Your Second Love Language Is Always Scripted.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Your first love language is always empowering when you speak it.  If you feel better when your sweetie waltzes through the door with a fresh bouquet of roses in their hand, then you feel like a savior when you buy them roses.
You feel the satisfaction because you map your own desires onto them.  You go “Wow, I’d feel great if they brought me roses, so they must feel great!  And I’m a great person for doing this!”
Which works, as long as your lover’s spirits are actually raised by roses.
My wife wants the house cleaned.
Which is weird: my love languages are very verbal and very gifty, whereas Gini’s are silent and practical.  Did you pay the fucking bills?  Did you clean the fucking house?  Yeah?  Then you love me.
Cleaning the kitchen doesn’t feel like love.  It feels like some sort of weird performance art.  Here she is, upset and needing roses, and I’m in the other room washing crusty oatmeal out of a dish.
It feels fake.
Trick is, speaking a new love language always feels fake.  You’re not doing something that makes you feel loved, so you’re going through the motions – acting on something that leaves you emotionless.
It feels scripted and passionless.  That’s because it is scripted and passionless.  When you’ve got a partner who speaks a different love language than you do, you can’t improvise your way into their heart; they have to tell you, precisely, what to do, and then you carry it out.
Shit, if you could speak their language naturally, they wouldn’t have to script it out for you.
If you’re not a hugger, hugging someone who’s crying feels stiff and terrible.  If you’re not a talker, then practicing active feedback while your lover unloads their emotions all over your face feels like a scripted exercise.  If you’re not a gift person, then opening up your wallet at Wal-Mart has you wondering, How’s this stupid trinket going to work?
And this is where a lot of relationships fall apart, because people start conflating their own emotional satisfaction with their partner’s satisfaction – “I don’t feel good about leaving them alone in a room when they’re upset.  So this can’t be good.”  They may even get offended that their partner would ask them to do this silly thing, because this silly thing doesn’t matter and why can’t they be smart enough to want the things that really mean love?
The end result is that they flip out and fall back on their old go-tos – you know, the ones that make them feel good and leave their partner cold – and hey, amazingly, it doesn’t work out.
But if you can spend a few months sitting with the awkwardness of performance mode, you’ll eventually get to see that they are satisfied.  Lots of people walk away before seeing their partner’s relieved smile enough times to internalize that yes, this performative act actually makes them feel better.
Years later, washing the dishes isn’t a romantic act for me.  I wouldn’t say I feel romance pounding in my veins when I sweep the floor.
But I know my wife.  I know when she wakes, she’ll realize I spent twenty minutes tidying up, and I’ll see that silly smile on her face.  And even though this would do nothing for me, I’ve stuck with it long enough to recognize what it does for her, and so we’ve managed to cobble together a bilingual love that lasts.
That only happened, however, because we both spent several weeks working off of each others’ scripts – feeling uncertain, feeling unsettled, feeling like this can’t possibly be the right thing to do.
Only time showed that it was.  Now we know.  And now we speak fluently, if not natively, and that makes the difference on days when Gini needs not a hug, but a nice kitchen.

5 Comments

  1. flask
    Dec 29, 2015

    ferret, i love you.
    i love you for this piece and i love you because your words about relationship make my life bettter.
    also, your book made my family christmas better. your signature in it was awesome. smiles not just from the sister who received it, but everyone in the room.
    so thanks.

  2. Susan S. Carpenter
    Dec 30, 2015

    This good little essay is about a hypothetical relationship between two people: YOU and THEY. No wonder I feel a bit put off.

  3. Stacy
    Dec 31, 2015

    So many yes. My beloved and I have opposite comfort needs. I need to plough right through the middle of pain, talk it out, turn it into tears and jokes. He needs to ignore it, distract himself, go play video games. The first time he tried to comfort me he brought out a set of spoons and showed me how to make music by tapping them against my knees.
    WTF? Was my first thought, but he was distracting me, which would have totally worked for him. Cracks me up laughing every time I think of it.
    Now I take him to movies when he is upset, and he holds my hands and listens when I am upset. We decided not to judge each others methods, but embrace them. 10 years later, still works!

  4. Alexis
    Jan 8, 2016

    So true! My husband took forever to understand that I need him to say loving things to me out loud. He thought that just being around was enough. Luckily, he’s learning, if a bit slowly:)

  5. SassyChemist
    Mar 28, 2018

    interesting perspective and i think it’s true when you have a gross mismatch in love languages, but it’s not “always” the case
    Personally, i have 3 that tie for top billing: touch, acts of service, and quality time. i enjoy words and gifts too, but only if the others are being met as well. they just don’t stand on their own
    Also, the fact that acts of service is high for me, that means learning what my partner wants IS my love language, even if it’s not what i’d necessarily want from them. sometimes it’s harder than others but generally only when we are both having times of need and the ways for meeting those are in conflict (like when i need cuddles, but they need space), and trying to manage how to balance the two at the same time can be stressful. luckily my partner is good with saying something like “if you can give me 30-60 min, then we can cuddle after that”, so it’s clear that he wants to meet my needs too ASAP.

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