From "The Five Love Languages" By Gary Chapman
It isn’t enough to just be in the same room with someone. A key ingredient in giving your spouse quality time is giving them focused attention, especially in this era of many distractions. Some husbands and wives think they are spending time together when, in reality, they are only living in close proximity. They are in the same house at the same time, but they are not together. A wife who is texting while her husband tries to talk to her is not giving him quality time, because he does not have her full attention. Quality time does not mean that we have to spend our together moments gazing into each other’s eyes. It means that we are doing something together and that we are giving our full attention to the other person. The activity in which we are both engaged is incidental. The important thing emotionally is that we are spending focused time with each other. What happens on the emotional level is what matters.
Quality conversation is sympathetic dialogue where two individuals are sharing their experiences, thoughts, feelings, and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. If your spouse’s primary love language is quality time, such dialogue is crucial to his or her emotional sense of being loved. Words of affirmation focus on what we are saying, whereas quality conversation focuses on what we are hearing. If I am sharing my love for you by means of quality time and we are going to spend that time in conversation, it means I will focus on drawing you out, listening sympathetically to what you have to say. I will ask questions, not in a badgering manner but with a genuine desire to understand your thoughts, feelings, and hopes.
Learning to Talk
Quality conversation requires not only sympathetic listening but also self-revelation. When a wife says, “I wish my husband would talk. I never know what he’s thinking or feeling,” she is pleading for intimacy. She wants to feel close to her husband, but how can she feel close to someone whom she doesn’t know? In order for her to feel loved, he must learn to reveal himself. If her primary love language is quality time and her dialect is quality conversation, her emotional love tank will never be filled until he tells her his thoughts and feelings.
Dead Seas and Babbling Brooks
I have observed two basic personality types. The first I call the “Dead Sea.” In the little nation of Israel, the Sea of Galilee flows south by way of the Jordan River into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea goes nowhere. It receives but it does not give. This personality type receives many experiences, emotions, and thoughts throughout the day. They have a large reservoir where they store that information, and they are perfectly happy not to talk. If you say to a Dead Sea personality, “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you talking tonight?” he will probably answer, “Nothing’s wrong. What makes you think something’s wrong?” And that response is perfectly honest. He is content not to talk. He could drive from Chicago to Detroit and never say a word and be perfectly happy.
On the other extreme is the “Babbling Brook.” For this personality, whatever enters into the eye gate or the ear gate comes out the mouth gate and there are seldom sixty seconds between the two. Whatever they see, whatever they hear, they tell. In fact, if no one is at home to talk to, they will call someone else. “Do you know what I saw? Do you know what I heard?” If they can’t get someone on the telephone, they may talk to themselves because they have no reservoir. Many times a Dead Sea marries a Babbling Brook. That happens because when they are dating, it is a very attractive match.
If you are a Dead Sea and you date a Babbling Brook, life is easy. All you have to do is nod your head and say, “Uh-huh,” and she will fill up the whole evening and you will go home saying, “What a wonderful person.” On the other hand, if you are a Babbling Brook and you date a Dead Sea, you will have an equally wonderful evening because Dead Seas are the world’s best listeners. You will babble for three hours. He will listen intently to you, and you will go home saying, “What a wonderful person.” You attract each other. But five years after marriage, the Babbling Brook wakes up one morning and says, “We’ve been married five years, and I don’t know him.” The Dead Sea is saying, “I know her too well. I wish she would stop the flow and give me a break.” One way to learn new patterns is to establish a daily sharing time in which each of you will talk about three things that happened to you that day and how you feel about them. I call that the “Minimum Daily Requirement” for a healthy marriage. If you will start with the daily minimum, in a few weeks or months you may find quality conversation flowing more freely between you.
In addition to the basic love language of quality time, or giving your spouse your undivided attention, there is another dialect called quality activities. The emphasis is on being together, doing things together, giving each other undivided attention. The purpose is to experience something together, to walk away from it feeling “He cares about me. He was willing to do something with me that I enjoy, and he did it with a positive attitude.” That is love, and for some people it is love’s loudest voice. The essential ingredients in a quality activity are: (1) at least one of you wants to do it, (2) the other is willing to do it, and (3) both of you know why you are doing it—to express love by being together.
Speak The Language
1. Maintain eye contact when your spouse is talking. That keeps your mind from wandering and communicates that he/she has your full attention.
2. Don’t listen to your spouse and do something else at the same time. Remember, quality time is giving someone your undivided attention.
3. Listen for feelings. Ask yourself, “What emotion is my spouse experiencing?” When you think you have the answer, confirm it. For example, “It sounds to me like you are feeling disappointed because I forgot____________.” That gives him the chance to clarify his feelings. It also communicates that you are listening intently to what he is saying.
4. Observe body language. Sometimes a person's body language speaks one message while words speak another. Ask for clarification to make sure you know what she is really thinking and feeling.
5. Refuse to interrupt. Recent research has indicated that the average individual listens for only seventeen seconds before interrupting and interjecting his own ideas. If I give you my undivided attention while you are talking, I will refrain from defending myself or hurling accusations at you or dogmatically stating my position. My goal is to discover your thoughts and feelings. My objective is not to defend myself or to set you straight. It is to understand you.
6. Ask your spouse for a list of five activities that he would enjoy doing with you. Make plans to do one of them each month for the next five months.
7. Ask your spouse where she most enjoys sitting when talking with you. The next week, text her one afternoon and say, “I want to make a date with you one evening this week to sit on the porch and talk. Which night and what time would be best for you?”
8. Think of an activity your spouse enjoys, but which brings little pleasure to you: NASCAR, browsing in flea markets, working out. Tell your spouse that you are trying to broaden your horizons and would like to join him in this activity sometime this month. Set a date and give it your best effort.
9. Make time every day to share with each other some of the events of the day. When you spend more time on Facebook than you do listening to each other, you can end up more concerned about your hundred “friends” than about your spouse.