Decades ago, on a late night I was up past the family bedtime making chocolate chip cookies. I was a young married woman busy with a toddler and a growing marriage counseling practice, and I wanted to show my husband my love and appreciation.
For some reason it suddenly dawned on me that although my spouse was always appreciative of my baking, he never seemed overjoyed by the product. I knew it wasn’t the cookies…they were homemade, butter-rich Tollhouse! What’s not to love? But that’s the thing, I realized they didn’t spell love to him.
Speak your partner’s Love Language
As I baked and nibbled and cleaned the kitchen long after midnight, I thought about the 3 years I had just spent making amazing creations for my tall skinny guy. The skinny should have been a clue that food was not in the main vocabulary of his love language. It was apparently mine, because my pants were getting a little snug.
I thought about how the very fact of me still being awake and busy when we could have gone to bed together, was a little weird. I know moms need some stolen moments to themselves, but that wasn’t the issue. My husband always generously provided me with alone time while he happily played with our daughter.
No, it was more than needing time it was avoidance. I was avoiding intimacy. I knew that my husband’s love language was likely intimacy, and that although he loved cookies, the sweet little nuggets would never hit the bull’s eye of LOVE.
Many burned-out moms avoid intimacy. It of course doesn’t make logical sense, because women actually need sex as much as their partners do. Burned-out dads avoid intimacy too and plop in front of screens or video games in a misguided attempt to meet a need.
You have important emotional needs that only your partner can meet
Parents of young children have just as many personal and emotional needs as they did prior to becoming parents, and far less time to get those needs met. Couples have many emotional needs that they consciously or unconsciously hope their partner will meet. These needs include the following and much more:
- Fun, humor and play
- Approval, acceptance and validation
- Safety and much more.
You both need all of these things just as your developing offspring needs them! In my book, Rock Solid Relationship: Seven Keys to Restore Your Connection and Make Your Love Last, we emphasize, “love is a verb”. That means that in order to act with love we attempt to meet our partner’s needs through actions. Most of these actions are mutually satisfying. (I do love cookies…especially Tollhouse), so how do things break down so badly?
But I’m so tired!
So what happens is that our tired mind and body starts to avoid activities we think will physically drain us. The sad thing is that it would fill us up emotionally if we enjoyed connected love making, in the same way it would bring us energy to go on a run. If only we could get up from the couch!
And did I mention resentful?
Another significant reason people avoid intimacy is because they are upset or hurt and don’t have the energy or tools to talk it out. What we don’t talk out, we act out, so avoiding physical vulnerability is one way to show unhappiness. If you have resentments it is going to be important to learn to air them in a responsible way.
Having a method to talk through upsets and resolve old resentments is so important. The Communication Map provides couples with the tools to take ownership and reach win-win solutions.
What can you do to return intimacy to a priority status?
Making intimacy a priority results in a foundational change in your relationship. You might say it’s a Big Bang for the Buck. Whether it is the main love language for one of you or not, it is a major contributor to connection in a committed relationship. Following a sexual connection there is even a 48-hour afterglow of energy leading to increased intimacy, patience and tolerance between the partners. Sexual contact is the stimulus to release oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Oxytocin is responsible for increasing the ability to be monogamous. Men given oxytocin in a research study, reported feeling repulsed by women other than their partner. Wow…sex is some glue to hold a couple together.
I decided all those years ago, long before I understood much about the science or the marriage truths that I wanted to show my partner my love in the ways that hit the bull’s-eye on his Love Target. I wanted him to feel safety, connection and passion. I could see that cookies weren’t landing square in his heart. I eventually asked him about his long languages. I learned what spoke love to him.
Letting cookies be treats, not love
So when the fresh cookies were stowed away in the cookie tin and the kitchen was clean and ready for morning, I sat down at the table with crayons and art paper. As artistically as I could I made a pretty sign to hang on the refrigerator. With crayon hearts and cookies edging the border I wrote in my best calligraphy, “MAKE LOVE, NOT COOKIES!” I placed it front and center on the refrigerator and went off to bed, excited to tell him the next day about my sugar-fueled epiphany.
In the morning I slept in a little and came downstairs to coffee and a note explaining my husband had taken our daughter for a walk. At the bottom of the note in his usual humorous style, he had scrawled, “but I love the cookies!”