How will you feel loved this Valentine’s Day? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself often as I listen to couples raising kids with special needs talk about their relationships during interviews for the upcoming special needs love language book Dr. Gary Chapman and I are co-authoring. The other question that comes to mind is equally important: How will my spouse feel loved this Valentine’s Day?
Dr. Gary Chapman, identifies the 5 love languages as gifts, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch. Many years ago, Chapman’s 5 love languages quiz confirmed what I already knew. Acts of service and words of affirmation are the ways I receive love. Next comes quality time. But gifts and physical touch mean very little to me. Conversely, the best way to show love to my husband is through physical touch, followed closely by quality time. Acts of service weighs in at number 3. Words of affirmation and gifts mean next to nothing to him.
If only, my husband and I have often told one another, we had known about the 5 love languages early in our marriage. Those were the years when caring for our son with special needs comprised the bulk of every day. We had little time to work on our marriage as we fought to keep our baby alive.
When we did try to communicate love to each other, our efforts fell flat. He would hug me or try to hold my hand, which meant a great deal to him but very little to me. I tried to be helpful and praise him for what he did for our family, but my efforts barely penetrated his consciousness.
If we had known about the 5 love languages in those days when we were constantly exhausted and stressed, we could have used that information to energize one another. He could have garnered my undying love by clearing the table and doing the dishes or folding the laundry. I could have made him fee cherished and loved with a kiss and a hug before he went to work and a back rub while he held our baby in the evening.
Over the years, we’ve learned to speak each other’s love language. So this Valentine’s Day won’t involve exchanging expensive gifts because that language means little to either of us. Instead, he’ll speak my language by taking me out to dinner so I don’t have to cook that night. I’ll speak his language by holding his hand on the way to the restaurant and snuggling in bed before we drift off to sleep.
What we didn’t know then, I want you to know now while you’re in the thick of caring for your child. You are exhausted and stressed, and you need every available tool to safeguard your marriage this Valentine’s Day. So if you haven’t yet determined your love language or your spouse’s, I encourage you and your spouse to take this online quiz right away.
Once you know your love language and your spouse’s, you can find a creative way to express love to one another clearly and effectively. And once you do that, you will both feel loved in ways you never have before even while you’re engrossed in caregiving and parenting. So what are you waiting for? Take the quiz and make this Valentine’s Day the best ever for you, for your spouse, and for your children.
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