When I was going to college over 25 years ago, I heard a wonderful idea on how to strengthen a marital relationship. The activity is called “Loving Things.” The concept is simple—find out how your spouse wants to be shown love and then do it. It is normal to show love the way we want to be shown love. For example, if I want to be shown love by a meaningful touch, then I will give love to others through a sincere physical gesture, thinking of course that others would like to receive love just the same way I do. The problem is that it may not be true. I could be very affectionate with my wife and it could do very little for her emotionally. I could expend a great deal of effort but have it convey very little love. The end result from that activity would be confusion and frustration for us both.
The book “The Five Love Languages” identifies several different ways in general that people like to receive love. To be effective in our love giving we must speak the receiver’s love language. In order to speak the right language we must first learn that language.
I have developed a handout I give to my clients that outlines the “Loving Things” process. I give out one handout to each of the couple I have in my office. I ask each of them to take some time after the session to think about how they would like their spouse to show love to them and then write down as many things as they can identify on the paper. At an agreed upon time they are to swap papers and clarify the items to ensure they are well understood. Then the homework assignment is completed with my challenge to do loving things for their spouse.
I encourage my clients to make the list as long as possible and that it is not permissible to put only one or two things on the list. That turns the items into demands that must be done. By receiving the list, there is no implied agreement that every item on the list will be done soon or even done at all. I see “Loving Things” list as a smorgasbord of possibilities. I encourage my clients to give their spouse much to choose from.
The promise of doing a “Loving Thing” is that each activity we do for our spouse will be effective. If you have only five minutes to do a “Loving Thing,” then pick one off the list that only requires five minutes. If you want to plan a major event, then choose an item that takes more time. Be it a small thing or a large one, if it comes off the list you know it will hit the target each time, no matter which one is chosen.
Each “Loving Thing” done makes a deposit in the account of our relationship. Making regular deposits in our relationship account is essential for it to grow and to become as rich as it can be.
Sometimes we put a dollar’s worth of effort into showing love only for it to be received as a nickel’s worth of love. However, if we do an item off our spouse’s “Loving Things” list, we are guaranteed to get our effort’s worth. In fact, we may do a nickel’s worth of effort and it is received as a dollar’s worth of love! That, my friend, is the benefit of using a “Loving Things” list.
Bob Stahn has a general counseling practice. He specializes in relationship counseling and most recently PTSD and trauma.