Acetate on questions
DAVID We have looked at two of our five love languages, Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. Now we’re going to take a look at the third love language – Giving and Receiving Gifts. Gifts are a visual symbol of love. Dr Chapman examined the cultural patterns surrounding love and found that in every culture he studied, gift giving was a part of the love process. This type of love language seems to have no cultural boundaries. We must be thinking of someone to give that person a gift – the gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It’s something you can hold in your hand and say, ‘Look, he or she was thinking of me’ or ‘He or she remembered me’. To a person whose love language is receiving gifts, it doesn’t matter whether it costs money or not. What is important is that we thought of them.
There’s a story that demonstrates this very clearly. It’s about a missionary priest in Africa, who taught the native people how, as an expression of joy, appreciation or love, it was a custom in his country to give gifts. On Christmas morning, one of the natives brought the missionary a beautiful seashell. When asked where he had found such an extraordinary shell, the native said he had walked for two days through the rain forest, up the mountain and down to a certain beach, the only spot where such seashells could be found. Then, with great care, he returned over three days. ‘I think this shell is just so beautiful and a wonderful gift’, the priest exclaimed. His eyes brightening, the African replied, ‘Journey also part of gift.’
JEM A few weeks ago, I came home from work to find a small package on the kitchen worktop. It wasn’t a special day, like our wedding anniversary or my birthday, so I was very surprised when I opened it and discovered a bottle of my favourite cologne, with a little note from Glen saying how much she loved me. This gift meant so much to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was so unexpected. It took me back to the early heady days of our relationship, when we would surprise each other with small tokens of love and secondly, she had taken the trouble to check whether I was getting low on cologne. I hadn’t told her, or even dropped any hints! All in all, the gift was a tangible expression of her love, and like the native in David’s story, the journey she had made to bring it to me meant that I felt doubly loved and cherished by her. Every morning when I used it, and during the day when I caught a whiff, it reminded me of her love.
GLEN Do any of you have the experience of one of your children coming in and bringing you the gift of a flower from your garden or an apple from the tree? Even though you may not have wanted that flower picked, or perhaps the apple wasn’t ripe, you would have experienced being loved. It was the intent of the gift that had the meaning. As a part of human nature, we seem to start the gift-giving process at a young age, but visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others. If receiving gifts is our primary love language, gifts like our engagement ring or wedding ring, in fact any token of love, will mean a lot to us, but if our spouse doesn’t speak this language, we may end up questioning his or her love, because of their lack of gifts. However, if your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts and yours isn’t, the good news is that this is definitely the easiest language to learn. We’re not talking about a bunch of flowers given to clear the air after a row, nor a gift that’s given with an ulterior motive or expectation of anything in return. The size or value of the gift is unimportant – it’s the motivation that counts. When Jeremy spoke about the little gift of cologne earlier, he actually talked about receiving a gift from me - and, of course, this receiving is equally important as a dialect of this language. If your husband or wife doesn’t see gifts as a language of love whilst you do, then the opportunity for a breakdown in communication is obvious. The value of a gift is in the eye of the receiver, not in that of the giver.
So now, we’d like you to take a minute to make a list of all the gifts your spouse has expressed pleasure about receiving from you through the years.
(Give them time 1 minute to do this)
O.K? Now list at least two things that your spouse gave to you that helped you to feel loved and see yourself as special to him or her.
(Give them 1minute here)
Now just take a minute to exchange your books and read what your spouse has written.
DAVID We are expected to give gifts for birthdays and anniversaries – this shows our love – but true love comes about when we do it for no reason at all. When Jeremy and Glen visited me in Chicago, they told me how wonderful they had found their new flight socks – no swollen ankles or aching legs during or after the flight. About a month after they had returned home, I received a surprise parcel in the post – a pair of flight socks and a little note saying that I must wear them whenever I’m on a plane – they didn’t want me to have a deep vein thrombosis, because I am very precious to them. I’m not great one for receiving gifts. Being honest I often dismiss them in much the same way as words of affirmation. I tend to see a hidden message, “they gave me these because they want….” But this gift from Jeremy and Glen spoke to me of the great love we have for each other and it was therefore easier to accept.
JEM However, the love language of giving and receiving gifts can create some tension in our relationship, despite its seemingly positive face. We all have an individual perception of money and we have various feelings and emotions about spending it. Some people feel good about themselves when they are spending money, whilst others feel good about themselves when they are saving and investing wisely. We would guess that there are many couples in this room who have opposing attitudes to money - and therefore, to the giving of gifts. If you are both spenders like me, then you’ll have a great time buying gifts for your spouse and he or she will find it easy to receive those gifts. But if you are a saver, you will experience emotional resistance to the idea of spending money as an expression of love. You may reason, ‘I don’t buy things for myself, so why should I buy things for him or her’, but the flaw in that reasoning is that, in fact, you are buying things for yourself. By choosing to save and invest, you are purchasing self worth and security.
GLEN My father had an accident when I was three years old and was off work for a long time. As a result, times were hard and my parents had to sell many of their treasured possessions to make ends meet, which meant that I grew up with the idea that I had to be very careful with money and the love language of giving and receiving gifts was one that was foreign to me. But Jeremy has a very different attitude towards money - he has a very generous nature and wants to please me - and other people - by buying them nice things. I loved his generosity and spontaneity when we were courting, but after we were married, I began to see it as frivolous and irresponsible. ‘Can we afford it?’ is always my first thought, whether I am giving or receiving a gift, so whatever Jeremy buys me for my birthday or Christmas, I usually say, ‘Thank you, but you shouldn’t have spent all that on me!’ And if he arrives home with an unexpected bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates, I often tell him that he’s naughty and that we’re trying to be careful. In reality, I might as well throw the birthday or Christmas present at him, or even hit him around the head with the surprise bunch of flowers. My behaviour means that the joy and excitement of giving the gift leaves him and our relationship loses some of its closeness. So, hearing that giving and receiving gifts is a language of love, left me feeling ashamed of the way I’ve behaved in the past and I realised that I need to change my attitude – not only must I become an effective receiver – I must become an effective giver, too. I have to remember that I am investing in our relationship and that that, in turn, fills up Jeremy’s love tank. As a result, I bought the little bottle of cologne and was surprised to learn that the planning and effort I’d put into buying it had been a gift to him in itself. Experiencing his delight in receiving that gift was also a gift to me and helped me to understand how important this love language is to Jeremy.
DAVID I am a bit of a schizophrenic when it comes to spending. I love going on binges of buying, but at the same time, I’ll make sure that I can pay off the credit card and the bills quickly. I keep hearing my father’s voice saying, ‘Money burns a hole in your pocket’, so I can’t cope with being in debt. Before I went away last year, I knew I needed every penny I could get my hands on for the study year, but I decided not to let this prevent me from buying Jeremy and Glen a web-cam, so that we could see each other and remain in contact as we dialogued. Seeing their pleasure as I gave them that gift as a token of my love for them, filled my love tank – and was much more important than the worry about money that I knew would probably follow.
GLEN There are times when just being there, offering the Gift of Self, can be the most powerful gift we can give. There is no need for flowers or words; our physical being becomes the visible symbol of our love. It seems to speak loudest in times of crisis and can be louder than any gift we could buy. As the gift is ‘Self’, it can actually meet the needs of several love languages. I remember experiencing this gift from Jeremy last year, when my mother was dying. As some of you know, Jeremy finds it difficult to be with the terminally ill, or dying, but during the last five days of my mum’s illness, he visited her with me and helped me to face what was happening, by encouraging me to tell him how I was feeling. At the end, he sat at the side of her bed with me, holding her hand, refusing to leave me alone. As she took her last breath, he began to pray and then he took me in his arms and we held each other as we cried. In one of our dialogues after the funeral, he admitted how hard it had been for him to be there and it was then that I recognised that the gift of himself during that traumatic time, is one of the most precious gifts he has ever given me.
JEM So, how good are you at this love language of giving and receiving gifts? Fantastic? Hopeless? Well, whatever your answer is, why not make the commitment to surprise your spouse with a gift of love, if not once a week then at least once a month? All the five love languages challenge us to give of ourselves to our spouse. Giving is at the heart of loving. Remember, the gift is a sign of your love and doesn’t have to be something you’ve bought. It can be a poem, a wild flower, a card you’ve made, a note on his or her pillow, an unexpected telephone call, a surprise email, a hug, a touch. Use your imagination! All you have to remember is that whatever your gift is, it’s given in order to lift your spouse up with your love!
And now we have more questions for you: (Acetate)
When did I receive a gift from you that helped me to experience your love?
How do I feel recalling that time?
How important to me is giving or receiving gifts as an expression or an experience of love?
This will be a 10 + 10 and then we’ll take ? minutes to share in the groups.