I'm a huge fan of three letters: DVR.
As a busy mom of three little ones, watching anything on TV that is rated over G is rare. Occasionally, I'll go on a DVR frenzy and record many shows I might watch someday....someday.
I happened to DVR one episode of Oprah's Lifeclass, an episode featuring Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the famous Five Love Languages books. I had an old copy of the book, one I hadn't given much thought to. One day I had the opportunity to watch the recorded show, and wow, did I get inspired!
First, I took the quiz (as did my husband) to discover our love language. It's free and available online.
Second, we wrote down our ranking of the five love languages to see where we matched up, where we didn't, and to remind ourselves of what we had learned.
What we discovered is that our love language ranking is opposite of the other person's. I guess opposites do attract. We also discovered, through the tv episode, that people tend to give what they want (meaning, they act out the love language they crave to receive).
Overall, what this taught me is to recognize my love languages and not feel guilty about which ones don't work for me. So when people compliment for example (on an outfit, on my writing, etc.), it doesn't mean much to me. I mean, don't get me wrong. It's nice to hear some praise, but compliments aren't my "cup of tea." (However, two weeks ago a little girl, maybe seven years old, came up to me in a restaurant and said, "You are really pretty" and then ran away. It was SO sweet!) When my husband would say to me, "Your such a good mom," it was nice to hear, but it didn't melt my heart.
What does work for me are acts of service and receiving gifts. The quiz helped me realize why I get annoyed when friends don't at least send me a glittery birthday card or why I can't stand people who don't pull themselves up by their bootstraps and do something about their situations. I'm a do-er, and I need do-ers in my life to uplift me.
I'm trying (trying, trying) to meet my spouse's need: words of affirmation. It seems SO simple---to say something nice. But I'm a person who wants someone's words to mean something. I hate the over-use of "I love you." (Probably because words of affirmation isn't my thing). As Dr. C said on the episode, the thing your spouse needs most is probably the thing hardest for you to do/say!
Dr. C also talked about couples who say all the "spark" is gone from their marriages. He says that the initial honeymoon phase takes zero work...and now, after years of marriage, we realize we have to work at it. Using the love languages truly helps!
Marriage is work, and I think it's incredibly hard to keep a relationship strong, especially when there are children in the picture who, by nature, take up our time and energy and emotions and money and thoughts.
I hope you'll get a copy of Dr. C's book, and, if possible, watch the episode. The concept is so simple and yet, so life-altering.