I’ve attended enough relationship enrichment events to know a thing or two (at least philosophically) about what it takes to have a good marriage. I know that it helps to understand a bit about how, specifically, to make your spouse feel loved.
Speaking one another’s ‘Love Languages’ is key; so I have to admit that it is unfortunate that, after a dozen years of marriage, I still haven’t figured Westley’s out. When I asked him recently what he thought his Love Languages were, he replied,“Solitude and electronic gadgets.” Helpful.
As I mentioned in my last post, West is the ‘strong, silent’ type. All those things – feelings, thoughts, philosophies – that I process by talking about them, he deals with internally. This doesn’t mean that he’s less emotional, or less sensitive; it certainly doesn’t mean that he is less contemplative or opinionated. It’s just that you have to be close to him to be privy to those thoughts and opinions – and closer still to hear about his feelings.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that sometimes Westley isn’t always able to speak my Love Languages perfectly, either. Particularly as, when completing quizzes to identify my own Love Languages, my answer to all questions is generally, “Yes.”
Do I need lots of quality time with him to feel loved? Yes.
Do I need him to say kind and positive things to me? Yes.
Do I want him to cuddle and kiss me often, and demonstrate his love in other physical ways? Um, YES.
Does the receiving of gifts make me feel loved? Yes – especially if those gifts come in a little blue box with a white ribbon… (just kidding – sort of)
Do I need West to show his love for me by helping out around the house and being involved with the kids? Heck, yeah. I mean, “Yes.”
So, yeah – I’m a bit needy when it comes to my emotional requirements.
And poor Westley doesn’t stand a chance when my expectations are unrealistic. But this is just what we women do, isn’t it? We have a romantic ideal in mind, and heaven forbid that our real men might not live up to that fantastical perfection. I am the queen of this; I can make some ridiculously unreasonable demands of West.
Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to air my own particular idiocy, so here are some examples:
I would like – and have often asked – Westley to have flowers delivered to me.
The reason this is kind of a weird request on my part is that West works from home, so he is almost never far enough away from me to justify going to the expense of having a bouquet brought to the door by a stranger. Plus, what would the card say? – “With love from the guy in the basement?” Creepy.
I’ve suggested that West write me a poem as a romantic gesture.
Westley gained notoriety with friends of ours early on in our relationship because of a game of Balderdash in which he was essentially a non-starter. He just sat there deliberating about his choice of words for his made-up definition until the rest of us threw in the towel and packed the game away. He is similarly challenged when it comes to other writing tasks – he put off writing his speech for our wedding until the day of (or, at best, the night before); and if I even ask him to add a personal note to a birthday card for a friend or relative, I know I’ve got to give him the better part of an hour to articulate his greeting. So asking him to express himself in poetry is pure folly on my part.
I want Westley to talk about his feelings. All the time.
Here’s the rub. Half the time, West doesn’t even know what his feelings are. The true absurdity of this demand request of mine is that I know he doesn’t know, seeing as I often have to serve as an interpreter of his emotions for him. My hubby is a deep and sensitive soul, but having been raised outside of North America (where we are big on feeling ‘felt’ and thus place a high value on giving our children the vocabulary to express their internal sentiments), he is not equipped for this kind of discourse. We laugh about this a lot, because Westley is smart (I mean ‘wrestling with quantum physics in his spare time’ kind of smart) – but emotional intelligence just isn’t his forte.
I’ve often hinted that I would like West to share his pride/admiration for me with others.
Now, let’s just start with the assumption (naïve though it may be) that he actually feels pride and admiration for me. The qualifier to this would be that Westley’s first reaction to my having endured any challenge or hardship is to dismiss its severity immediately (Childbirth? Oh, it’s not so hard – Trix’s had four babies without an epidural so it can’t be THAT bad!) – mostly because he bases my tolerance for pain and difficulty solely on my tendency to yelp when I stub my toe and the rapidity with which I lose my composure under emotional duress.
But anyway – if we begin with the premise (albeit unlikely) that he is secretly proud of me, at least on some level and for some special quality known only to himself, then what exactly is it that I expect of him? Well, I do actually know guys who are abundant and public in their praise of their wives. You know the type; he’s all, “Wow – you should have seen my wife in the delivery room. She was a lioness! She was, like, a birthing goddess!” or “Man – just look at my girl. What a woman!” [insert admiring glance and approving head nod as she walks through the room]. The women in question are lovely, certainly – but they’re also perfectly ordinary. So why can’t my guy flatter me with such abandon, I wonder?
Well, here’s where that master scheme of mine falls flat: I can’t take a compliment. I love it when people say kind things, of course – but I just don’t quite know what to do with myself when I’m receiving this praise. If Westley were to be uncharacteristically vocal in his admiration for me, I would probably blush an unattractive shade of crimson and stutter out a self-deprecating response. I couldn’t take the scrutiny, knowing that in honesty only Westley, as my husband, might think me worthy of such a commendation – and I’d be particularly uncomfortable if the listeners had their own wives with whom to compare this creature about whom West were waxing so poetic… (For the record, I’m totally fine with written commendations – y’know, just FYI.)
Knowing Westley’s difficulty in coming up with the right words adds a further complication to this fantasy of mine – he’d probably say something like, “Wow, my Trixie is such a great housewife… Well, maybe not that – but really she is such a great Mum… sometimes. Um – she is loyal!” Yes. Yes to that last one. But still – not much to go on, is it?!
So perhaps I need to forget this mythical ‘ideal husband’ who would do things exactly as prescribed by me in my wildest imaginings – and remember how truly ideal my guy is for me.
I will remember that West gives of his time willingly and abundantly to me. I’ll remember that he keeps me company in watching chick flicks when he’d rather be researching quantum physics. I’ll remember that he prizes working from home as much as I enjoy having him so close – and how we relish those chats over lunch and our post-prandial coffees.
I will remember that Westley *frequently* tells me that he loves me. I will remember what a rock he is when I am going squirrelly over some unimportant issue, and how his wise and comforting words breathe love and peace into my life so often. I will remember that his sincere compliments are so much sweeter because they’re not just the expected charming remarks.
I will remember how West and I love curling up together most evenings, how he reaches back and plays with my hair; how he lets me tuck my toes under his legs when I’m chilly. I’m in my safe place when I’m nestled in his arms, and all my cares slip away in the comfort of his embrace.
I will remember all the big and small gifts West gives me. I will remember that he has twice bought me a new laptop when he really could have used a new one for himself. And how he has gone on big expeditions across the city to gather special things for my birthday. I will remember how he gives of himself time and again in so many ways.
I will remember how Westley is a partner with me in keeping our home and family life running smoothly. Westley’s housekeeping efforts keep me from descending permanently into hopelessness (and prevent me from ending up on ‘Hoarders’). He often takes the boys out for an adventure or outing while I get to stay home and get stuff done (or just have a break) on a weekend.
It’s a tough job being my right hand man, but Westley does it so well. He is good and kind and honourable and funny and clever and loving and wonderful in so many ways. He is my better half, in the truest sense. For my part, I function for him as comic relief, a soft place for him to fall, and a genuinely adoring wife.
We are a pair.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
And to West: consider this my public declaration of my admiration for you. I am so proud to be your wife.