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Why it’s worth paying attention to love languages and expectations in marriage

Alternately titled: my husband put the groceries away wrong, he doesn’t care about me. 

The other week I shared a photo on Instagram stories of my pantry. It was full of groceries put away in the cupboards….by my husband….in all the ‘wrong places’. 

 

A few years back I probably would have made this into ‘a thing’ about something it didn’t need to be. I would have made it mean he doesn’t care about me because he is flat out ignoring my Pantry Protocol.  On this Instagram story, I said I was grateful he did the grocery shop and that this was me taking a minute to translate his love language. 

Prefer to listen_ This post is also availble on the podcast. Click here for the episode

Let me give you a background about this pantry situation. 

 

I have worked really hard on decluttering our house and our kitchen. Last year, we reduced our pantry space in half. And I had kind of this epiphany that I didn’t need all that pantry space. I was misusing the space. And it kind of turned over a new leaf for me and how I wanted to organize my pantry. 

 

I wanted a system now that I had just this amount of space. I want to make a system to make it work. And I’m talking baskets and labels. Well, I label things with post-it notes and clips and my baskets are all cardboard boxes, but the system is there and the system works and I was proud of the system. 

 

While we’re in isolation, my wonderful husband, when he’s home from work for the week, has been doing the grocery shopping and the meal prep while I work. 

 

He does not appreciate a pantry system. He sees the labels and he thinks, Oh, this is optional. These labels are optional. These bins are optional. I’m just gonna fill up the pantry with the stuff. And there’s onions and potatoes together. There are nuts in the grain section. It’s madness, guys. It’s just madness!

 

Part of me is like, “dude, there’s a system! Things are labelled. You just read the label and then you plop it in the basket”. 

 

Part of me wants to say that, but the other part of me is like, “Man, you went grocery shopping, you made lists, you’ve got all the stuff, you came home and you put everything away”.  I think putting groceries away is probably my least favourite thing to do. And there he is; he’s doing it. And he’s doing it how he wants it. And that’s fine. 

Paying attention to our Love Languages 

 

What I shared on Instagram was, this is me translating our love languages. This is me looking at how he’s loving us and loving our family. And not how I think he needs to show me love or meeting my criteria of love, but paying attention to what he’s doing.

 

Love languages, if you haven’t heard of them, is a concept by Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages. He lists five languages that we speak to each other to express our love. 

marriage, ten year anniversary,

The first one is words of affirmation. Those are verbal compliments expressing your love, your appreciation, that kind of thing. 

 

The next is acts of service and this is my husband going and getting the groceries done. It’s easing my burden and responsibilities because that’s usually something that I would do. 

 

Another is quality time. That’s when you’re spending time together. You get that person’s attention. You get their face. You get their conversation. They’re not stuck on their phones. 

 

One is giving gifts. And we all know the joy of some really great thoughtful gifts that make you feel loved. They make you feel seen and that can be a really powerful love language. 

 

A really common one is physical touch. That can just be as simple as rubbing someone’s back or giving them a hug. 

 

The five love languages are not just for you and your spouse. Gary Chapman has also written The Five Love Languages for Children. I’ve also read it and I found it very insightful and very powerful (here are my thoughts on it).  Each one of our kids is different and there are ways they like to receive love and how they like expressing their love. It’s worth paying attention to as well. 

 

Look for how they are loving you, and how you are expressing love to others

 

There are a few things happening when it comes to love languages. 

 

Let’s imagine it’s you and your spouse. There’s a way you want to receive love. Maybe you’re someone who really loves getting gifts. But then there’s also the way you express your love. Maybe you’re someone who does a lot of words of affirmation. So, the way you express and the way you want to receive love can be different – and the same goes for your partner. There’s a way that they like to receive love, and there’s also a way that they are expressing their love. 

If we’re not careful, we can really block ourselves off from the love available to us when we’re only looking for one specific expression of love all the time. In marriage, every single day, we need to look for the ways that someone is expressing their love to us. 

 

The pitfall of expectations in marriage

We can have this mental checklist of the things they should do – they should do this, I’ve asked them to do that and I expect them to do this. Expectations are fine, especially when they are agreed on as a couple and you’ve talked about it and who takes on which responsibilities and how you want to show up for each other. Those conversations are great to have and expectations can be helpful. 

 

But as I life coach women, what I see happening is that when we have expectations, we need to pay attention to what we’re making it mean when someone doesn’t meet those expectations, especially in marriage. If I have an expectation that my husband helps with the housework, and when he doesn’t, what do I make it mean? 

Do I make it mean that he’s leaving it all to me? He’s not supportive. He’s being selfish. 

Or do I still see that he loves me in different ways, and he doesn’t have to do those things for me to love him back? 

Expectations feel like there’s this transaction in our relationship that you do this for me and I do that for you. But so often we tie our emotions to the expectations. We want our husband to give us words of affirmation so that we can feel good about how our parenting is or how we’re showing up or the work that we’re doing. We want to feel good about that. 

 

Be aware of emotional outsourcing 

If we’re relying on his words of affirmation for that good feeling inside of us, we’re outsourcing it. It’s emotional outsourcing. Someone else has the job of creating that emotion in us.

 

And the thing is, people will let you down. People will say the wrong thing. Or they’re just in their own world having their own experience not really thinking about ‘how can I meet this other person’s emotional needs?’. This is not something that people are actively thinking about because we’re all genuinely concerned with meeting our own emotional needs all the time. 

 

When we’re outsourcing that job of meeting our emotional needs to others, it sets us up for disappointment. It also sets us up for not learning the skills to do it ourselves, for not taking responsibility for doing it ourselves. 

 

In marriage, when we have expectations on what other people do and how other people show up and when they don’t do that, then it means that they don’t love us enough or we’re not good enough for them. We can have a whole narrative, “My husband put the groceries away incorrectly in the pantry so he doesn’t care about me.” It sounds so silly to say it out loud. But that’s kind of where our mind goes subconsciously. 

 

Unmet expectations lay down a foundation of resentment

And then we show up differently, don’t we? We show up with a little hint of resent. Maybe we drop some cues about the pantry and then they pick up on it and they’re like, “What’s the deal? I went grocery shopping didn’t I?” And it can become snowballed into this big thing because we made it mean something it didn’t have to mean. 

 

We made it mean they didn’t care and that hurts. That’s what hurts underneath and that’s where we’re acting out from – this place of hurt. 

 

So my husband put the groceries away wrong in the pantry. But he cares about me because he did all these other things. And even if he didn’t do all these other things, I know he cares about me because he tells me in so many other ways. 

 

Pay attention to the expectations you’re putting on your partner. Is it a checklist that earns your love? And when they don’t meet all those boxes? What do you make it mean about them? What do you make it mean about you? How does that change how you show up? 

 

This is such a common issue in marriages. It’s something that’s so subtle, but once it sets in, then resentment is really easy. It’s really easy to give them labels, to label your partner as uncaring or unthoughtful. It’s also really easy to feel like a victim and like you’re helpless and you’re alone. 

 

Shifting the narrative

I have felt all these things before. This is why I’m saying this and I life coach women on this. It’s a natural place our brain goes to, but we have the power to redirect it to go to a new place. 

 

We can start showing up with a new frame of mind with new thoughts. We can start showing up from a place where we’re meeting our own emotional needs already and it’s not our spouse’s responsibility to do it. 

 

So maybe this is the first time you’ve considered that you are asking someone else to meet your emotional needs.

You are asking them to perform for you so that you can feel like you are cared about, like you are seen. Start looking for the other ways that they are showing you love, and start showing that to yourself too. How can I make myself feel seen? How can I make myself feel appreciated? 

 

This is your job. This is taking the responsibility. This is taking the power back to meet your own emotional needs. Other people can’t do that for you.

When they do, it’s great and it feels great. But when you come to them already meeting your own emotional needs, you get to show up differently. You get to show up with more love and more acceptance and more peace and just enjoy the other person for who they are, instead of looking at all the ways they’re not meeting all of the requirements on your checklist. 

 

I hope this little mindset shift is helpful for you. If you want to take this up to the next level, if you want to dig in deeper to this, then you can contact me for one on one life coaching, or check out the Life on Purpose Academy. We have weekly coaching calls, and the women are bringing all sorts of topics to these weekly calls. We cover marriage, what do I do with the rest of my life, mothering, perfectionism and planning your day. We’re covering everything and it’s just a really great interactive space. We have monthly topics that I’m teaching on with audio lessons and worksheets, so you always get that foundation and then you get the weekly calls to stay accountable and to get support along the way. 

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