Families, Inc. therapist Dr. Dana Watson has been featured regularly this spring on KFIN’s Breakfast Club to discuss maintaining a healthy mindset during the coronavirus pandemic. The following transcript is of her conversation with KFIN’s Brandon Baxter on June 24, 2020.
Q: Last week we talked about the how we can use the 5 Love Languages to enhance our relationships, to “fill up our partner’s love tanks.” I took my test and… So, let’s start with a quick recap of last week. Some of the main highlights that I might need to hear again [laughing].
Sure! First, we all give and interpret love in different ways, based largely on early experiences with our caregivers, and most of us need love in all those ways. We just have primary one or two languages that we seem to need more of, and those needs can change. In fact, those needs do change—just as soon as you’re not being loved in some way, bet your bottom dollar that need jumps higher on the priority list!
Second, we learn what we think love is and how we want to be shown love by what our early caregivers did—or, in some cases, didn’t do. Sometimes, if our parents didn’t love us in a certain way and now it’s not high on our needs list, we think it’s probably not important to our people, or we don’t understand why it would be. So, we definitely need to listen to what they are asking us for, what they may be criticizing us for not doing enough of and in which of the ways they are loving us. They often want love in the same ways they give it. They’re telling us, “Hey you, this is what I think love looks like and what makes me feel loved, so please do more of that for me.” It’s so important to love our people in ways they interpret love. Not in the ways we want or think love should be.
Also, these are super-easy loving behaviors to start right now, you can do a few of each in a day in just minutes and you can definitely get them all in in every week.
Q: Taking the test or reading the books can start conversations with our people about what they or we need to feel loved, important and really seen. Can we walk back through them just a little and talk a little more about each? I want to make sure I don’t misunderstand what they really mean and how they apply to children. I’ll call them out so you’ll know I remember all of them!
Q: Words of Affirmation—what does it look like?
This looks like verbally encouraging and appreciating another person. Be genuine when you’re telling them what you like about them, what they do to make you feel loved and why they’re important to you. Look at them when they’re talking and minimize distractions. This is verbal intimacy.
This sounds like, “I want to tell you how much you mean to me. I don’t say it often enough, but I do think it. You are an amazing person because you …” It also sounds like, “Hey, I really want to tell you how much it means to me that you always… “
Get in the habit of telling your children you love them and why, how excited you are to see them after school, send them a text or write them a card.
Q: Ok, Physical Touch?
This looks like hand holding, snuggling on the couch, putting your arm around a person, rubbing their leg, sensual kissing… you get the point. This is physical intimacy. And it’s so much more than what some people traditionally think of as being physically intimate.
Usually this is nonverbal love, but when verbally expressed it may sound like, “Can I hold your hand?” Or, “Snuggle up here on the couch with me while we watch our show.” And, “Could you make extra time tonight for just me and you. I have a bottle of wine.” The focus is on intimacy first, not on physicality, friends.
For kiddos, kisses and cuddles, hugs, holding hands, mani/pedis or play wrestling.
Q: And another one that I think can be misunderstood sometimes… Receiving Gifts?
This sounds like, “I saw something today and it reminded me of you,” or, “You have worked so hard lately. I booked you a massage or manicure or one night alone to watch TV.”
This looks like meaningful objects and tokens of affection. Remembering special occasions. Personalized gifts. Money is not the issue. It is the thoughtfulness of this gesture that is the true gift.
Q: So, flowers and romance for women, a new gun or new underwear for men?
I can’t tell you how many men tell me, “My wife doesn’t like flowers.” And I say, “I have never seen a woman get angry that her husband dropped off a small bouquet of flowers to her at work for all the other women to admire and to know how you feel about her.” It’s okay if she doesn’t want you to spend a lot of money on flowers. But if you haven’t done it in years, I would recommend you give it a try. These treats have so much meaning behind them.
For kids, it might be making their favorite dessert, a surprise gift for no special reason… definitely delighting in the gifts or crafts they make for you.
Q: And I am really learning more about what Quality Time really means…
This sounds like, “Could I take you to lunch today? I miss you.” Or, “Let’s get a glass of wine and sit at the table every night for fifteen minutes to actually look at each other and catch up.”
This looks like weekly date nights, turning your phone off during specific times, not allowing distractions to be more important than the person you love, making eye contact, truly listening to them when they talk.
And for kids, something like taking them out to see a new movie, a Daddy Daughter dance, sitting on the floor playing games with them, going on a bike ride.
Q: I was a little off about Acts of Service. I thought doing my half of chores was good enough.
This sounds like, “How can I help you? Is there anything I can take off your plate today?”
This looks like doing something that the other person would normally have to do to save them time and energy. If you wouldn’t normally take out the trash, do that. If you wouldn’t normally cook, do that. If you wouldn’t normally clean the kitchen after dinner, do that. Breakfast in bed is nice. Helping them with a chore they’re doing is good.
And for kids: maybe help them clean their room, help them walk the dog, help them with their homework.
Q: I love that these seem so simple and you can see immediate results.
Yes. So, start them and continue them. If there are some of them that don’t come naturally, then decide if you love your people enough to invest in learning and doing new things to show your love. Don’t do them once or twice, get a great response and then stop! This is a focused, intentional way to continually show love to the people who are important to you.
And these aren’t secrets. It’s a gift for a person to sit with you and say, “You know what I heard on the radio today? I feel a little convicted, like we could each take the tests and see if we are doing what the other needs… I’d be excited to learn new ways to meet your needs and to show you how I feel about you.”
Q: You said last week that the Love Languages isn’t the only way to improve relationships. Right, this is an awesome way to build love, trust, intimacy and keep the love tanks full. And anytime you realize you’re off track, just be intentional about getting back on track.
But some relationships are suffering in ways that need more intensive interventions like how to manage anger, healthy communication, coping with trauma. There are more intensive forms of individual and couples’ therapy that can help with that.