John and I have been married for 46 years. Being together and walking through life together for this amount of time means you work well as a team, We pick up each other's dropped balls and fill in for the other's weaknesses. I can see in his chaos where things are and keep the admin of daily life covered. He clears up gladly - worth every dish that I have cooked and we've enjoyed together. His calm and quiet mostly balance my need for adventure and people.
But even now it's all too easy to misread the signals....
I had started to wonder aloud if the garden is too big – his response to my questioning simply meant to just work harder and attempt to dig the whole garden over! What I actually wanted was to talk about the what if and when of getting older, to start to think about other options. We had clearly 'missed' each other and we probably both felt misunderstood.
I read Dr Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages and John picked up on the snippets I read aloud. It has been helpful for us in casting some light on these moments when we completely ‘miss’ each other in our approaches and in our responses. The book helped me to see that my ‘love language’ language is more quality time so just sitting down and talking to me and letting me know that he understands my worries would have been enough for me. I wasn’t really worried about the garden, it was really an underlying bigger conversation about getting older. Just talking this through would have been enough for me and the weeds could have stayed put. From John’s side, his love language is ‘acts of service’. His way of showing me he loves me is trying to show he’s heard my worries by doing something to make the situation better, in this case by digging the garden.
After all these years it's still hard to imagine ourselves right into the other's heart and see what is the best way to show love to them. I’m not sure we will ever completely get there but amazingly after these years we are both still wanting to love and care for each other. There are times I have felt like I have really learnt to love John well, loved him in the way he feels loved and these moments are like gold.