My wife’s love language is quality time — if I want her to truly feel loved, I must find a way to spend quality time with her. My own love language is physical touch — my wife must actually touch me to maximize my reception of her expression of love. Expressing love and communicating love are two different things, and the key difference isn’t the message sent but the message received.
Loving Beyond Language
As you grow to consider your natural tendency to speak and understand one language over another, you can start to expand on the basic premise of language and begin to dissect dialects. Sure, she needs me to spend time with her, but what increases the quality? Sure, I need her to make contact, but what makes it more meaningful? That is, what intensifiers exist that turn a declaration of love into an exclamation of love? What makes a period an exclamation point?
My Wife’s Dialect
I haven’t discussed this with my wife prior to writing this, but I’ve studied her enough to make an educated guess. We’ve talked about times we’ve spent together that she enjoyed, that she remembers most, and what stands out about them, and I believe three intensifiers have emerged from the patterns: duration, conversation, and premeditation.
My wife would be the first to say that quality time isn’t about quantity of time. And it’s true — we can spend 14 hours straight in the same room without a single moment of quality time (of course, if we do, then I suck as a husband).
Yet though it may not count for the classification of quality, duration still counts. My wife would rather spend two minutes of quality time than two hours of hollow time, but she’d certainly appreciate a day together making memories than a half hour making a single memory.
She also values conversation. Again, conversation isn’t required for it to be quality time — snuggling and massaging often lack dialogue but certainly qualify as quality time — but if we’re able to have a chance to talk, then the quality is intensified.
She might not care if the conversation is silly or serious, but the sharing of thoughts, ideas, impressions, and opinions with an environment built on love, trust, and honesty is powerful to her.
Premeditation, or forethought, is the clincher. Once again, it’s not a necessity. We can spontaneously encounter quality time that makes her feel abundantly loved, but there is something that amplifies the effect when she knows I spent time putting together a plan — even if it doesn’t turn out as I planned.
When I take that time to make arrangements, to think about what she would or wouldn’t like, to link things in a theme or motif or otherwise put effort into the arrangements and ideas, she’s floored. It shows her more love than otherwise possible.
The Ideal Communication
My wife’s perfect dialect of quality time might be expressed in a full-day scavenger hunt of memories with a chance to sit and drink coffee at each step to talk about them.
My own intensifiers are easy enough to identify, and I’d guess my wife wouldn’t find these terribly surprising. She’s studied me a bit as well, and I suspect she wouldn’t be hard-pressed to guess these correctly. My top three would be activity, intimacy, and publicity.
An active touch is a touch with movement, and it’s a significant intensifier for me. If my wife rests a hand on my stomach as we’re watching a movie together, I feel loved. But if that hand’s fingers are curling and relaxing, or drawing lines on my stomach, I feel more love.
The movement provides a steady reminder —up, I love you; down, I love you. A stroke is a touch dialed up a notch.
If activity is addition, then intimacy is multiplication. It’s not necessary, of course. I feel emotional fulfillment when my wife reaches out and takes my hand; it’s not intimate, but I still feel loved for it. But if the touch is more intimate, the effect is multiplied.
This intimacy can come in many forms. Increased physical intimacy corresponds to the amount of her touching me, or the presence of skin-to-skin contact. Increased emotional intimacy would have to do with the romantic expression involved, like a kiss over a hug or a caress on the face over a pat on the back. And increased sexual intimacy is… well, obvious, but not to be underestimated in its power.
Any of these intimacies (or all of them) can be capitalized on to multiply the effect. A held hand is less than a full body hug; a kiss on the cheek is less than a kiss on the lips (or, even better, the neck); a hand on my back or arm is less than one on my thigh or butt (or face); a head resting on my shoulder is less than one resting on my chest or lap. A more intimate touch communicates love in a way you can’t beat.
But if intimacy’s effect is multiplicative, publicity’s effect is exponential. When my wife touches me in plain sight, it makes me feel like the king of the world. Do it at the dinner table in front of the kids, and it’s stout; at lunch with friends, it’s eye-opening; at church, it’s jaw-dropping; at the mall, it’s earth-shaking.
It tells me she wants other people to know how much she loves me, and that effect is undeniable.
The Ideal Communication
Combined with activity and intimacy, publicity can be mind-blowing. Admittedly, some levels of intimacy or activity aren’t suitable for some levels of publicity — she can’t exactly have sex with me on the Jumbotron or caress my crotch enthusiastically in the church foyer.
Yet a lightly-pushed envelope — say, a few seconds of a kiss on the neck when hanging out with close friends — screams love in a dialect I shudder to think about.
In your marriage, if you can identify what your own intensifiers are, it can drastically improve your emotional intimacy.
It can even be a fun exercise to identify them and share your results: figure out your own first, and then have your spouse guess them. You might find that they know you better than you expected, and possibly even better than you know yourself!