Today I’m celebrating my 15th Valentine’s Day with my forever Valentine, my husband. If that makes you want to gag, sorry, not sorry! We have fought really hard through tough times to have what we have now, and I’m really proud of our relationship. To give you a picture of the fight and resiliency our relationship requires, let’s go down memory lane a bit.
Our relationship began at 20 years old on active duty for the Army. We married 6 months after knowing each other. We had no idea what we were doing, but we were in love, and that’s all that mattered at the time. Our honeymoon was a deployment to Iraq as military police. We spent the first year of our marriage in a combat zone, at war. We spent the next 6 years recovering from it. We had our first baby at 23 years old, again, I had no idea what I was doing. I struggled with survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and post-partum depression. He struggled with his own battles.
Years later, I made some mistakes in our marriage and I was so ashamed and disappointed I wanted out. I had a lawyer, and a plan for divorce. I went for my free consult, then the magic began. My husband started going to Celebrate Recovery. He led, and I shortly followed. I found myself in recovery for the first time in my life, I fount my savior, and I found the hope and help I desperately needed. Once we were healthy enough as individuals, we began couples counseling. For more on this journey, check out #marriageisdope : How Recovery Helped Save My Marriage.
The key here, is we were both willing to go to counseling and put in the work of recovery, many couples don’t make it to this point.
We spent the next few years in like this boot camp for marriage mode. We participated in recovery every week, completed step studies, and went to spiritual retreats. We found a home group and started studying self-help guides for our marriage. We probably completed 12 or 13 of them total. Of all the wisdom, advice, and encouragement we received from these studies, nothing was as effective as The 5 Love Languages.
*Disclaimer. I am in no way associated with this publisher or author and am receiving nothing for this blog, this advice is free 🙂
This single text changed the course of our marriage forever. If you haven’t read it yet, do so! It will help any relationship, It will help you with your partner, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, friends, and even your children. Here’s the cliff notes version.
Falling in love is great! It’s one of the greatest feelings on earth, however, it is TEMPORARY. No one stays in love forever. No one. Here’s the good news though, you can fall back in love with that person over, and over again for the rest of your life! The key is in keeping your “Love Tank Full.” We have to feel loved by our spouse for the marriage to survive. I’m the only one that can fill my spouses tank, and he’s the only one that can fill mine.
Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need (Gary Chapman).
Here’s where most people (like myself) go wrong. We have the best of intentions. We go out of our way to do special things for our spouse. We do things that take creative thinking, time, and energy. We do small things that are selfless. Not every expression of love has to be a grand gesture, but it has to be in their love language.
What I’ve learned is that I can scream to him in my language, and it falls upon deaf ears. My expressions of love don’t speak to him if they aren’t in his love language. What do I mean by all this Love Language jargon? The author, Gary Chapman has broken down the language of love into 5 different types of love. These include: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Instead of explaining what each one means, I’ll let you explore that in the book. Basically these types of love language are exactly what they say they are.
In order to fill the tank, we must first learn not only our own languages, but our spouses too. I wasn’t surprised to find out that my top two languages are acts of service and quality time. I had an absent father, and these are the two things I have longed for over the years. Often times, these languages are tied to soul wounds, or soul soothes (types of soothing you received as a child that resonate with you). My husband ended up being exactly what I thought he was, a physical touch and words of affirmation guy.
The concept is that we naturally project on our others our own love language.Oops! I had been doing this for our entire relationship. Then, we expect results. I was always disappointed when I did extravagant acts of service and it meant very little to him. It wasn’t his fault I wasn’t speaking his language. Instead, a slight brush of the hand or a warm embrace get the results I want. Finally, when both love tanks are full, you are theoretically in love again.
Slowly, life happens and we slip into old habits. Slowly, we get busy and the clock consumes our relationship. Slowly, our priorities change and we grow apart again. Here’s the beauty of it though, we now know that we can always return to being in love again. It just takes a bit of work and resilience.
Stay sober my friends!