Sometimes, I still feel like I am still an angry person. Maybe the right word is frustrated. I don’t know. But I am realising that this road back is harder and more consuming than I thought. And I thought it was hard already…
As husbands go, I think I am OK. Most of us do. We acknowledge that there is room for improvement, but we generally feel like we are doing ok, under the circumstances. In the circumstances. In spite of the circumstances. Always, there are “circumstances” that we use to justify our imperfections. Maybe it’s our wife. Our upbringing. Our work pressure. Our health. Whatever. Always, its “out of our control”…
In my case, it’s the way my wife “talks to me”. And the multiple demands she “places on me”. I have to be honest, somedays it drives me a bit “nuts”. But that is not to say she is wrong and I am right… that’s the point of this post!
To backtrack a bit, my love language (the way I am tuned to receive expressions of love) is something called “words of affirmation”. It is my primary way of showing love, and it is the way I like to receive love. When a person has a harsh tone, or does not say please, or speaks unkindly, or does not use my name, I get ratty. Very ratty. Very quickly.
I am built to be loved with words. I also – to a lesser extent, but it’s still measurable – enjoy quality time with someone.
It’s a complicated thing, a relationship. I guess if you meet and fall for someone who speaks and receives love in the same language as you, you probably will have no idea what I am talking about, in this area anyway. However, where this is out of kilter, this is a biggie. A very biggie. It’s the foundation; the place where core expectations met or unmet, result in trust or a lack of it. Where deep desires and needs are either met or not met, and our emotional tanks are filled, or start to run low. (Our emotional tanks are the reserves we have to keep going when times are tough).
Speaking the other persons love language is very hard. It feels like a lot of effort for little return. To us, it feels like a duty, because there are no automatic feelings of love and affection associated with it. No internal feedback loop that makes us feel like we are getting it right. My wife’s primary love language is acts of service, and she gets a great deal of satisfaction out of doing things for others, and having things done for her. She feels loved, when things get done for her. But I don’t feel loved when things get done for me. I am appreciative, of course, but my heart doesn’t go boompity-boom. And she doesn’t feel loved when nice things get said to her. She feels appreciative, of course, but her heart doesn’t go boompity-boom.
Here’s the real problem though. I don’t feel like I am being loving when I make the effort to do things for her. And she doesn’t feel like she is being loving when she makes the effort to speak kindly to me. We both feel like we are being manipulated by the other person to be something we are not. She is feeling manipulated by my demand for kindness in her tone and the words chosen. And I feel manipulated by the constant need to do things for her. We feel manipulated because we are feeling forced to do something unnatural to us, because it’s what someone else wants.
But as I discovered today, this is not the case. And perhaps, this is why I won’t be so angry in future! I have been reading this all wrong. I have been feeling criticized and attacked because my efforts at loving her seem to be meaningless to her and unappreciated by her. I have become frustrated and angry that so much effort on my part is wasted.
I control my words carefully, because they are important to me. I believe in their power to bring life and joy, or shame and darkness. So I exert huge control emotionally to always choose the right words. A control that taxes me and leaves me exhausted at times from the effort of it. And I am sometimes very angry and frustrated that all this effort is tossed in the bin. My anger and frustration comes out in my own tone of voice and my unwillingness to then do things for her. Why should I? My tanks are empty. I am not feeling loved. In fact, I am feeling the exact opposite. So why on earth should I?
But – and this is the most important discovery – my wife is not criticising me. Hearing that, is entirely MY responsibility. What I hear, is on me. I am the one filtering them according to my attitude and mindset. My wife is speaking words. How I hear them indicates my state of mind, not hers. It’s my antennae that are preset to the wrong frequency, or just plain busted. With the old presets, or busted antennae, I hear “You are not good enough”; or “You are such a failure at this”.
But with a new preset, or a new set of antennae, the same message can be received as “This is how to love me, if you really want to”
Forget tone of voice. Forget preferred love language. What do I really, really need? I am married and I am eager to please my wife. So, simply put, I need to know what my wife will feel loved by, and I need to do that thing.
And she is telling me, loud and clear every day, but my busted antenna are just picking up the same old static.
I’ll let you know how this turns out.