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.
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.
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.
The 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?