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  • Writer's pictureKirsten Dawn Johnson

Love Languages Remodeled and Re- Defined!

When you first glance at this family photo, do you see bliss and joy?

Is it easy to think that only happiness exists in their home?

Does it really?...

Honestly, no. It is a family full of ups and downs, good days and bad days, just like any other.

If you look closely behind this photo you will see a man overwhelmed with work, a child who, minutes before, stole mom's eyeliner and had written all over her picture perfect clothes, and a mom frantically washing out and blow drying the stain, then rushing out the door like a mad woman. And ooops!!!... I forgot my children!!! Yep... I was headed out the door when I realized my 3 year old and 18 month old were still in the house. I felt like a terrible mom that was too exhausted, too ugly and running too late for these pictures to have even a small hope of turning out alright. And to top it all, behind those smiles you would find a couple who were once deeply in love with each other, now experiencing a trying year of apathy, depression, and discussions of wanting out of the relationship itself.

Did you first see this turmoil when you looked at these beautifully orchestrated photos?

Me neither!

In a world where we see people showing smiles even when they are dying inside. In a world where it feels wrong to talk openly about our pain. And in a world where several people seem to look down their noses at those who struggle in relationships rather than offering comforting words that they are not alone. Isn't it about time we start sharing???...

Sharing our pains, struggles and weaknesses, alongside our joys, triumphs and successes! This is a beautiful island where true acceptance and unconditional love dwell. This is where we allow ourselves to show up in all our glorious imperfections and ignore those who would judge us. This is a divine place where lasting friendships occur and non-judgmental, deep empathy can thrive. To love without expectation of a return, to mourn with those that mourn, and to be vulnerable enough to say "yes, I too have been in the trenches"... this, my friends, is one of the greatest balms of healing we can give to each other as a human race!

Just as a child wears their emotions on the outside to show those they love the hugs they are desperate for, can we too show our tears on the outside more often? Can we learn to become more vulnerable in order to link arms and not suffer alone?

Brandon and I think so! And here is one story we'd like to offer the world. One perspective that has helped our marriage and friendship and trickled into various relationships in our lives, and blessed them.

So let us ask you a question.... have you ever remodeled an old home? Well we have, or should I say, are currently in a war zone of construction and demolitions, destroying something here while building something there. Is it a fun process? On days when we let overwhelm, high expectations and perfection impede our work, then no, it is anything but fun. Those who have been through the excitement and challenge of renovating a home can fully attest to such emotional turmoil.

In the end, was the remodel worth all the blood, sweat and tears? On days we could see and grasp the full vision of what we were creating, simplified the process, and allowed mistakes to be apart of the beautiful masterpiece in the making, then yes, it was ALL worth it!!!

Now let me ask you an even more important question...

Have you ever remodeled a relationship? What would that look like? Where would you start?

Well we have been there too!... Or should I say, we are currently in a war zone of construction and demolitions, taking out the things that are no longer working here and building up new structures of communication there. Is it a fun process? On days when we let overwhelm, high expectations and perfection impeded our relationship, then no, it is anything but fun. For those who have experienced the excitement and challenge of loving another human being, this process may be one all too well associated with pain.

In the end, was the relationship remodel worth all the blood, sweat and tears? On days we could see and grasp the full vision of what we were creating, simplified the process, and allowed mistakes to be apart of the beautiful masterpiece in the making, then yes, it was ALL worth it!!!

So here is a small piece of our recent experience with a re-model, both on our home AND in our relationship.

It is hard to say for certain at which point we began to lose it. Losing the love, losing the connection, and even losing the friendship. It seemed that we slipped into it completely unaware and off guard, like watching the sun slowly disappear over the horizon. The sun would always be shining, right? The love we had could never slip out of sight, right? Wrong! We were suddenly left in the dark, uncertain how the sun had gone down so fast. Day in and day out of merely existing, surviving and striving with any energy we had left to work it out. Soon I was experiencing debilitating depression and Brandon took over as cook, cleaner, parent, and provider. Then I felt better and Brandon experienced severe depression while I took over as cook, cleaner, parent and provider. All the while we continued to just endure each other's apathetic, worn down presence. No light, no love, no passionate flame. It had all but gone out. Or so it seemed. We were left feeling defeated, hurt and alone. No one understands this! Look at all the happy family posts on social media. Look at all our friends who seem so happy and thriving perfectly in there relationships. And we were left ashamed. What was wrong with us? What was wrong with me? What was to be done?

As the days went on I thought the glimmer of light, joy and love had permanently left Brandon's eyes. There was no hope of rekindling that flame. Then one day it happened, he came home from work with a twinkle in his eye I had not let myself hope to see ever again. My heart was thrilled... had his love for me returned? Will we be as in love as we once were? For the first time in a year I had a small glimmer of joy.

My heart fell as I heard the root of his enthusiasm. It was not his wife. He said, "Let's re-do the flooring throughout the basement!!!" To which I replied with disappointment, "Sure! Yay!" I put on a smile that lasted for weeks. Proud of myself? At the time yes. However, now I understand that such silence prolonged unnecessary hurt.

You see... I had read Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages and I knew full well that my love language was Physical Touch and Quality Time. And with Brandon working long hours, coming home and doing nothing but focus on his home renovation projects, these were not getting fulfilled. No cuddling on the couch watching episodes of Studio C and laughing together, no going for walks hand in hand, and no time together just to have a regular conversation. None! I felt hurt, abandoned, and frustrated.

After a few months of this, silent tears and even more depression, I finally confronted Brandon with words that were not optimal. I carefully outlined all the reasons why his behavior had been so damaging. I was "communicating" my feelings, right? So why did it not seem to help? Why did he spend even MORE time away and buried in his work? What was to be done? I could wait for the floor to be completed. Yes. But then there would always be another project. What did I do that he no longer wished to spend time with me? I felt so alone and so abandoned! I continued every chance I could to let him know my feelings on that awful flooring project of his. I continued to complain about his long hours at work.

Then one day it happened. Clarity! And an aspect of the love languages I had never stopped to consider.

For those unfamiliar with this book, there are five love languages that every human being requires in order to feel and show connection with another. One of these is the way you are MOST apt to use to show someone you love them. One of these is the way you MOST abundantly feel loved.

Which one do you use to SHOW love the most? Which one do you FEEL loved by the most? Take ample time to think about and observe yourself and others. Sometimes its not the ones you originally think. Here they are...

1. Words of Affirmation

2. Acts of Service

3. Gift Giving

4. Quality Time Together

5. Physical Touch

My aha moment was when I realized.... we could be trying to reach each other by using the wrong love language. We were communicating, yes, but Brandon was speaking Chinese and I was speaking Pig Latin.

I was so focused on the way I received love best (through physical touch and quality time together), I had assumed that the ONLY WAY to give and receive love on both of our ends was through physical touch and quality time together. Makes total sense in my brain.

So I simply went downstairs and asked Brandon one night, "How do you best feel that someone loves you?" To which he thought for a little bit and replied.... "If they tell me I'm doing alright and they appreciate me."

RED FLAG!.... It was NOT physical touch or time together that made HIM feel my love! WHAT??? WOW.... talk about course correction on my part.

Then I asked, "How do you normally show love?" To which he replied, "Serving you! Kirsten, this flooring, my job, my time away from you and the girls, I do because It's the only way I know how to show you in a big way that I truly care."

RED FLAG!!!.... It was NOT physical touch or time together that he thought would be optimal to show me he loved me. He truly and genuinely thought he was doing above and beyond his best to SHOW love and so was I. Nothing was "broken", no flame had gone out and no huge insanely complex renovation of our relationship was required. It was simple clarity we needed! It was a simple re-defining of the love languages and tuning into each other's channel for love and acceptance that made all the difference. You see...

Here I had been thinking he hated me and was escaping my presence, when all along he was using his own love language he felt was best to show deeply how much he loved me.

Here I had been begging him to stop his project and complaining about the hours he spent working so hard, when all he wanted to hear were uplifting, loving words of gratitude and affirmation.

Here he was trying his hardest to serve me to show he cared, when all he needed to do was give me a hug and take me out to dinner.



So this is what we did!!!....

1. Simplified big time!!! Threw out ALL expectations for each other! That's right... expectations are based on a rocky foundation of uncertainty, the other person showing up for you the way you want, and often are not communicated properly nor received without hurt and overwhelm.

2. We allowed ourselves time and patience to figure out how to align our love languages!

3. We started with simply being OK with the way the other person chose to show their love! Accepting their love the way it was given and the way they communicated it best! And honoring their efforts!

4. We made a joint agreement, based on ample grace and love, that we would strive to take moments out of every single day to do one thing to show the other we love them in their PREFERRED love language. So I began telling Brandon how much I appreciate him and love his hard work on behalf of our family. To which he then set aside time to hug me and ask how my day went.

5. Simply show up as best we could in the relationship, regardless of how the other was behaving on any given day.

Moving forward...

When days were hard, as they continued to be, we chose to love anyway!

When our love languages were out of alignment again and again and again, we chose to love anyway! And with time, course correct.

When we felt off kilter or the flame had died, we put on our "God glasses", seeing the other the way Heaven sees them, and we chose to love anyway.

When mistakes and hurt were still a natural part of the relationship, we let go of shame and made way for radical acceptance of human folly.

And lastly, when we felt a lack in our needs being met, we did not seek it out in each other, but sought what we needed most through heartfelt prayer to a God who loves!

And we found love!

Love greater than anyone on earth can ever give us! And that love came into our home, our family and our lives with more power than you can possibly imagine! It didn't matter that we felt weak or lost or were struggling. When we turned it all over to God, asked to feel divine love from him no matter what our relationship status was that day, we had joy! We had clarity! And we had a divine purpose in our minds, a heavenly peace in our hearts and an empowering feeling that we can do, say and be anything regardless of the distance we felt with each other. When simple prayer was given to change our thoughts about our heartache and pain, God came into our lives more powerfully than you can imagine.

When God touches a marriage.... it lives! When God touches a divorce, it is not quite as difficult to go through. When God touches any relationship of any kind, there is no shame in the imperfections. Only love for the messy journey!

So if you are dealing with a difficult relationship, know you are never alone! Whether you see it or not, behind every smile and every "perfect" relationship, there are battles you no nothing about You are not alone! So give yourself grace with the process! Every person, every relationship, be it mother to daughter, father to son, husband to wife, brother to sister, need not think a relationship be perfect in order to be beautiful! It is the messy journey of miscommunications, learning to love on the right frequency, making mistakes, saying the wrong things, learning to forgive, the sorrow, the heartache and the hurt, that can cause us to grow in these areas....

1. Choosing to show up how we want to show up.... regardless of the other's actions.

2. Doing our best to re-define and communicate in the right love language, whether it is received or not.

3. Turning to God for the things we cannot control. With God all things are possible!... either to mend a relationship or to mend the broken hearts that occur in situations of hurt. Either way, let him in to the process!! And let him bring healing and love into your life that is far better than anything we can know on earth!

Therefore, trust that the relationships that seem broken in your own life, can be restored! Perhaps not always to your own expectations, but they can become even more beautiful. Look at the Liberty Bell as an example. When the crack first occurred it was a tragedy. Yet fast forward hundreds of years later... That same crack has added to its fame and its story has been told to millions. It is a thing of beauty! And so too, are your relationships. Embrace the cracks that you will one day look back on and realize were a necessary and divine part of the plan for your life.

Lastly, I want to leave you with my favorite quote from C.S. Lewis, The House!

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Renovations, Re-models or Building from the ground up... Impossible alone! Totally Possible with God!

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