Have you heard of the concept of The Five Love Languages? This book by Gary Chapman was first published in 1992 and is now available in 38 languages, while continuing to be in the top 100 on Amazon. I've found that understanding these differences between us has really improved my relationships, not just with The Engineer, but also my kids and my friends.
The basic concept is that although most of us use each of the languages some of the time, we all have one that is dominant. Learning what language your loved one speaks truly improves communication. The five languages are: touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and giving gifts.
Let's start with mine, touch. I'm a hugger, I love having my hair played with (the little girls I used to baby-sit enjoyed “styling” it), I like to hold hands, cuddle while watching a movie, and of course, ahem (Jenny says PG) spouse type loving. If you're my friend, I'll hug you every time I see you. If you're my son, I'll mess with your hair, give you a great back rub, or snuggle with you when I put you to bed. If you want to give me a gift, I'd love a gift certificate for a massage ;-)
The Engineer speaks acts of service. Are you moving? He'll be there, with his trailer, his mad packing skills and will pretty much run the show if you like. The sweet little widowed grandmas at church get their sprinkler systems winterized for free. He'll grab his compressor, the converted air tank, put it all in his trailer and take care of that for you. I've NEVER mowed a lawn, or had to pay to have my oil changed. Even though this so isn't my language, I've learned that the simple things like making his coffee, or packing his lunch, or even laying out his clothes makes a huge difference for him. I try to have dinner ready when he gets home, and fix his plate for him. He'll turn around and serve me by do the dishes afterwards. And then we cuddle on the couch and watch that movie.
If you're a “words of affirmation” you feel loved when someone encourages you, or praises you for something you've done. Of course you need to HEAR “I love you” because changing your tires, though it's that other person's “acts of service” to you, doesn't say it “loudly” enough. You like to hear “thank-you” and “that was a completely wonderful meal” or “you're so good at that!” whatever that may be.
My Jake needs “quality time” so going out for coffee with Mom is a favorite activity. We chat and sip and laugh. He likes to help The Engineer with projects, because that's what his dad will be doing, and Jake wants to be with him. He's always asking for a sleep-over so that he and his friends can hang out for a long time.
Everyone loves getting gifts, but do you know that someone who seems to always pick the right thing to give you, even though you'd never thought of it? I bet that person's language is gifts. This is my sis. “Oh, well, I was just at Hobby Lobby and I know you like sunflowers, and it was on clearance, so here!” No occasion needed, just a hug in her language. She pays attention to people, and somehow manages to be completely creative in her choices. Not to mention generous. From me? You get a gift card.
If you learn your loved ones' languages, and do your best to speak them, I truly think your relationships can only improve. Then imagine that they are doing that very same thing, trying to speak in yours. We all have our differences, and they say opposites attract, but opposites also have trouble understanding each other some of the time. Making the effort to communicate effectively is a gift to you both.
What's your language?