|"Foreshadowing." Walking downtown on our wedding day as an older couple approaches.|
However, both Philip and I will readily admit that the passion that came so easily in the beginning of our romance needs more coaxing (and even plotting!) these days. Philip has a hectic schedule as a pediatric resident. His hectic schedule translates into long hours on my end as a stay-at-home mom. Our limited time together coupled with the physical and emotional demands of raising young children, our limited finances, and our culture's demand that our children be our top priority could be a recipe for disaster.
I'd be lying if I said that residency has been a breeze and that I love every moment of it. However, this testing time has been the source of many blessings in our marriage. I wrote in a previous post that our limited time together actually taught us to move through problems faster, get to "I'm sorry," and spend more time together.
In learning how to be more effective communicators, we are also learning more about each other's love languages (how each of us wants to receive love). Not surprisingly, most people show love toward others the way they want to receive love. Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, has a website dedicated to teaching about the Love Languages. The 5 Love Language are:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
|Philip is on the left, I am on the right|
We talked about how each of us shows and receives these different love languages. We are both happy with how one another is using words of affirmation and quality time to express love. Together, we decided that we both need to do a better job of using the love language of physical touch. The 5 Love Languages site sums up Physical Touch like this:
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.To sum up our discussion on physical touch, I asked Philip to use physical touch more often, especially in non-romantic ways. Philip asked me to use physical touch more often, especially in romantic ways.
I am reading Kimberly Hahn's Chosen and Cherished: Biblical Wisdom for Your Marriage. She has tremendous insight into building intimacy and trust between the spouses. A few of the chapters in her book are giving me insight into why Philip and I are feeling so differently about physical touch. She has this to say about the challenges for young families:
One of the difficulties moms with small children face is that, by the end of the day, they have been touched and touched. A woman may feel that she really does not want any more physical affection that day. Yet her spouse has not been touched all day. She needs to be responsive to him, especially if touch is his primary love language.YES! Although we both value physical touch, by day's end, Philip and I need very different things physically. He comes home, anxious for a big kiss and conversation. He hasn't had a hug or a kiss since he left that morning. I, on the other hand, have been touched all day. Feeding, changing, and loving little ones is a very physical job. By day's end, I am thrilled to see Philip, but a big make-out session is usually the last thing on my mind. I wish I could say that my first impulse is to land a big wet one on him when he walks in the door. Unfortunately, I got into the habit of brushing off his affection and asking him to help corral the kids while I get dinner on the table. If I've spent the last thirty minutes prepping dinner with one toddler at my feet and another asking a question every ten seconds, it's not enticing to have a touchy husband lingering while I'm stirring something on the stove. All I want physically is a peck on the cheek and to hear the words, "C'mon, kids. Let's get out of Mom's way and play in the family room."
Philip, sweet husband that he is, usually conceded to this being his homecoming and made the most of it. After our conversation about love languages, I realized that I'm not doing a good enough job of initiating romantic physical touch, especially for his homecoming each day. Kimberly Hahn beautifully calls us to imitate Christ serving His bride, the Church, by serving our husbands.
This is the call to follow Christ to serve rather than to be served. It means affirming your spouse, even when you feel unappreciated. It means asking him what you can do for him, expressing the love languages of gift giving or acts of service, even though you are tired from serving your children all day.After talking with some other mothers with young children, I learned I am not the only one who struggles to make my husband's daily homecoming a beautiful experience. One of my friends said that her grandmother gave her some advice that has stuck with her. She said to give your husband a 90-second kiss everyday when he comes home. This sounds simple enough, but, really, when was the last time you greeted your husband with a 90-second kiss? Go ahead. Set a timer. Even if you don't feel "into it" when you start the kiss, surely by the 10 or 15 second mark you'll remember that you two "still have it." Philip tells me to keep taking that friend's advice!
Kimberly Hahn's mother went to a lot of effort to make her husband's daily homecoming special.
My mom prepared for my dad to come home from work. About fifteen minutes before he arrived, she put on fresh makeup and perfume, changed her outfit if it was dirty, and brushed her teeth. She was ready to greet him.
I know that this is tough when you are making dinner and caring for little ones. However, welcoming your husband home sets the tone for dinner and the evening.Little by little, I am trying to adopt this practice. When Philip calls from the hospital to say that he's on his way home, I announce to the kids, "Daddy's coming home! Let's get ready!" I brush my teeth, freshen up my makeup, and change my clothes if they're dirty from the day. We tidy up the family room if it needs it. If I have the time and remember, I light a candle or pour each of us a glass of wine.
To ensure I have this time to get ready before Philip gets home, I'm doing a few things:
- Give the kids only 1 small snack a day after their afternoon nap around 4:00 p.m.
- With 1 small snack at 4:00 p.m., my kids are still hungry for dinner, but they're not soooooo starving that they're cranky for dinner and can't wait for Philip to get home
- Save the kids' tv time for dinner making time
- This way, they'll want to watch their show at this time and won't be tempted to wander into the kitchen or need me
- Work smart, not hard. Don't make this already stressful time more stressful by making dinner preparation take longer!
- Do the meal prep work the night before or during naptime
- Crockpot recipes make dinnertime nearly stress-free
- Oven recipes are great because you can wash dishes as dinner bakes
- Freezer friendly meals are your friend! Double your recipes so that you can freeze the extra one and any leftovers.
The kids love it, too. 2-year-old Janie absolutely adores "getting ready" for Daddy to walk in the door. She watches me reapply my makeup and always has to get her own fresh chapstick. 15-month-old Walt follows us from room to room and shrieks when Monty barks to tell us that Philip's car is pulling in. When we hear the garage door open, the kids run to the gate at the top of the stairs to greet Philip. After Philip and the kids have their moment, Philip and I can have our big welcome home hug and kiss.
It sounds so simple, and it is, but dropping everything to prepare for this moment and give Philip a real welcome home kiss shows him that I still value physical touch and that he is my vocation. The kids relish witnessing the love between us, too. As we're smooching, Janie always says, "Awwwwww, Mommy and Daddy love each other!" She usually ends up between us, squeezing me and Philip together to get in on the love fest.
Not surprisingly, Philip loves the change. He'd much rather have a wife excited to greet him than the old me who would brush off his attempts at affection at the stove and point him toward the kids. When I try to serve Philip's real need for physical touch when he walks in the door, he in turn is more willing to serve my genuine need for space and a little silence as I finish making the meal. Kimberly Hahn wrote about a mother's need for silence at the end of the day:
Even though many women tend to talk more than men, if your children have talked to you from morning till night, you may crave some silence.
My children were great conversationalists from early on, saying wonderful and cute things. By day's end I had listened a lot. Scott (her husband) would ask, "Do you want to listen to a tape? Or do you want me to put on some music? Do you want to talk?"
My response was, "No, I just want to sit on the sofa for about fifteen minutes and be quiet, with no one touching me and no one talking to me." After I drank in the silence, I would find Scott in his study and enjoy our conversation. If the need for listening was urgent, however, I relinquished my "right" to do things the way I wanted and instead focused on serving my beloved.After Philip changes, he takes the kids with him downstairs or they play in the family room so that I can have a little breathing room. I crave silence by day's end, and Philip knows this. Giving me a little space to cook and work in silence while he plays with the kids helps me to recharge and to be a better conversationalist over dinner.
We think everyone else wants to be loved exactly how we do. Learning that Philip and I don't have the same needs at the end of the day and finding out how we can best love each other is changing the tone of our evenings together. Little by little, these small changes are helping to bring back the spark that came so easily in the beginning of our romance. Philip and I are still twenty-somethings, but these little things are helping me to be the wife of Philip's youth from Proverbs 5.
"Let your fountain be blessed, / and rejoice in the wife of your youth, / a lovely deer, a graceful doe. / Let her affection fill you at all times with delight, / be infatuated always with her love" (Proverbs 5: 18-19).
|Philip, seeing me for the first time on our wedding day as I walked down the aisle|