A popular author in the area of love and relationships is Gary Chapman. In his book, The 5 Love Languages, he explains the five primary ways we express and interpret love. In my next series of blog posts, I’m going to tell you a bit about each one.
The first is Words of Affirmation. People who speak this love language react very positively to unsolicited compliments. It’s all about the words with them. For these people, hearing the words “I love you” makes a big impact, and hearing the reasons behind that love makes an even bigger one. On the other hand, negative words such as insults can do a lot of damage, quickly, and are not easily forgotten.
I don’t know how many gay men fall into this category, but as I read about this love language it occurred to me that many gay men – too many – were forced to deal with negative language while growing up – being called names in school, having insults hurled at them, being ridiculed and shamed, and even physically harmed. So it seems like a pretty easy line to draw from that kind of adolescence to an adulthood where you would need to hear Words of Affirmation.
It can be hard, after years of being in the closet, or dealing with the fallout from expressing one’s true feelings, to suddenly start using words of affirmation. I think the key is baby steps. If you find it difficult to do, start with something small and work your way up. Compliment your date’s hair. Tell him, “I like it when you smile” or “I love it when you laugh so hard, you snort.” (Who wouldn’t love that, right?) It doesn’t have to be anything big or dramatic. A little goes a long way in this department.
With practice, and the organic unfolding of your relationship, you’ll get to the place where “I love you” comes naturally. Almost without thinking. But trust me, your partner/spouse/husband/boyfriend will think about it. And appreciate it. And love you all the more for saying what’s in your heart. We should all do that. We tell kids all the time: “Use your words.” And now I’m telling you. So if you spent the first few decades of your life avoiding it, I encourage you to start making up for lost time.
I’ll even give you a prompt: You can leave a comment on this blog, and tell me how brilliant I am.