Enjoy the little things. For one day, you may look back and realize they were the big things. R. Brault.

Grace and Gratitude

In 1995, Gary Chapman published The Five Love Languages. This simply written, layman-oriented book, described the five ways in which we express our caring and affection for others. This includes romantic love but also speaks to the ways in which we reflect friendship and appreciation to our friends, children and parents. Chapman’s “languages” were:

1. Gifts
2. Service
3. Affirmations
4. Undivided attention
5. Physical touch
The author tells us that we all have our preferred “language.” Some of us respond politely, but indifferently, to presents, but relish a backrub. Sentimental cards leave us cold, but a quiet dinner, away from TV and other distractions, is our idea of a great evening.

Chapman tells us that a “great lover” is one who speaks the language of the other person; not the one we personally prefer. This, of course, makes sense. So when we have spent days searching for the perfect birthday present for a sibling, only to have it illicit little joy from our sister/brother, we shouldn’t be surprised. Instead, a more productive strategy would be to consider what we know that s/he really values and appreciates. A helping hand in re-staining their cedar patio deck? Or perhaps tickets to her favorite sports event, theatre tickets, or concert of her favorite singer?

The five love languages” have become a staple of marriage counselors over the years. Its basic concepts have allowed willing partners to examine the potholes in their marital pathways. But let’s look a little deeper into the potential pitfalls it presents for us in our relationships.

First of all, there is no such thing as a perfect person and, therefore, a perfect lover. A few individuals are truly self centered and could care less about what we appreciate or value. But I believe that such people are blessedly rare. Most of those close to us wish to express their caring. They may do so imperfectly, and that’s OK. And very human.

Readers may recall that I characterize a counselor’s role as a “professional mirror holder.” I’m holding one up now and inviting you to look into it. Get ready. Let the gazing begin.

When you become irritated or annoyed by your partner, friend or family member’s actions, what exactly bothers you? Mark Twain sagely observed, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.” Do you feel loved by those around you? If not, you are in a poor relationship. If your response is “yes, but……….” perhaps you are expecting your “lovers” to be perfect, to always express their affection and appreciation in exactly the form that you desire and prefer. Or worse, do we expect those around us to be “perfect lovers” in all ways and all of the time?

So if pink isn’t your color nor argyle your style, take another look at the giver. Do they care about you? Are they reflecting their love, albeit imperfectly? If so consider, instead, that you are blessed with caring people around you.

(It’s okay to hope that there is a receipt in the bottom of the gift box.)

If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content. Tolstoy