Before I got married I had different ideas about the ways I communicated love. I liked to give hugs, to really look at my friends when they spoke. To invite people over to my house to see where I lived and where I was the most me. To make something and give it to someone special to show them my affection.
When we were in our pre-marital counseling sessions we talked a little with our pastor about the ways in which we thought we communicated love to our partner, and as an exercise we ranked our top love languages and tried to pin down the love languages of the other. I remember feeling confident about my choices both for myself and for Andrew, but now I have a feeling I got it all wrong.
Or maybe the fact of the matter is that the very act of living in close quarters with another human, one that I love, has changed the way that I show love?
In cleaning out a storage bin yesterday I came across a red folder marked “Memories,” in which were several small stacks of folded papers, receipts, index cards — all love notes from Andrew collected over our courtship. He once left me an Americano in my English classroom with a little inscription on the cardboard of the coffee cup sleeve. That was in the folder, along with a note scribbled onto a sheet of computer paper that I remember finding in the kitchen one morning after we were first married. Something about how he made the coffee for me, how he didn’t want to wake me quite yet.
My husband, whether he knew it or not then, was adept at expressing love through words, and at best in their written form. He is also, I know now, a man who shows love through the things that he does for me — like making coffee in the morning, for example, or building me a pair of deck chairs and going to the work of staining and sealing the pine. He started from square one using his brain and his heart and his hands in conjunction to fill our little space with love, while I was left floundering, trying to figure out how to best guide the love I felt out into the world in which I lived.
In the angst of trying to “find” a love language I never stopped to examine how the ways in which I received love could be different from the ways in which I communicate it. Those acts of service that my husband initiates when he takes out the trash, makes the bed, fills up my car with gas? Those little gifts he brings me, those flowers “just because,” a pretty drink on a day I’m feeling frazzled? That’s when I feel the love, but those are not always the ways in which I necessarily give it.
Now I think I get it.
I’m by nature very good at being alone, but with those I love I crave quality time. An important discussion over a cup of tea or a heartfelt confession shared sitting on the asphalt in the parking lot. A morning spent laughing over shared waffles or mourning together with hands clasped. Those are little moments that connect me to others, moments in which I can be present and give attention and love.
(This has been on my mind lately. Read it. It is powerful.)
I’m also pretty into making sure that my loved ones are well nourished. I like to craft something delicious and give it to somebody to enjoy — note that this is a far cry from my days of failed DIY projects as presents. This is taking my gift, my joy, and channeling it into a form to be enjoyed by my family, my friends, my coworkers. To me, there’s something so primally satisfying as a woman to feed those around me and nurture their bodies as well as their souls. A few friends around the dinner table, a few hands grabbing for homemade cookies in a classroom: by eating my food you are letting me love you.
And so it is in recognizing my strengths, my gifts, my joys, that I give power and meaning to my love language. Because what is an avenue for love if the love itself is not graciously given?
“We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die.”
Easy Pecan Turtles
1 can dulce de leche
1/2 lb. shelled whole pecans
1 bar good quality dark chocolate
sea salt, if desired
Notice the nutrition label — I was pleasantly surprised at the relative purity of ingredients in this dulce de leche. The homemade caramel recipe I had previously decided to use called for all sorts of processed stuff, and so from that revelation this recipe was born. If you can even call it a recipe…
Begin melting chocolate over a double boiler. Meanwhile, toss whole pecans in a frying pan over medium heat until the kitchen starts to smell toasty. Remove and cool.
Arrange 2-3 pecans in small piles on a lined baking sheet. Scoop a spoonful of dulce de leche over each small pile, and then drizzle with chocolate. Sprinkle with sea salt and place in freezer to harden.
Do not drive to Dallas with these all in the same baggie unless you want to present one giant malformed turtle to your giftee instead of several dozen neatly decorated individual turtles. Experience is the best teacher.