Alive With the Glory of Love

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would write a post about someone I love very much and  someone I was fortunate enough to see this past weekend.

Yep, as many of you either know or have guessed, I went to see Jesse this past weekend in Seattle.

You see, Jesse got a job. He got a great, kick ass, absolutely wonderful job working as a programmer for Amazon. He got this job in November of last year and moved to Seattle on December 1. I haven’t written about it much because I didn’t think it was really worth mentioning. We made this decision together.

I figure the trip to Seattle was worth mentioning though, especially since I flew 3,000+ miles to see my Valentine.

So far, it hasn’t been bad at all. We use FaceTime on the iPhone everynight to chat about our days and basically do what we used to do sitting face to face on the couch watching Criminal Minds. The hardest thing has been the time difference. He gets out of work around 9 p.m. (about 6 p.m. on the west coast) and I’m already getting ready for bed. I probably stay up late than I want to most nights to talk to him and he spends a good chunk of his evenings watching Criminal Minds solo while I am slumbering 3 hours ahead of him.

Yes, that is Jesse turning his fluorescent light into a light saber. Some things will never change.

This weekend was my first time seeing his new apartment. We got to see a lot of cool things and eat a lot of really wonderful food. I also drank enough coffee to caffeinate a large moose for 24 days, but that is neither here nor there. Except to say that this will only be fuel to my addiction to coffee. The smell, the availability, the deliciousness of this beverage runs rampant in Seattle. I can’t wait to drink myself daily into a latte-induced hypermania. THEY GIVE YOU SIMPLE SYRUP FOR FREE. You don’t have to pay for it or ask. It’s just there. Sitting out. Waiting to be added to all coffee-based beverages.

Anyway, I graduate from my master’s program on August 4, 2012. The plan is for me to move to Seattle on August 5, 2012. It’s a whole new life for us, but one I can’t wait to start. In the meantime, I’m soaking up my time with friends and family. I’m enjoying every sunny and humid day I spend in this state. I’ve spent 24 years here, so I’m sure another seven months can’t hurt.

“I’ll dream about you. I will not doubt you with the passing of time.” — Say Anything

Holding Grudges: Yes or No?

Time for the post that’s been rolling around in the ole’ skull. For the majority of my life, I’ve been a grudge holder. Even when I was a wee bitty Jen, I would cut ties with anyone who stole my Pogs, made fun of my purple Huffy, or decided to eat my Starburst I bought with my well-saved allowance. Of course, this would  change when I forgot about my Pogs and moved onto Tamagachis or whatever new thing was cool the next week. As I aged though, my penchant for being unforgiving was amplified.

Hi everyone, My name is Jennifer Bingaman and I’m a bridge-burner.

I’ve psychoanalyzed myself to death about this and I’ve tried to figure out why I hold grudges. Part of it I think is just hard-wired in me. I remember being incredibly distrustful at a young age with my paranoia only increasing as I grew older. Part of it is that I get hurt easily. I let myself get wounded. I take things incredibly personal. When I get hurt and treated poorly, I wonder what it says about my value as a person.

So, if someone has proven they can hurt me once, why the hell would I forgive them and let them do it to me again? I know I said people can change (and I believe it), but my actions have never really indicated that in my personal life. I would just rather lose a so-so friend/partner than bother to allow myself to get burned again.

When I started my program in counseling, I had burned a lot of bridges. Some were long overdue. I had been in the habit of being friends with people who had tenuous loyalties to me and really just didn’t see our friendships as something worth fighting for. I also didn’t really like who I was when I spent time with these people. So, c’est la vie. It was time to grow up.

There was one bridge I had burned that tugged at me. I was so hurt and so confused as to why our relationship had degraded and I had been so vulnerable. This person had attempted to be my friend after our falling out, but I was not having it. Remember that I had a lifetime of learning not to trust once I had been hurt. I basically told this person to eat shit and die (along with a lot of other not nice things, but things I felt were very, very true).

Months after our falling out, I was sitting in my Theories class. I was still very hurt over this relationship and really ruminated on a regular basis about it. I let it eat at me and it definitely ruined my days more often than it didn’t. I couldn’t let my hurt and anger go.

My professor began speaking about the psychology of forgiveness. She shared what I believe is Dr. Frederic Luskin‘s research on forgiveness.

Turns out, forgiveness is a crazy, awesome thing (most of the time — exceptions include situations like domestic violence).

My professor encouraged us to write a letter of forgiveness. We didn’t have to send it if we didn’t want to send it. We just had to get it out.

The problem was, I had to find something to forgive. I had to work toward it. I had to see the error in my ways. I had to take responsibility for allowing myself to be treated poorly, I had to take responsibility for saying the unkind things I said, I had to see something forgivable in the other person.

So I wrote my letter.

When I was done, I honestly felt relieved. I felt like I had spent so much time consuming myself with negative emotions and thoughts on this relationship gone wrong and I was finally rid of it. I had let it go. It was no longer my concern.

Turns out, forgiveness is incredibly therapeutic. It reduces anger (check!) and hurt-related depression and stress (check!). The more forgiveness (including self-forgiveness) is practiced, the more internal quiet we have. The more we open ourselves up to better experiences. Sure, we’re bruised. Sure, we’re hesitant to trust. However, we’re also wiser. We know better. We don’t have to become doormats again, if we choose and act against that behavior in our new relationships. We’re also free to move on without emotional turmoil and baggage wearing us down. We don’t have to be friends with these people again to forgive them, we just have to move on.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha

I will attest that I still struggle with forgiveness. With 23 years of grudge-holding under my belt, it’s taking time. I am constantly working on it. I’ve made better friends, gotten in healthier relationships, and I’ve learned to get the garbage out of my mind and heart (for the most part). I’m better off because of it.

What about you guys? What are your experiences with forgiveness?

The Love Languages

The Five Love Languages were developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, a marriage and family therapist who has been in practice for over 30 years. His wiki page says he has a radio show that’s syndicated on over 100 stations and his counseling background is in the Christian church.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, Dr. Chapman knows his stuff. I was introduced to the Five Love Languages at the beginning of my first semester of graduate school and I have since used his ideas to formulate my own conclusions about my needs in a relationship. His book about the different love languages is a New York Times bestseller, so you might be familiar with his theory.

Before I explain the Five Love Languages, I want to share that this approach is about truly understanding your partner. The goal of the Love Languages is to find out what your partner needs in a relationship and modify your behavior to accommodate those needs. Relationships are about changing. The goal is to become a better person and partner as you grow with someone. You’ll see what I’m talking about when I blow your mind in 3… 2… 1…

Okay, go. (and take the Five Love Languages quiz here to find out your love language)

Words of Affirmation“Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.”

Quality Time“In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.”

Receiving Gifts“Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.”

Acts of Service “Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.”

Physical Touch“This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.”

*I pasted the definitions from the Five Love Languages site. It’s just easier and that way and I think Dr. Chapman would prefer it if I didn’t misquote him.

So, based on my last post, I bet you can guess what my love language is…

If you guessed that correctly, congrats! It was a Daily Double. I hope you made sure to make a wager hearty enough to beat that damn machine WATSON.

Don’t get me wrong, now. I’m a big fan of all of them. Right now, I’m a big fan of receiving gifts.

Alright, heyheyhey now. It’s not that shameless if a child gets a pair of them, too. Stop looking at me with your judgmental eyes.

Seriously though, the Five Love Languages are NOT (notnotnotnot) an excuse to discount the other languages that are not dominant for yourself or your partner. All need to be present in a relationship for it to thrive. However, the primary love language is the one that should be considered strongly when hoping to convey your love to your partner.

Moving on.

The Five Love Languages are a great step in understanding how to make your partner happy. They aren’t a method to reinforce the need to stay resolutely where you are at. If you are an Acts of Services person, you likely show your love that way because that is what you would want.

This is misguided. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to do those things, too.

The goal is to convey love and make your partner feel loved. The goal is not to take this quiz and turn to your partner and say “SEE! YOU JUST DON’T SEE THE THINGS I DO FOR YOU!” and then try to force them to see all the times you do show them love. While it’s eye-opening to know what your partner’s love language is so you can understand their attempts to communicate with you better, it is not permission to continue what you’re doing and expect to just be understood.

(source)

The Love Languages are an opportunity to deepen your bond with your partner and grow yourself as a person by finding new ways to show how much you care about them.

Speaking honestly (and with a tinge of my personal opinion), appealing to your partner’s love languages just makes your life easier. When you show your love in a way that is understood, your partner is nicer to you and things are just smoother. We want to feel like our partners “get us”. This is the way we do that. It sounds kind of hard and if you’re operating from two different love languages, it can be. It just gets so much easier though. I promise. So, get out there and do the dishes, buy someone that thing they’ve wanted forever but won’t spend their own money on, turn off the TV and listen, grab a hand, and say “I love you because ________ (insert cheesy but true line about your partner’s wonderful personality). On your mark, get set… go!

If you take the quiz, leave your love language in the comments!

If you’re feeling really adventurous, tell me about the best time your partner (or someone else) appealed to your love language.

If you’re feeling really, really open, tell me about the best time you appealed to your partner’s love language.

Post Edit: For Orlando or Florida Residents: My counseling colleagues are offering a free workshop on the Love Languages on January 27th at the University of Central Florida’s Marriage and Family Research Institute. More information can be found on the MFRI events page here.