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Translating (His) Love Language

He took out the garbage without being asked. He made his special pancake breakfast for the kids after last night’s slumber party. He weeded your garden for you after he’d mowed the lawn, saying “well I was already dirty anyway!” just before he gives you a peck on the cheek.

On the one hand, these things are sort of part of the job. So he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. Big whoop, right? I mean, if he can’t do the baseline stuff, how’s he going to function when there’s a real emergency to face?

Yet on the other hand, he is doing his job! He’s respecting his vows, your couple hood, your household, and most importantly, you.

We’ve previously talked about saying “good job” to your man when he actually does it [read here], and there’s another facet of this that’s worth considering and recognizing. He’s doing more than just his job, he’s also saying “I Love You.”

He puts up the Christmas lights: “I love you.” He runs the kids to soccer practice: “I love you.” He fixes the toilet that won’t stop running: “I love you!”

We know this is true for him in part because it’s true for us. Moms may feel love when they fold laundry and are happy that their baby’s smell didn’t fully wash out of the blankie. It’s odd, inconvenient, obvious and wonderful all at the same time. But you feel it; it’s very real. That warm glow in your lower abdomen, a little tingle in your nose and the slightest hint of tears. You won’t see that moment on Real Housewives of Orange County even though it’s just as true for those moms, too!

People have many love languages-things they do and maybe say that are their way of expressing and showing that they love you. These can manifest in various ways, even ways that can seem counter-intuitive. For example, imagine a husband who often leaves early and comes home late from work and is very dedicated to his career. Simultaneously, he buys lots of toys, such as jet skis, camping gear and a big screen TV (large enough that it makes you concerned he’s subconsciously compensating for something!). He’s the cliché ‘absent’ dad selfishly focused on his career and man-cave stuff. But that’s not how he sees it. He loves his job because he loves providing for you and your family. That feels good to him. His brain gives him a dose of dopamine and serotonin when he walks into the office each day, and that biological reward draws him there. He got jet skis and camping gear and even the TV because he believed those things would result in fun activities for the family, from teaching the kids how to make a fire with flint & steel to having a home movie night with fresh popcorn. Yes, he’s going to have fun too, but let’s give credit where credit is due: he’d rather you and the kids are having fun than himself, every time. Find the evidence that he loves you and learn to hear his heart message.

Husbands & dads often express love for their family through work and toys. So when he’s doing the self-install of the big screen TV wall mount (and you’re maybe thinking the whole time he should have paid the extra $199 for a professional installation), he’s feeling- and showing- love, the same way you do folding the baby blanket. No matter how crooked the TV mount ends up being, it's about more than saving the $199. There’s a warm glow in his belly, too.

It’s almost tragic that it is inevitable that his expression of love conflicts with logic, logistics, timing or mood. Imagine he’s trying to put BBQ ribs and chicken together last minute without asking first, and you already have a tuna casserole in the oven. Yes, he should have asked and confirmed with you, but how can you be mad at a guy like that? So maybe instead of getting upset (choosing fear instead of faith), next time try a hug and a kiss on his neck.

Instead of complaining, imagine this scenario:

1. Approach him with a wry smile, eye contact with a slow blink, hands extended to his waist.

2. Grasp around his waist, placing your face sideways against his chest or bury your nose into that little crook between his neck and collar bone (you know the spot!)- height permitting.

3. Whisper, “You’re the sweetest man in the world. I actually already have a casserole in the oven, and I would love to save the BBQ for Saturday.”

4. Lean in and kiss on cheek near his ear, or on side of neck, height permitting.

5. Walk away! Rock your marriage!

When you’re course-correcting by expressing your desire instead of complaining or whining, he won’t feel like it’s nagging or that he did something wrong, but rather that he did something right and you genuinely appreciate it.

Foster that and encourage it! Because he is saying: I love you!

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