All this time we've been thinking that there are only five love languages. I mean, isn't that what Gary Chapman writes in his book, The Five Love Languages? According to Chapman, the five love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. I don't like to be the one to differ with Mr. Chapman, but I think I might have discovered a missing language. The other day, I was talking about his book with my husband. I told him that I thought his own love language was acts of service. (As I often say, "Benjamin just about has an orgasm when I clean the closet or make him a bowl of egg salad.")
"Oh my God! Oh my God! You cleaned the closet! You are the best wife!" he exclaims. It really doesn't take much to get him excited. Without question, my love language is quality time. Nothing makes me feel more loved than when Benjamin spends time with me. Benjamin could be watching me fold laundry, as long as we're doing it together.
So when I told Benjamin that I thought his love language was acts of service, he paused and thought for a second. "No," he said, "I don't so. I think Chapman got it wrong. There's actually a sixth love language."
Benjamin blows my mind sometimes, because he says some pretty insightful things for a guy (ha-ha). I was all ears. "The sixth love language is silence," he said. "I love talking to you, but what I love even more is just being silent with you."
Many women would have been upset by what Benjamin had said, but I know him and I know what he meant. Benjamin's need for silence confused me when we first met. I used to think that the way to connect was to have deep conversations about the nature of the universe and other profound spiritual, political, or sociological subjects. I thought it was important to sit with my partner and try to solve all the problems of the world. I quickly discovered that Benjamin is not that guy. He's not a talker. In his kind and gentle way, he would let me know when he was saturated from hearing too many words. Sometimes I would be talking about something that I felt was important and he would just close his eyes in the middle of what I was saying. This was my not-so-subtle cue to be quiet.
Couples in relationships have so much to teach each other about how to give and receive love. Chapman is right. You can't just give your partner love in the way you would like to receive it. I have a client who loves getting gifts, and she is constantly showering her boyfriend with presents. He could care less. Getting gifts isn't his thing. His love language is quality time. Her gift giving isn't even about him; she gives gifts because she wants him to return the favor. She really just needs to give him a copy of Chapman's book and hope he reads it.
I am a big talker, so Benjamin's need for silence threw me for a loop. It wasn't easy for me to undo forty years of mindless chatter. Once he invited me to see his coach with him; he said that there was something I could do to help him. He made it sound like he had a problem, but I think I was really the problem. In the session the therapist asked Benjamin to tell me what he needed. "Sometimes at the end of the day, I am exhausted from listening to clients, and I just can't take in any more words," he explained. "What I need most is for you to just lie on the bed with me and hold me in silence."
"If you were going to tell her about how much less talking you would like there to be in the relationship, what would you say?" the therapist asked.
"She would only talk a third as much," Benjamin answered.
I could have taken this all personally, but I didn't. I love this man with all my heart and I want us both to feel satisfied in our relationship. I also know that his needs are as important as mine are. By being open to what Benjamin shared, I have learned a lot about silence in the eleven years we've been together, and I have to admit Benjamin is right: silence is the sixth love language. I never feel closer to him than when we connect in that space beyond words. One of our favorite things to do is put on some music, dim the lights in the bedroom, and spoon for hours. We do not say a word, but just lie there, holding each other. It might become sexual, but it doesn't have to.
We need to observe our partner and do everything we can to understand his or her way of feeling loved. To have a beautiful relationship, men and women need to be especially sensitive to one another's needs for both space and quiet and connection and communication. For years women have tried to get men to open up and talk more about their emotions, feelings, and dreams. But men have also been trying to let women know that they have a very different need — one that is equally as important — for space and silence. Many men do not have the ability to talk and talk and talk. Like Benjamin, they feel even more connected through silence. Unfortunately, many women make the assumption that, when a partner is silent, he is disconnected from her. We clearly have much to learn from each other! When we embrace our differences, we become closer.
Now when I am with Benjamin, I stop and think about what I am going to say instead of just yammering away. As a result, the conversation we do have is so much more meaningful and I am much more conscious of the words I say, not just with Benjamin, but with everyone. I thank Gary Chapman for coming up with five love languages, but I am grateful to Benjamin for introducing me to the sixth — connecting in silence.
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