Wednesday, January 23, 2008
How full is your love tank?
New Year’s Eve we came home from a 5-hour road trip with two sick kids. When we opened the door of our house, intense heat blasted us. It was over 115 degrees in there. The walls, floors, and furniture—everything was blazing hot. Turns out our programmable thermostat (installed to save money and the environment!) had broken and, for the four days we were gone, had caused the furnace to crank up to full capacity. We loaded the sick kids back in the car and took them out to eat, while we aired out the house. Seven hours later, with all windows and doors open to the winter air, our house was still in the high eighties. We felt so blessed that no one was hurt, that our house didn’t burn down, and that very little was damaged. Those melted candles looked pretty cool. We rang in the New Year hot but happy.
The next day it became clear that our kids were getting sicker, so a trip to Urgent Care followed. Imagine how full it was on New Year’s Day, after much nighttime revelry. The kids were good sports, and soon we had 2 diagnoses: strep throat for one, scarlet fever for the other. Yay. The newfangled antibiotics had $50 co-pays, and my chances of getting the kids back to school for at least part of the post-Christmas break week looked glum. They’d been out for over 2 weeks and I was more than ready! The beauty of the antibiotics meant the kids felt better fast, but the bad news was that diarrhea ensued. My daughter was showering off after such a bout when, for no reason and with a deafening crash, the heavy glass shower door exploded in thousands of pieces all around her! Fortunately, she was not hurt. I grabbed her fast enough to lift her out of there so she wouldn’t step on shards of glass. She only got one small cut on her foot and, miraculously, no glass got in her face or eyes. We are so grateful she is okay.
I was amazed after this terrible week at how my husband and I weren’t at each other’s throats, or utterly defeated by these crazy happenings. We have short fuses when it comes to frustration, messiness, or any sort of chaos. I think we have 2 kids because any more would push us right over the edge. I cry and stew when someone makes a mean face at me in traffic, and my husband gives up when trying to return pants. We are apt to turn on each other like caged tigers for something as simple as a missed newspaper delivery or my plummeting blood sugar.
I think I figured out the reason these seemingly large events didn’t leave us grumping on each other. Our love tanks were full. Have you read Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages? My husband and I read it early in our marriage, agreed with everything it said, and pretty much failed to apply any of it with any regularity. The premise is that each person likes to be loved in different ways. It is useless trying to give your partner love in a way that doesn’t work for him or her. The different “love languages” are quality time, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, and physical touch. My husband and I learned that each of us feel loved by being served-- no big surprise for two youngest children! The problem is, we both want to be served, not do the serving.
We also learned about “the love tank.” If you feel loved, your love tank is full and it helps you in every area of your life. Unfortunately, many married people walk around w/ empty tanks. I’ve got to tell you that my husband and I have days, weeks, and even years when the gauge hovers down around E. After all, kids, jobs, pets, laziness, and too much tv can take their toll, and marriage often goes on the back burner.
The days before all of our New Year’s craziness, my husband and I got our love tanks filled up. It was our anniversary, and he arranged for my sister to keep the kids AND THE DOG overnight so we could go to a beautiful Victorian bed and breakfast. The fact that he arranged the child and dog care made me feel loved (and served) and the fact that I picked the B & B and the room and went along enthusiastically despite our sick kids made him feel loved (and served). We went out to lunch and dinner, browsed an antique store and spent excellent quality time in our room, if you get my drift. We were away less than 24 hours, but it was a HUGE change from our day-to-day routine.
I haven’t talked to my husband about my observation yet—we haven’t really had a lot of quality time since, but I think if we would just put the effort in to serve each other and keep those love tanks full, or even half full, we’d be better able to weather the storms of life, both big and small.