accept that.