Category: Family

3 Tips to Help You Be Emotionally Available to Your Kids

Emotionally Available Square2After I had my first child, I thought I had motherhood figured out. In the scope of my life, I had never been happier. I was savoring every moment I had with my little boy. I was finishing my degree and doing my student teaching. I had lost a significant amount of weight and felt really good about myself and my health, for the first time in a long time. I was hired to coach the high school drill team I was once a part of and everything seemed to be going my way.

Then I got pregnant.

Let me explain that pregnancy is not easy on me. I am NOT one of those cute little pregnant ladies that goes to her spinning class, cooks three meals a day, and cleans her house from top to bottom, all while wearing 6 inch heels. I’m more like Wendy from What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Have you seen that movie? Well, this scene might make you pee your pants and yes, this was me.

The point is, pregnancy does not look good on me. My whole world changed. I was struggling to keep up with even just the most mundane tasks like switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer and cooking breakfast for my 2-year-old son. Instead, I was making trip after trip to the bathroom to throw up whatever ounce of bile that was left in my stomach. Soon, I just started carrying around a bowl because it took too much effort to run to the bathroom every time. 

I would sometimes sit on the bathroom floor, with the door closed, and cry. Wondering how on earth moms do this! Last time I was pregnant, I was just as miserable physically but the advantage was that I had the freedom to lie in bed and sleep. I didn’t have a little toddler needing me every second. I didn’t have many outside responsibilities and I certainly didn’t have so. much. laundry. 

I tried to hold it together as much as I could and although some of the nausea passed, I was still on an emotional rollercoaster most of the time. Even the silliest things set me off and had me completely overwhelmed. 

After I finally had our sweet baby girl, I thought it was going to be butterflies and rainbows. I had survived pregnancy, now it was time to just savor this precious little newborn baby. Again, I was in for a rude awakening. 

One of my friends told me while I was pregnant that having two kids wasn’t all that different than having one. This gave me hope. Hope that was smashed like a fly on the windshield of my car.

I remember coming home and repeatedly locking myself in the bathroom with a screaming baby in her carseat and a tantrum throwing toddler banging on the door. I cried and cried and cried. Then I would pull myself together, stand up, reach for the door, and cry again. It was an exhausting and dark time. 

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Luckily for me, pregnancy and postpartum depression didn’t last forever. However, being emotionally available to my children is still hard sometimes. Whether we’re going through a tough time or we just consider this particular season of child raising in general a tough time, giving our best selves to our kids is hard. There is a lot on our plates and minds and sometimes turning our undivided attention over to a toddler, or a moody teenager, is the last thing we feel like doing.

Our kids need more than just a hot meal and a warm bath at night. They need us. They need to know we care and that we like to spend time with them. It’s so easy to get to that everyday overwhelm stage and forget how sensitive their little hearts are. We have to make ourselves available, not just physically but emotionally too. 

Here are 3 things that might help you get to that place.

Just Say “No”

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This means “say no” to just about everything you possibly can. In the midst of my emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy, I had to quit my coaching job. It was not an easy decision and I let down a lot of people in the community. However, I felt I had to do what was most important for my emotional health and my family. 

After I had my daughter I got a night job cleaning offices. It was great to have the extra income but it quickly became too much again. I stuck it out for almost two years and I was finally able to quit last month. What a relief! Just the feeling of having my evenings back has boosted my spirits 150%. I don’t have to spend all weekend trying to get caught up on my life.

When we have young kids, it’s totally ok to say “no” to just about any other responsibilities. I take my main job and my church callings seriously but I don’t feel responsible to take on much more than that outside of my own family and home. This includes extra jobs. I have decided it is far more worth it to live a little more frugally than to work a second job.

On top of that though, there are always opportunities to be involved in the community or with friends. If I sign my son up for soccer and you ask me to coach, it’s gonna be a polite, but firm, “no.” If you want me to volunteer on a weekly basis to help out the library, as much of a book lover as I am, I’m gonna have to say, “no.” I wish I could help everybody but I just can’t at this stage in my life. And you know what, it’s ok. And it’s ok for you to say “no” too.

Take Care of Yourself

 

 

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I am what some people might call an outgoing introvert (which sometimes surprises people). This means I love people and I like to be around them, but in small doses. Alone time is suuuuuper important to me. I like to think and being around people too much seriously drains my energy. 

Since getting married and having kids, my alone time has almost disappeared altogether. I sometimes find myself lingering at the store on the rare occasion I’m by myself. I get up at 5am most days, just to get some alone time before everyone else gets up. I still use the “lock myself in the bathroom” tactic when I just can’t take it anymore.

Last year I was deposed for a lawsuit and the lawyer’s office invited me to come up the night before and stay in a hotel. As ridiculous as it sounds, I was beyond thrilled! I knew I would miss my kids but I was looking forward to having some alone time. I went to dinner by myself, went shopping by myself, and then sat in my hotel room and read a book by myself. It was rejuvenating! 

What I’m getting at is that we all need to take care of ourselves. It’s true that if we don’t take care of our own emotional reserve, we’ll never be emotionally available to anyone else, including our children. If you’re more of an extrovert and need to be around people, time with friends should be at the top of your list. Maybe you really like to feel pampered and a monthly pedicure is vital to your emotional sanity. Whatever it is, do it. Do it not only for yourself but for your husband and your kids. 

If you read this post, you’ll also know I’m going to tell you to do something to move you toward your dreams. Whatever they are. You will feel more alive and more like yourself if you’re doing something that excites you, beyond the scope of raising little munchkins. It’s empowering not only for you, but for your kids as well.

Be Present

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Now that you’ve created enough margin in your schedule by saying “No” to less important things, and you’re taking care of yourself regularly, it’s time to focus on being present with your kids. 

My son is a serious talker. His mind never stops and his mommy is his sounding board. There have been times when he was trying to tell me something and he’s had to repeat himself several times because my mind was on other things (or my eyes were on my phone) and I couldn’t get the right response out.

“Mommy, I have a really good question. How do they get the penguins to the zoo? They live in antarctica and I don’t know how they get them to here.” 

“Uh huh honey…” 

“No, mom–I’m asking you a question!”

“Oh, what’s the matter sweetheart?”

“How do they get the penguins to the zoo?”

“What?”

“The penguins at the zoo? How do they get them there?”

“I don’t know baby.”

“Mom! Are you even listening?”

It’s the sad reality sometimes. But some of the best conversations we’ve had were when I put down my phone, turned my thoughts off, and actively listened. He’s told me some surprising things, things that had I not been listening, I would have missed. He’s opened up to me about uncomfortable but important topics and I’ve had the opportunity to use those as teachable moments. 

I don’t want my kids to be afraid to talk to me, or feel like talking to me is useless because I’m not really listening, even if it appears that I am. I don’t want to miss these precious years because I’m always “somewhere else” rather than in the moment. 

Being emotionally available to our children is one of the most important things we can give them. 

It starts with how we schedule our time and how we take care of ourselves. Then it is our choice to be present in the moment. These simple habits will allow us to put forth our best selves and be the best mother we can be.

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Can you relate? What do you do to take care of yourself? How do you make sure you are emotionally available to your children?

Signature Yellow2

Emotionally Available FB

Quit Your Job as the Maid: 4 False Beliefs that Got You Here

***This is the first post in a series called Quit Your Job as the Maid. Post 2

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A couple of Sundays ago, I was frantically trying to clean up what looked like a recent tornado touchdown in my tiny little house because I absolutely hate starting the week in a disaster zone. My husband and kids were sitting on the couch, watching a movie together while I resentfully paraded in and out of the living room carrying everything from orange peels to dirty socks to broken toys. Every time I said, “Hey, are you guys going to help me?!” Without looking up my 4-year-old son would say, “With what mom?” Then my husband would look at me blankly, “What’s left?” My 2-year-old daughter would mutter, “Kween up mom?”

Yes, I wanted to say. Yes, mommy is cleaning up because nobody else seems to care. If I don’t do it, it will never get done. And while you all get to sit and watch a movie on a lazy Sunday evening, I get to run circles around this house putting crap away, wiping up sticky messes, and vacuuming up clumps of dog hair. How delightful!

Yeah I know, I sound a little immature. But isn’t there more to being a mother than just cooking and cleaning? It’s easy to get mad at my husband (however, to his everlasting credit, he helps me out A LOT) but I can’t forget that my kids are every bit as capable as I am at putting their toys away and their dirty clothes in the hamper.

“Never do for a Child, what a Child can do for himself.” –Rudolf Dreikurs

How did I get here?

Let’s get real. We suddenly look down at ourselves and realize we have become the maid, complete with frilly little apron. We want to blame our husband or even the kids but if we’re truly honest, it’s really our fault. Nobody strapped that apron on us, we tied it ourselves.

Duct Tape Parenting

A few years ago, I found a gem of a book called, “Duct Tape Parenting” by Vicki Hoefle. It totally aligns with my beliefs on parenting and the fact that we aren’t only loving and caring for our children (although that is obviously a crucial part), we’re trying to teach them how to become responsible and successful adults.

Most of us didn’t purposefully take on the job as maid. Vicki (do you think she minds I’m calling her by her first name?) shows us there are 4 main reasons, attached to false beliefs, that we end up strapping that apron on without even realizing it.

 

Belief #1: Kids just want, and deserve, to have fun

MagicI think sometimes we take on the role as maid because we think it is just part of motherhood. We want our kids’ childhoods to be magical and filled with adventure. They’ll have plenty of time to clean up and be responsible when they’re adults, but let’s let them be children.

While I am all for magical childhoods filled with adventure, I am also an advocate for teaching children to work. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Part of being a good mother is teaching your children skills. If you don’t teach them when they’re young, it will be infinitely harder for them to learn when they’re older.

Let’s not be a martyr. Doing everything for our kids isn’t making their childhood more magical, it’s making them feel entitled, ungrateful, and incapable of taking care of themselves. It’s making us feel resentful, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Let’s do away with this belief and embrace the truth of teaching our children invaluable skills. Childhood will still be magical and now, adulthood will be manageable.

Belief #2 I’m faster, better, neater, and a bit of a perfectionist, and it’s just easier if I do everything

I think we’ve probably all had this kind of a moment. You tell your kids to clean the bathroom and you go in to do your business and can’t help but notice all the filth they missed. So you go back over everything they did and come to the conclusion that it’s just better if you do this kind of stuff.

Or you’re running late and instead of taking the time to let your little one tie his own shoes, you just do it for him. Believe me, I’m totally guilty of this. Sometimes it doesn’t feel worth the fight to get your kids to pick up their messes, it’s just easier to do it yourself after they go to bed.

The problem is our kids end up feeling like we don’t trust them to make good decisions or we don’t think they are capable. How many times a day do you hear your toddler say, “I can do it!” If we deny them this learning period, they will never get it back. There’s a reason our kids want to be independent and we need to allow them that. It’s important for them to develop their own tastes and preferences, not just what works for us.

Belief #3 If my kids don’t look good, behave politely, play fair, and do the right thing all the time, I’ll look like a slacker parent with loser kids

GossipWe have pictures of me when I was little, dressed in all kinds of nonsense. My grandma used to call me, “garberetta.” A staple in my wardrobe was slips; of all sorts. I would wear them like dresses with underwear as a fancy hat. I remember fighting with my mom constantly, about what I wore and how I did my hair. I was curling my hair, with a curling iron, by age 3.

Now I have a little boy-me, his name is Misa. From the time he could walk, he wanted to dress himself. He insists on things like “little pants” (meaning, they can’t be long enough to touch the floor) and all sorts of character costumes. He wants me to draw “whiskers” on his face with my eyeliner pencil and before he goes with his dad to feed the horses, you better bet on him wearing every single article of clothing or accessory that resembles a cowboy.

In the beginning, I fought with him and tried to teach him how to match and the fact that hiked up pants that don’t reach your ankles look ridiculous. I tried to explain that we don’t wear costumes to the store, that being an alligator hunter complete with shorts, cowboy boots, gardening gloves, and a cowboy hat was something we played at home and not when we’re out in public.

Suddenly it occurred to me, am I worried about him looking ridiculous or me looking ridiculous for letting him wear all that garb? It was clear that he didn’t care what people thought, not even what I thought! So I let it go. This kid has his own sense of style and it is constantly evolving. He has now learned how to comb his own hair. I try to ignore the fact that it’s all combed in different directions and standing straight up in the back because he thinks he looks handsome. So be it. I’m not going to fuss over him, or my house for that matter, just to avoid dirty looks or judgmental glares from strangers.

When we are constantly worried about how other people see us, or our kids, we are implicitly teaching our children that other people’s views and opinions about us are more important than our own. We are teaching them that appearances are everything. How do you think that will play out when it comes to peer pressure? How do you think it makes them feel that we fuss over them and are trying to mold them into what we think they should be instead of who they really are? If the only reason we clean our house is to appear clean when we have visitors, I don’t think our kids are ever going to get it.

Belief #4: I don’t want my child to grow up and not want me around, so I’ll just make sure she needs me enough

There is nothing like the feeling of being needed. I have distinct memories of holding my babies and breathing in their absolute innocence and knowing I am 100% responsible for this little human being. I woke up multiple times a night to nurse and rock my babies, change their diapers, and sing to them softly.

The thing is, my babies aren’t babies anymore. While they still depend on me, they are becoming more and more independent everyday. On one hand, it’s kind of nice to not have to be counted on for every little task. On the other hand, it kind of breaks my heart to see they need me a little less every day.

However, it would be completely selfish of me to impede them from learning and growing just because I need to feel needed. I think it’s totally understandable how this kind of thing happens but it’s imperative that we see it for what it is and stop ourselves in our tracks before we sabotage our children’s growth. 

Children will always need their mother, especially if that mother has taught them to believe in themselves. It is a totally irrational fear to think our children won’t come around when they’re older unless we keep them shackled by keeping them incapable.

If we continue with this kind of thought process and continue to do for our kids what they can do for themselves, we will hinder their growth and they will become resentful. It will get to the point that they will either rebel or become incapable of making decisions on their own. Do we want our kids to be willing to sabotage their own happiness in order to keep mom happy? I certainly doubt it.

Why should I quit?

Emotionally Available

“You can be the maid or you can be emotionally available to your children, but you can’t do both.” –Vicki Hoefle

I know that it is much more important to me that my children know they can talk to me, that I love and care about them, than it is to have my house clean.

Not only that, I want my children to grow up to be responsible, capable adults and those kinds of skills are not often taught in formal education. It is my responsibility to teach my children how to survive in the real world. It starts at home.

Kids want to be self-sufficient, feel capable, and take ownership of their lives. They want to be responsible but if we aren’t letting them because we’re being the ultimate “Helicopter Mom” meaning we’re constantly hovering around them and checking up on everything, they’re just going to get frustrated.

I want to live in a balanced home where everybody knows how to contribute, in their own way. I want my children to learn how to care for themselves and pick up their messes. This will allow them to learn and allow me to take a breather in order to ensure I am more patient, open-minded, and loving to my children.

What changes will I make?

This month on the blog, I am focusing on quitting our job as the maid. Each Monday I will be sharing more thoughts on this subject and how to actually execute a plan in order to teach and motivate our kids to help with the housework. Everybody’s situation is different depending on the number of children we have, their different ages and developmental stages, as well as how our home is set up. However, the techniques we will be talking about can be used with all children, no matter what age.

If you want to get the book “Duct Tape Parenting” and read chapters 3 and 8 on this subject, it will be most helpful. The entire book is great but these two chapters are genius when it comes to teaching our children how to care for themselves and keeping us from going insane!

I know I am always searching for ways to be a better mother. Not because I feel like I’m a terrible one, but because my children are my responsibility and I only get this one shot at guiding and leading them into adulthood. I hate to let trivial things, like a clean house, get in the way of spending time with them or listening to them when they want to talk.

One day while vacuuming my kitchen, my son, who was only a year old at the time, came in the kitchen holding a book and said, “Mommy! Weed!” At first I said, “Just a minute buddy, let me finish vacuuming…” Then I looked at his little angel face and immediately turned off the vacuum, scooped him up, and we went to his room to cuddle on the rocking chair and read a book. I don’t EVER want housework to get in the way of making memories with my children.

That being said, I also know that my anxiety level goes waaaayyyy down when my house is clean. I feel like a better person all around and have more patience in general. However, it isn’t my sole responsibility to keep my house clean all the time, I need to share the love and allow my children to learn in the process. I hope you’ll try it too!

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Am I the only one who is like this? What does housework look like at your house? Do your children help? Is it a screaming fight or do they do it willingly?

Signature Yellow2

Maid Beliefs FB

 

5 Love Languages: Physical Touch

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***This is the sixth post in a series of 6 about the Five Love Languages in marriage. I suggest reading them in order. Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

It should not surprise you to know that physical touch is an important part of love and marriage. However, for some people, it is the most important part. A loving hand, kiss, or full body contact can fill this person’s love tank faster than any other expression of love.

Let’s get real ladies. We all know what people, even experts, say about men and sex. They say it is an actual physical need. But let me assure you that not every man’s primary love language is Physical Touch, although sex may be extremely important to him. Dr. Chapman even points out that many men mistakenly believe, right off the bat, that physical touch is their primary love language based on the importance they place on sex. However, if you were to take away the expression of love in their actual primary love language, with sex still being available to them, they would most likely withdraw.

What are the different dialects?

There are many different ways to touch someone in order to make them feel loved but here are the basic 2 in marriage.

1. Making Love

Making love is a critical part of marriage but it is even more significant for people who speak this dialect of Physical Touch. If this is your spouse’s dialect, please remember that every time you deny him that, he will feel more rejected than most. It is common, in marriage, to allow external pressures to take away from our intimacy with our partner. Perhaps you feel exhausted after a day of work, cleaning, and putting the kids to bed and sex is the last thing on your mind. Do not forget the power you have and the love you would be denying your spouse if you ignored his advances. If this is the way he feels loved, you must decide how willing you are to fill his love tank. Just as with any other love language, this one act of intimacy can be the difference between a thriving marriage and a dying one.

2. Other forms of touch

You may be surprised to realize that although making love is definitely important, your spouse actually speaks another dialect in the love language of Physical Touch. When I was dating my husband he would often ask me to rub his back. I knew he worked hard and was often sore at the end of the day so I would gladly rub his back for him. When we got married, he continued to ask for back rubs and to be frank, with time it got annoying. Sleep is critical for me, so I would sometimes turn down his request and tell him I was too tired.

Our first major fight was actually over this. I remember he was so upset and said that I had spoiled him and gotten him used to back massages and it wasn’t fair. I thought he was acting like a child. He left the house in what I considered to be a tantrum. Finally, after 6 years of marriage and reading this book, I realized how important back massages were to him. It wasn’t just because he was sore, this was a legitimate concern for him because when I denied him a back rub, he felt that I didn’t love him.

I asked him to take the love language profile and physical touch came in first, with quality time a close second. I already knew what dialect he spoke and so in the last few weeks I have made sure to take 5 minutes or so at the end of most days to offer him a back massage. In the beginning, it was kind of a joke. He would say, “Wow, I feel so loved!” You wouldn’t believe my delight when walking through the door after work one night, I saw what had once been a sink full of dirty dishes, all washed and drying. He smiled when he saw my reaction. I think we finally get it.

Of course, there are many dialects and ways to express love through Physical Touch. Some are more explicit such as love making, cuddling, and back massages. However, sometimes touch can be more implicit and casual such as running your hands through his hair, a quick kiss before he leaves, or even a hand on his shoulder as you pass by. It may take a little time to figure out what kinds of touches communicate love most effectively to your spouse. Once you find them, use them often and see how your spouse’s attitude changes.

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How do I know if this is my or my spouse’s love language?

Dr. Chapman offers a few different ways to check if this is either your or your spouse’s love language. 

1. Do either of you express love in this love language? Do you feel that your spouse is often hugging, kissing, or touching you in some way? Do you try to cuddle with your spouse every chance you get? Is it critical for you to hug or kiss your spouse before you part?

2. What are your complaints like? Does your husband ever mention how much it hurts him when you turn down his advances in bed? Do you feel offended when your husband pulls away from you when you’re trying to cuddle or hold hands? Does he complain that you are not responsive to his touches?

3. What kinds of requests do you make? Does he ask for back massages? Do you ask for a kiss when you come home? Does your spouse ever request you make love more often?

How can I express it?

So let’s say you have discovered that your spouse’s love language might be Physical Touch. How do you speak it then?

Here are a few ideas:

•     If back massages are a big deal to him, invest some time and maybe even money in learning to be a good masseuse. Then make sure you get lots of practice in. I’m sure he’ll be more than willing to be your guinea pig.

•     Make it a point to initiate intimacy with your spouse the next time. For someone whose love language is physical touch and love making is their primary dialect, this will speak love louder than ever to him!

•     Try making a conscious effort to touch your spouse more frequently. Making your kisses more available, your hugs more heartfelt, and random love touches more significant.

•     Try asking your spouse how he wants to be touched. If he’s open to talking about it, this will put you on the fast track to finding what works and what doesn’t.

No response?

So what if you feel like your spouse isn’t really responding to your loving touches? The most likely answer is that it isn’t his primary love language. If this is the case, check out the other posts about the other 4 love languages.

If you’re sure it is his primary love language but he still isn’t responding, there may be more going on. If you have struggled in your marriage for a while, it is possible he is interpreting your touch as manipulation. He may believe the marriage is over and it’s too late. Either of these options doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. Stay consistent in expressing love in the language that means the most to him, without expectation of receiving anything in return. Do this for an extended period of time, Dr. Chapman suggests at least six months. It is hard to maintain a cold heart when a person is loving you, in the way you understand and appreciate, without conditions. 

Experiment!

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not Physical Touch is your husband’s primary love language, try an experiment. For an entire week (or more if needed), try some of the above mentioned ideas for ways to express love to your spouse through touch. Do at least one every single day. Do it with the desire to make him feel your love, without expecting anything in return. Make a note on your phone to write down your observations. If there is a drastic shift in his attitude, you’ve probably found a winner. If not, check out the other posts about the other 4 love languages to see if there is one better fitted to your spouse.

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Is Physical Touch your love language? Or your spouse’s? I want to hear about it! How do you feel loved? How do you express love through touch?

Signature Yellow2

 

 

Touch FB

5 Love Languages: Acts of Service

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***This is the fifth post in a series of 6 about the Five Love Languages in marriage. I suggest reading them in order. Part 1, 2, 3, 4

A common way of showing you care about someone is by serving them. When we hear about a friend who just had a baby, we often run to the rescue by bringing dinner, offering to do the laundry, or making a run to the store. This is not only important in friendship but can be critical in our marriage if our spouse speaks the love language Acts of Service.

Stereotypes are a big part of this love language. Most women have experience in this area of serving their spouse because our society still has a tendency to follow these stereotypes. Maybe your husband expects you to take care of all the housework and the children because that’s what his mother did and he feels like it is your womanly duty. Or maybe it truly makes him feel loved when he comes home to a clean house and dinner on the table.

It is important to note, if this is your husband’s love language, your attitude about performing such tasks will make a huge difference on the way these acts of service will be received. Nobody wants to feel like a doormat and serve their spouse out of fear or pure obligation. Likewise, nobody wants to receive service when the giver is doing it begrudgingly. If we do it out of love, we keep our own dignity intact while filling our spouse’s love tank. Remember, love does not make demands, only requests.

What are the different dialects?

Here a few ideas of what may be different dialects for the love language Acts of Service.

1. Chores

Service can come in many forms but a common one is household chores. That means doing the dishes and the laundry, cleaning the bathrooms and the floors, making the beds and dusting the furniture. It comes in the form of preparing meals, bathing and caring for the children, running errands, yard work, and taking care of pets. In effect, anything that needs to be done around the house could be considered a chore. If you can make it a priority to help your spouse with some of that, it will show him you care.

2. Caring for

What about when your husband is sick? I’m willing to bet we are all too familiar with how grown, burly men magically turn into little children when they are sick. Although it may irk you to take care of your husband and meet his requests (not demands mind you) when he is obviously exaggerating how sick he is, it may well be the difference between an empty and a full love tank. If his love language is acts of service, he will be even more appreciative of your waiting on him when he is sick or having a rough day.

3. Help with the To Do List

Does your spouse ask you for favors or help with certain things? Maybe it’s to make him a doctors appointment or order him something online. Maybe he could use your help studying or being his soundboard for his big work project. We all know how it feels to be overwhelmed and part of marriage is being able to rely on your spouse for support. If this is his love language, you will see how much it means to him that you’re willing to help him out.

Service 2 squareHow do I know if this is my or my spouse’s love language?

Dr. Chapman offers a few different ways to check if this is either your or your spouse’s love language. 

1. Do either of you express love in this love language? Does your spouse sometimes help you with the chores around the house or taking care of the kids? Do you make it a priority to keep your house clean in an attempt to please your spouse? Does he ever volunteer to make dinner when you’ve had a rough day?

2. What are your complaints like? Does he seem extremely disappointed when he comes home and you’re watching TV while the house is a wreck? Do you tell him you’re tired of doing everything and hate that he never offers to help? Is it common for your husband to tell you he feels like you don’t care about him because you never have time to help him?

3. What kinds of requests do you make? Does he ask for favors a lot of the time? Do you ask for his help when you’re in the midst of cleaning up and it’s bath time for the kids? Does it seem extremely important to him to come home to a clean house?

How can I express it?

So let’s say you have discovered that your spouse’s love language might be Acts of Service. How do you speak it then?

Here are a few ideas:

•     Make it a priority to keep your house clean and dinner on the table. Don’t let this make you feel degraded. Instead, imagine that with each dish you wash, you’re depositing drops of love in your husband’s love tank.

•     If he seems to be having a rough day, offer to do more than the norm to serve him. Bring him a cup of hot cocoa or offer to put in his favorite movie. He will feel pampered and blessed to be your husband.

•     Try asking him if there’s anything he needs help with today? If there is anything you can do to lighten his load?

No Response?

So what if you feel like your spouse isn’t really responding to your acts of service? The most likely answer is that it isn’t his primary love language. If this is the case, check out the previous posts on the 5 love languages and stay tuned for the last one next week.

If you’re sure it is his primary love language but he still isn’t responding, there may be more going on. If you have struggled in your marriage for a while, it is possible he is interpreting your service as manipulation. He may believe the marriage is over and it’s too late. Either of these options doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. Stay consistent in expressing love in the language that means the most to him, without expectation of receiving anything in return. Do this for an extended period of time, Dr. Chapman suggests at least six months. It is hard to maintain a cold heart when a person is loving you, in the way you understand and appreciate, without conditions. 

Experiment!

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not Acts of Service is your husband’s primary love language, try an experiment. For an entire week (or more if needed), try some of the above mentioned ideas for ways to express love to your spouse through service. Do at least one every single day. Do it with the desire to make him feel your love, without expecting anything in return. Make a note on your phone to write down your observations. If there is a drastic shift in his attitude, you’ve probably found a winner. If not, check out the other posts in this series and stay tuned for the last one next week to see if there is one better fitted to your spouse.

*   *   *   *   *

Is Acts of Service your love language? Or your spouse’s? I want to hear about it! How do you feel loved? How do you express love through service?

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5 Love Languages: Receiving Gifts

Gifts Main***This is the fourth post in a series of 6 about the Five Love Languages in marriage. I suggest reading them in order. Part 1, 2, 3

Gift-giving is apparent in almost all civilizations throughout time and history, especially between couples bound together by love. We even make excuses, like special holidays, to give gifts. However, if your spouse’s love language is Receiving Gifts, it would not be wise to wait until a holiday to get him one.

It is a common misconception that people who enjoy receiving gifts are materialistic. In fact of all the love languages, I think this one is the least likely to be admitted to. However, there is absolutely no shame in admitting you feel loved when your partner gives you a gift. In most instances the size or cost of the gift are insignificant. The amount of thought and planning that go into the gift are much more important.

Don’t you treasure those little dandelions your kids bring you from the yard? A meaningful gift is something your spouse can hold and say, “She was thinking of me when she picked this up and wanted me to feel her love.”

Although a gift needn’t be expensive, if you’re a true miser when it comes to money and think gifts are a waste, you will need to revise your beliefs. Some gifts do cost money. Remember this is an investment in your marriage and if it costs a little money, so be it. You must make it a priority if you want to fill your husband’s love tank.

What are the different dialects?

There are two primary dialects for the love language Receiving Gifts.

1. Physical Gifts

Whether it be store bought, homemade, found in nature, or otherwise obtained, these are physical gifts your spouse can hold in his hand and know you were thinking of him. It is easier to give these kinds of gifts when there is a special occasion such as Christmas, birthday, Valentine’s Day, or an anniversary. However, sometimes the most meaningful gifts come when there is no excuse to give it other than to show you love him.

Besides holidays, other opportune times for gift giving could be:

•     When either of you return after being apart.

•     After an argument or fight.

•     After a rough day.

•     Before a special day or event, to wish him luck.

•     When he’s not feeling well.

There is always the “Just Because” gift too. Anytime you see something that he might like or that might have special meaning, consider picking it up. Of course, different budgets call for different strategies but a smaller budget does not have to mean less gifts. Try your hand at any number of Pinterest DIY gifts to help fill your spouse’s love tank if money is an issue.

2. Gift of Self

Another dialect in the love language of Receiving Gifts is the gift of self. This is your physical presence. This is different than quality time in that it is usually most appreciated during a specific time or event. For example, it may mean the world to you that your husband never leaves your side while you’re giving birth. His presence helps you to know he loves you. Or maybe when he loses a loved one, you make sure to take the entire day off just to be with him to help comfort him. Sometimes we can be inconsiderate in not realizing that our spouse just needs us to be there, even when there isn’t much we can do to help.

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How can I know if this is my or my spouse’s love language?

Dr. Chapman offers a few different ways to check if this is either your or your spouse’s love language.

1. Do either of you express love in this love language? Does your spouse bring you little gifts often? Do you always remember special dates and spend lots of time thinking of and coming up with the perfect gift for him? Did he seem super appreciative when you brought him that little souvenir from your last trip without him?

2. What are your complaints like? Does he ever mention that you never think of him when you’re apart? Or did he act a little disappointed when your last gift was rather thoughtless? Do you ever say to your spouse that you feel like your anniversary doesn’t matter to him, thinking in the back of your mind that he never gives you an anniversary gift? It may be hard for us to admit that we don’t feel loved because our spouse doesn’t give us gifts, it seems materialistic and selfish to say that. It may be a little trickier to figure this one out based on complaints. Just keep your eyes and ears open to how your spouse responds to gifts and the lack thereof.

3. What kinds of requests do you make? Does he mention, often, what kinds of gifts he appreciates or looks forward to? Does he remind you of special gifts from the past? Do you hint to your husband what you would like him to get you for Christmas? Again, based on requests it might be more difficult to figure out if this is your spouse’s love language. We don’t like to ask for gifts. It might be more effective to think back to his reaction to gifts in the past.

How can I express it?

So let’s say you have discovered that your spouse’s love language might be Receiving Gifts. How do you speak it then?

Here are a few ideas:

•     For starters, make sure you never miss a gift-giving opportunity when it comes to major holidays. It would be extra disappointing and probably hurtful for your gift-receiving spouse to not receive a gift on Valentine’s Day.

•     Keep a list on your phone of gift ideas for your husband. If he mentions something he would like, put it on your list. If you notice that he needs something that he won’t buy for himself, put it on your list. That way, you’re never at a loss for what to get him.

•     Try getting or finding him a small gift “Just Because.” He will be floored with the thoughtfulness of it!

•     Make it a goal to set aside some money on a regular basis to pull from for gifts for your spouse. This will help eliminate the excuse that you don’t have the money to express your love.

•     If money is a serious issue, look up ideas for DIY gifts that are either super inexpensive or free. You would be amazed at the stuff people come up with!

•     Make sure that the next time your spouse really needs you for something, that you’re there. Move heaven and earth to assure you are there for him.

No Response?

So what if you feel like your spouse isn’t really responding to your thoughtful gifts? The most likely answer is that it isn’t his primary love language. If this is the case, check out the last posts on Words of Affirmation and Quality Time and stay tuned to the following weeks as we study the other love languages.

If you’re sure it is his primary love language but he still isn’t responding, there may be more going on. If you have struggled in your marriage for a while, it is possible he is interpreting your gifts as manipulation. He may believe the marriage is over and it’s too late. Either of these options doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. Stay consistent in expressing love in the language that means the most to him, without expectation of receiving anything in return. Do this for an extended period of time, Dr. Chapman suggests at least six months. It is hard to maintain a cold heart when a person is loving you, in the way you understand and appreciate, without conditions. 

Experiment!

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not Receiving Gifts is your husband’s primary love language, try an experiment. For an entire week (or more if needed), try some of the above mentioned ideas for ways to express love to your spouse through gifts. Do at least one every single day. Do it with the desire to make him feel your love, without expecting anything in return. Remember, these don’t have to be extravagant gifts, something very small will be just as effective. Make a note on your phone to write down your observations. If there is a drastic shift in his attitude, you’ve probably found a winner. If not, stay tuned and learn about the other love languages to see if there is one better fitted to your spouse.

*   *   *   *   *

Is Receiving Gifts your love language? Or your spouse’s? I want to hear about it! How do you feel loved? How do you express love with gifts?