Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Affection List

Thomas and I have been married for over five years now, and we've been a couple for over eight.  (We were high school sweethearts... *Insert: awwwww!*)  We've been through a lot in our relationship so far, and I can't wait to see what the future brings us too!

I think all couples go through times where the just don't get each other.  Seriously, sometimes it's like men and women speak completely different languages!  Can I get an "amen"?  So, though Thomas and I aren't by any means perfect, we have certainly had a couple of years to try and figure each other out.

One thing that always tends to come up is whether or not the other person's needs are being met.  Right now, our life group is going through a study called His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley Jr.  Interestingly enough, Thomas and I read the book version as part of our pre-marital counseling.  But it's really interesting to go back through the concepts five years later and with a group of friends to discuss with.  Thomas and I also recently read Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, which talks about a man's need for respect and a woman's need for love.

These two books, along with others, and numerous discussions between the two of us have helped us learn how to meet each other's needs in our marriage, and they've also helped us learn what our needs are.  A lot of times in relationships, part of the problem is that we don't know how to articulate what we need.  Many times it's not until someone else puts it into words that we fully realize what we've been wanting.

We've also had the reminder that love is the opposite of selfish  (1 Corinthians 13:5).  Once you've been in a relationship for a while, you start to become very comfortable with the other person.  And I'm not convinced that that's always a good thing.  Don't get me wrong, I love how honest and open I can be with Thomas, and I love that I don't have to be embarrassed about hardly anything in his presence because I know he will still love me.  But, I think we can get too comfortable in relationships in the way that we feel entitled to receive some things from the other person.  And, in my opinion, that is exactly wrong.

How is it loving if I refuse to meet a need that Thomas has because he is not meeting one of mine.  And the same goes for him; just because I am not meeting a need of his does not give him free reign to stop meeting my needs.  It's a big ole circle that will never have a start if both people insist on being selfish.  Yet, if we truly embraced the biblical definition of love, we would meet each other's needs regardless of our spouse's treatment of us.  But, man is that a hard concept to put to practice sometimes.

If this is provoking any thoughts in your mind, or even more, stirring anything in your heart, I would highly suggest that you read either or both of the books I've mentioned above.  Thomas and I have a wonderful relationship, and we always have, but studying marriage has helped us understand each other and love each other on a whole new level.

One last book I would recommend is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  And this book outlines basic ways that people feel love and puts them into five categories.  This book is helpful because it shows us how we interpret actions and words differently.  For example, one of Thomas' top love languages is physical touch; so he feels the most loved when I hug him, hold his hand, kiss him, etc.  One of my main love languages is quality time; so I most enjoy spending time together doing a variety of activities.  So, to most meet each other's need for affection, we have to keep these preferences in mind.

So, here's the real point of today's post:  One of the things that these books and discussions spurred Thomas and I to do is to make lists for each other.  Since I am a woman, and I don't always know what I want or what will work for me at a certain time, I brainstormed a whole list of things Thomas can do for me and with me to show me love and affection.  Thomas also made me a similar list, and after we read Love and Respect, I made sure to note some ways that he would like me to show him respect also.  Even though these lists aren't a fool-proof system, it gives us insight into what matters to each other.  We know each other really well (we should, we've been together for about 1/3 of our lives already, and we've known each other for longer), but we still need help in showing love, affection, and respect in ways that will truly mean something to the other person.

So, I would highly suggest talking to your spouse about making similar lists.  I know these have helped us, because anytime I want to do something special for Thomas but I'm not sure what to do, I just check the list for ideas.  Just to get some ideas flowing, I've got a couple examples of things I wrote on my list to Thomas listed below.  Some of them are more serious, and some of them are silly and fun, because variety is always good for me!

The Affection List
  • Tell me why you love me
  • Take me out for ice cream unexpectedly
  • Take me for a walk on the beach
  • Dance with me
  • Give me a back rub
  • Plan a date (even if it's just something simple)
  • Write me little notes
  • Give me little presents (i.e. candy, flowers, post-its*, etc.)
  • Suggest we go do an activity outdoors
*I am such a nerd and so in love with Post-its, that one time Thomas brought home a Post-it cube (with no prompting from me whatsoever, completely his idea), and it literally made my day.  I'm not even kidding; I was ecstatic!   Yes, you can laugh at me now!

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