I combined my third and fourth focus points, because, as you will see in the paragraphs below, they are very connected!
The ability to know and see the ways our spouses need to be treated comes from a knowledge of yourself, and taking the time to make sure your own tank is getting filled. I don’t mean only by him or her! You have to learn to do things that fill your tank in ways that others can’t.
Getting to know your significant other, or spouse is not an instant thing.
I don’t know everything about mine yet, and we are in our third year! That being said, I think that I have a good handle on what makes him tick because we are incredibly blessed to be very similar in our love languages. Not everyone can say that, in fact it is really rare. Then again, our relationship is really rare.
So…a tiny bit of background. This is my fourth crack at kicking the can into the end zone, in the relationship department. So that means I have not done so well the other three times.
My first three were horrid flops…not because of me, and I know that I couldn’t control their treatment of me, but I did have control of how I viewed myself. I chose men that needed a whole lot of caretaking and that was accompanied by a viscously one sided relationship in each case. They were takers, abusers and just used me up until I had nothing left. All I had was hanging on my a very thin thread, feeling sucked dry and withered up. I felt the only good things I had gotten out of those relationships was three beautiful sons and a very healthy hate for narcissistic, addiction riddled, and all around codependent individuals held bent on killing my spirit and ultimately my body too.
Enter my father, and his sage advice…
He said that I should take one year off of the dating game for each year I had been with the previous men. At first I thought…wow…that would be like eternity…and then the other side of my brain kicked in and said…“girl…you have been so hurt that the idea of a man touching you right now, makes you want to just vomit, so maybe this is a good suggestion…” Well…that could have been the Holy Spirit talking too. Either way, I gave it some serious thought.
I did take a break. Six years of a break.
I took self esteem classes and the women’s shelter in the early days of my “relationship recovery program”, and focused on my boys and building a new life for us. I worked towards cleaning the cobwebs of the past out of my heart and life. I found my artistic side and dusted her off. Singing, playing instruments, and taking note of the world around me became more common. All of this was not because I wanted to be in a relationship again, but because I wanted to be whole again in the eyes of God and be an effective mother, friend, and teacher for the future. In the early days of my “break” I was absolutely against having a partner again, so much so, that I slept in a single bed so I couldn’t even think of sharing my life. There was no room in the bed.
Once I had figured out what made me tick, (I will blog about that journey at another time) I started to research what raising boys would be like without a father figure in their lives. I was blessed to have my mother and father still with me. My mother’s husband was also an incredible source of peace and gentleness when we needed him. They lived close for the first two years and started us off in the right direction. Their nearness brought safety. My father visited a few times a year. His calm, steady assurance helped my boys and I heal and learn to trust. I plied them for answers about children, boys and men. I wanted to understand. I also read books. Lots of them. (That too is another post!)
Through all that research about my children and how to best guide them, I began to form a picture of what a good and fitting mate could be.
Through the bible, books written by wise people, and learning the different styles of learning, personality types and love languages, I came to understand what I needed to look for in my own future. I read books by Gary Chapman, Kevin Leman, and so many more, to understand myself and my future mate. I knew after about year five, that I was not made to live life as a single mother.
Let me tell you this without a single doubt. You cannot be part of a working pair, couple, or life partnership or even deep friendship without knowing yourself and who you are.
You have to decide to dig deep and figure it out.
I found out my key love languages and personality needs had never been touched by the men I had dated or married. I am a blue personality (Take the 16 Personalities Test Here ) and so I largely move with emotion over logic, and have a lot of empathy. I want to make sure everyone is doing well. I would rather love the people around me into allegiance or doing what needs doing, over the abruptness of a demand for obedience. I’m gentle, but strong. I am strongly loyal, but my want to see the best in others has often been my downfall.
My love languages are physical touch and quality time. I have been through having a spouse that has neither of those love languages, and let me tell you…it does not end well for me. So…
Learning about what makes my spouse tick is very very important…But why?
Well, it is so that I know what he needs from me, so I am capable of filling his love tank and so that I am fulfilling the position I hold in his life. A full love tank is so much more capable of contributing to a relationship than one that isn’t full. Relationships, marriages and friendships are not all about what YOU are getting out of them. If you find yourself bemoaning the things he/she doesn’t do for you, how he/she isn’t being consistent in his/her treatment of YOU, or how you simply aren’t being treated as YOU think YOU should, then I have to tell you, your glasses are sitting on your nose a little funny. YOUR focus needs to change. Partners in any relationship have to have a “me second” focus. Sounds scary right? It is, unless you have someone with that same attitude. Then, the world is at your fingertips. When you are getting poured into, and so is your partner, no one is running on empty, and everyone receives the overflow of goodness from your happy heart.
I figured out that I needed a man that had at least one of my love languages in common so that we would not starve each other’s hearts. I needed to know what to hang onto in a situation of differing opinions, and what wouldn’t be a “hill to die on” – to quote my sweet man.
How do we figure it out? Well, here are some steps:
1. Read or listen to “The Five Love Languages”. Seriously. Figure out what you are, and then what you need to keep your love tank full.
2. Take the 16 Personalities test and really read about all of them so you understand them.
3. Ask your Significant Other questions. Lots of them. (Reference the 50 questions to ask your date) Find out what that person needs to fill their tank.
4. Ask this question more that once a year. I ask nearly every week. “Is there something I can do for you this week to make your love tank fuller, or make your week easier?” And do it!!! Don’t ask just because I told you to. The commitment required to live in a relationship is a somber and joyous one. Don’t make it about what you get out of it. Make it about what you are giving to your significant other.
5. Build him or her up. Find ways to encourage or love on the love languages that make the person who they are.
6. Never put your spouse down… Ever… Period.
7. Pray FOR each other and WITH each other.
8. Watch his or her face! You can learn so much by how people react to situations. That simple act will help you to figure out how to difuse the situation that upsets your significant other. It means a lot to people in all personality zones.
9. Buy his or her chairs. If you haven’t watched Phenomenon with John Travolta, then this is what that means. Every person has something they are trying to bring to the world, or even just you. Participate in at least one of his or her activities with your partner. Just because my sweetheart doesn’t get wildly excited about the Opera, he still wants to be the first to take me to one.
I made a list of what I wanted in a man. Then I went shopping.
Don’t laugh. I did. Today’s method of finding a spouse is really a lot more technologically advanced you would imagine.
I don’t attend parties or go to bars, so I won’t people there. I don’t dance. Period. So, I won’t be taking dancing classes. The local coffee shop is not someplace I have time to sit in, and quite frankly, I don’t fit in that group. I am also quite unlikely to meet anyone in the parking lot of the school at pick up time or at work while I teach. I am CERTAINLY NOT going to go on a date with someone who staggers drunkenly past the garbage bin I am throwing trash into, and asks me out for some “grub”. Eeew.
So, I had to use a platform that was a little broader.
I signed up for two dating websites, and after a whole lot of filtering (I said “No” to a lot of faces, and couldn’t read more than a sentence of a lot of profiles. They were really not what I was looking for.) Finally, after about a year, and a bunch of non-starter first dates, I told God that I figured he wasn’t “into” fulfilling my list. Well, within 24 hours, I had met my last “first date”. Just when I was ready to give up, and I told God I was at the end of my patience regarding finding a spouse, He brought my sweetheart into the picture.
I thought God had no interest in fulfilling my list, but I was very wrong.
My spouse is so perfect for me, and I am for him – He told me so! He had a list too. We have the same love languages, are born two days and a few years apart, and share a lot of interests. We met and knew we were in the right place at the right time. Through some hard times and a lot of great times, we have made it through pretty well, and I think it is because we were faithful enough to the process of self discovery to find out what we needed separately. Then we brought hearts together with God’s healing all over them. What we have is far from perfect, but it has showed me, what kind of love I was missing. I didn’t fully understand God’s love for me, or Jesus’ love for us, until I met the man He provided for me. Now, I have no doubts about it. God paints the sky to please us, hangs the stars to light our way and make us smile, and He plans partners with purpose.
Check out the following resources and books! They are the ones that I read and I hope there is something in the bunch that would help you. The list contains affiliate links, and if you use them and buy something, I will get a small profit from the sale. I will never post a link to something I don’t use or read myself.
- The 5 Love Languages (Updated!) by Gary Chapman
- The 5 Love Languages for Men by Gary Chapman
- The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition by Gary Chapman
- The Birth Order Book: Why You Are The Way You Are by Kevin Leman
- The Intimate Connection: Secrets to a Lifelong Romance by Kevin Leman
- Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, PhD
- Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus; A Practical Guide to Improving Communication by John Gray, PhD