Speak an Introvert’s Love Language and Get More Action

A marriage counselor once asked my former husband and me what part we each played at the end of the Thanksgiving meal. Did we pop up and start clearing dishes or did we remain seated, rooted in conversation with other diners?

I am a stay seated kind of gal. When people start buzzing around me clearing and doing, I feel 1. guilty for not helping and 2. a tiny bit irritated that the afterglow of a beautiful sensory-rich meal is disrupted. I want everyone to relax and savor the experience. I will gladly help do dishes later. I have a hard time understanding how others desire the action and work more than the meaningful discussion and reverie.

Do introverts like being in the kitchen during parties?

I realize there are two kinds of people and the kitchen helpers are doing what makes them comfortable. They feel useful and at ease when they provide service.

I’ve read that introverts are often found in the kitchen at parties because it saves them from socializing. I can see that at a party where you do not know more than one or two people, but frankly, I rarely go to those. If I go to a party, chances are I know several people there. If that is the case, then to me, working in the kitchen is well…work. It’s frustrating and I feel like I am missing out on opportunities to engage with people I enjoy. Minding cooking tasks, working by myself, or worse, working with someone I am forced to make small talk with, drains my battery quickly. I’ll be ready to leave early. I will want time alone when I get home.

These are the kind of parties I attend. He he;)

These are the kind of parties I attend. He he;)

My man (a proclaimed introvert) is just the opposite. He frequently arrives early to parties to help the hosts setup and automatically plans to stay until the end to help cleanup. While I adore him and his generosity, I can’t say I relish pre and post party preparations. If I am the host, I expect those responsibilities, but if I am a guest, I hope to simply revel in the festivities and connecting, and leave when I am ready with my tank full of positive energy. I will be eager to continue the joyful interacting at home.

What love language do you speak?

In Gary Chapman’s relationship book and tool, The 5 Love Languages, which I highly recommend, my primary love languages (the forms I prefer to receive love as) are Words of Affirmation and Quality Time.

My heart and spirit soar when my way of being is affirmed. Positive acknowledgments encourage me and fill me up, giving me energy to share.

I see Quality Time as highly present and meaningful interactions. I breathe and enliven in those moments.

I am not sure if this is common within the Love Languages framework, but the methods I prefer to receive love are also the forms I like to give love. I am in my glory when I can inspire, adore, counsel or guide someone via words and rapt attention.

Another Love Language, Acts of Service, (the remaining two are Physical Touch and Receiving Gifts) is one I wholeheartedly enjoy receiving but struggle to administer. Acts of Service may include helping your mate with household chores, washing their car, making them soup when they are sick, giving them a ride to the airport etc. I am there for my closest people. When they need help in the form of physical labor I do my best to acquiesce but…

Acts of Service is not my native language. I believe it’s the Acts part of the language that troubles me. Physical work pulls me away from mental work. It replaces thoughts and words with movement and action. In my mind, it often replaces meaningful depth with surface activity, especially if the service involves lots of little short jobs or multi-tasking. Acts that involve more mindless and meditative work such as sweeping out the garage or weeding the garden are more palatable because they allow for daydreaming, idea generating and achieving a state of flow.

I will concede, Acts of Service, such as caring for an elderly parent or working on your house, done together with significant conversation, nourishes the relationship. The productivity is an added bonus and deeply satisfying.

Acts of Service in bed

In response to the post, When Everyone Wants a Piece of You and You’re an Introvert: How to Handle Physical Touch and Maintain Connection In Your Relationship, one reader commented that those individuals who offer her love in the form of words are the easiest to offer physical affection. No words, no desire to reciprocate with touch. Her comment resonated with me.

My man’s Love Language is Physical Touch. It is not that much of a stretch to think of Physical Touch as an Act of Service in bed. I am more generous sexually if my mind and body have been primed by meaningful connection in the form of words (Words of Affirmation) or high quality time together (Quality Time). Emotional intimacy prior to sex is energizing and sensually stimulating. couple in bed with lamplight

Dr. David Schnarch, couples counselor and author of Passionate Marriage, suggests his clients follow a connection they feel with their partner during non-sexual interactions. Following and maintaining the connection leads to deeply intimate sex. This connection could be anything from a particularly engaging conversation during dinner to an impromptu dance around the kitchen.

The trick is to not lose that thread. Follow it right into giving physical affection. This works for me. The connection fuels a desire to provide Acts of Service during physical intimacy.

Back to Thanksgiving

My ex-husband was a pop-up-and-clear person. So is my man. They both feel the urge to stack dishes and exit the table soon after the meal is over. The difference is my man will come back to the table later and re-join the conversation or bond  with the other helpers in their own easy kitchen camaraderie. He’s learned how to just be with everyone. He can take part in a meaningful discussion and offer words of affirmation as needed.

doing dishes togetherThe cool thing is I greatly appreciate his help in the kitchen (Acts of Service) and I believe he appreciates my ability to socialize and put people at ease (Words of Affirmation). And… when it is just the two of us in the kitchen cleaning up, sometimes we talk and dance and create a connection that spills over into other areas of our relationship.

Are words or actions more your thing? Which one comes more naturally to you? What is your primary Love Language? As you get older, is it easier to see the benefits of different preferences? 

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10 Comments

  1. Catherine North
    July 4, 2015

    I’his is so interesting and thoughtful, Brenda. I think my main love languages would be the same as yours. I’m very drawn to people who listen, engage, understand and compliment my way of being. I like to do things for others, but it tends to be through offering emotional support rather than practical organisation, which I’m not naturally good at. I would never be the first to offer to clear up at a party, but I’ve helped many people through depression, for example. I have less interest in receiving gifts, though of course I’m grateful for a thoughtful present, but I could easily love someone without ever receiving any material benefit from them. I think as I get older I’m definitely seeing the value of different personalities and approaches, and how well we can work as a team if we respect each other’s skills and needs.

    Reply
  2. sheketechad
    July 3, 2015

    Words, definitely words as opposed to actions are the more natural path for me. My primary and secondary languages are Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation.

    I think it is important to learn those things about your partnership in order to enable each other to feel heard and to be heard more clearly. Theoretically, any way 🙂

    It is almost like talents, so that the jobs get done and people are fulfilled by doing them by their preferred method. The differences are beneficial in that regard.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      July 7, 2015

      Absolutely! It’s much better to appreciate and apply everyone’s love languages and talents than to compare or see them as obstacles if they are different.

      Reply
  3. Tanja Gardner
    July 3, 2015

    (also? I’m one of those introverts who tends to like hang out in the kitchen where possible at parties. I think it’s because it makes it easier to talk with just one person at a time that way, instead of talking in a group where it tends to be noisier, and people sometimes end up talking over each other, which makes it really hard for me to hear them. It’s also because my brain is very task-focussed, rather than relationship-focussed: I’m always happier when I have “something to do” – a goal/purpose to accomplish – rather than sitting still and just making conversation, which is more stressful for me in the aformentioned group setting)

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      July 7, 2015

      I always admire those with task focussed brains. I long to be that productive and helpful. I can’t seem to pull my attention away from conversations and relationship dynamics. I could tell you were goal oriented in England. You got things done. So nice.

      Reply
  4. Tanja Gardner
    July 3, 2015

    I’ve been thinking about the love languages thing quite a bit recently: words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch are all big ones for me to receive. I also enjoy the gifts and acts of service, but they don’t work so well for me if the other three aren’t there first.

    My most natural “giving” language is words, followed by some forms of touch. I want the quality time, but I’m not always great at making time for it myself (something I’m working on). And I’d also like to think in terms of acts of service and gifts, but it’s definitely not as natural for me.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      July 7, 2015

      Hi Tanja! Thanks for reading and commenting. So awesome to hear from you. It’s not always easy to make space for quality time, especially when we are engaged in our meaningful work.

      Reply
  5. mihrank
    July 3, 2015

    beautiful and impressive!

    Reply
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