A couple weeks back on Valentine’s Day, I opened up here on the blog in a way I never had before. I talked about my sex life. And while the post did revolve heavily around how sex saved my marriage, the TRUE INTENTION of the blog actually had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the power of intentional connection every single day with your loved one. It was about how Chris and I spent 30 days carving out time only for each other. And while it wasn’t much time, it was purposeful time, and more consistent purposeful time than we had ever contributed to our marriage before. Naturally, the result was something we had never experienced before.

So I guess you could say it wasn’t the actual physical act of sex that saved our crumbling marriage, it was our newfound ability to make each other a priority, our appreciation for the sacrifices the other was making for the hope of relationship success, and our renewed patience and compassion for the other that made the difference. A flame rekindling” may seem to have been the result of our commitment to sex for 30 days, but really, it was the result of taking time away from the world to connect with each other…Every. Single. Day.

This topic can be a very touchy one to address…for MANY reasons. For starters, it’s SEX! Something that’s beautiful and purposeful, but when pulled out of context and/or abused, it can be or appear to be very disrespectful. It is how we reproduce. It is also how we bond with our lovers. It can be wonderful and magnificent for all the reasons I believe it was intended to be. But it can also be the root of much emptiness, unhappiness, and distress when it isn’t for and with meaning. Secondarily, it can be touchy because NOT EVERY RELATIONSHIP can experience sex for various reasons: emotional limitations, medical issues, and/or physical limitations.

As was expected, my post brought out a handful of confused and frustrated comments stemming from the issues mentioned in the paragraph above.

If you were one of these commenters, please know that I apologize if I offended you in any way, shape, or form or made you feel like you didn’t have the ability to do what it takes to have a successful marriage. That was not my intention. Whether you can or cannot have sex with your partner, I promise you the same love connection and appreciation builder is replicable without sex. After all, what it boils down to is knowing that your spouse cares about and loves YOU, and them knowing that you care about and love THEM.

A friend of ours, Tim Grover, said it best on Valentine’s Day. He said something to the tune of, “It shouldn’t be called Valentine’s DAY…it should be called Valentine’s DAILY!” We shouldn’t train and condition ourselves to show love on ONE single day a year. We should show our spouses we love them every single day! Make it a part of your routine—a habit.

Essentially, this is what saved our marriage…the habit of showing love to each other each and every day.

Today’s post was written for everyone, of course. But especially for those who might want more practical ways of showing love that do not involve sex. Because we need to know those too, right??! Here comes my secret sauce and how it came about.

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Years ago, a dear friend recommended one of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. At the time, it transformed the way I loved as a parent, loved as a wife, and loved as a friend and human. If you haven’t read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, I highly, highly recommend it. This book essentially lays out and teaches that as humans, we all have different love languages. In other words, how I receive love best isn’t necessarily how Chris receives or wants love given to him. Just because I love hugs—and every time I am hugged, I interpret it as love, DOES NOT mean Chris will feel a hug means love the same way I do.

The book raises awareness that we need to be aware of not only how we give and receive love ourselves, but also and especially how those around us give and receive love. The author’s idea is that once we understand ourselves and others a little better, we can then cater how love is delivered from us to them as well as appreciate and accept the types of love others are attempting to give to us!

For YEARS, Chris was showing me love in ways that I didn’t even notice. Not because I didn’t appreciate his attempts, but because I was simply unaware of his attempts equating with “LOVE.” Similarly, my attempts to love him fell flat, and I couldn’t understand why. It was not because either of us were being cold or unkind, but we simply didn’t understand HOW to show each other love in ways that the both of us needed! We were showing love in the way WE wanted to feel it, NOT in the way that the other craved it.

For example, Chris’ “love language,” per the book, is Acts of Service. When someone performs an act of service for Chris (like running an errand for him), Chris feels loved and sees that as love. And naturally, Chris is programmed to DELIVER love in the form of acts of service to show he loves someone, whether that is how they crave love or not.

For years, Chris made endless efforts to make meals for me and nurture me with food. He was constantly whipping up breakfast, prepping dinner, and/or getting my snacks ready for me. While I appreciated what he was doing, I didn’t really feel the same connection to food that he did, and I actually preferred to control how my foods were made, what they taste like, etc. I would thank him, but I never realized he was attempting to show love. I simply thought he was trying to pick up part of the load around the house, which as a spouse, I kind of expected he would chip in anyway.

My love languages, on the other hand, are Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation. If you want me to know that you love me, freaking squeeze me tight, don’t let me go, kiss me all over, and tell me I’m the most beautiful, smart, amazing woman on earth!! Ha! That’s it. I really am that simple. Don’t buy me gifts. Don’t do my laundry. Don’t give me a massage. Just love on me with your hands and your words.

Needless to say, Chris was the object of my affection. I couldn’t keep my hands off of him or stop telling him how BRILLIANTLY he shined in the world! Why? One, because I believed it (and still do). And two, because I wanted to show him I loved him. Right?

WRONG!

Diving in to these love languages with Chris, and through communicating openly, Chris expressed to me (YEARS after I married him!) that he cringes at physical touch—especially in public, and that words of affirmation fall flat on him because his motto is, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Hmm…who knew? Five years in to our relationship, and I had been loving him all the wrong ways. I never made him food or ran his errands because in my mind, I thought, “Who the hell wants their friggin’ food to be made to show love?!”

#MenAreFromMars. #WomenAreFromVenus

Also noteworthy, when the two of us would discuss our feelings openly, Chris would be completely baffled when I told him I didn’t feel like a priority or that I didn’t think he would ever love me as much as his mission. I felt like I would never be better than second in his life. Why? Because he didn’t hug me, kiss me, or even get close to showering me with affection, but as he would say, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense?? How is that real love?? Real love is DOING. Not SAYING.”

Point taken. And eyes opened. While our marriage wasn’t “fixed” by the book, our communication was unleashed, and our level of understanding for each other was greatly broadened. And while I stand by the notion that our 30-day sex challenge really did save our marriage, I think that the verbiage could be changed to simply, the “30-day Put Your Spouse First” challenge that saved our marriage. Because really, at the end of the day, that was what it was all about.

Generally, without knowing any better, we naturally give love the way we want to feel it.

As the month of love comes to a close, and we find ourselves reflecting on how to improve the relationships we have, I challenge you to:

  1. Identify your love language and your spouse’s love language (info on all love languages below). They are most likely very different!
  2. Spend the next month doing one thing daily to show your loved one some extra attention and affection. I have laid out the lists of ideas you can do for each other, categorized in EACH LOVE LANGUAGE, below. You’re welcome. 😉 #NoExcuses.

Whether it be snagging their favorite Starbucks drink on the way home, or offering a 10 minute massage while winding down for the day, seek out their individual love language and attempt to fulfill that need every single day.

Simple Ways to Say I Love You.

Photo by Ashley Burns

Words of Affirmation

• Leave a sweet note in an unexpected place.
• Take note of a change in hair or makeup and compliment it. Also, take note of the nonphysical too! Complimenting an effort made or a personal characteristic is just as important.
• Simply say, “I love you!” often throughout the day. If you can, try following it up with the why too. Often, hearing why your spouse loves you makes it more powerful.
• Remind your sweetheart of why you fell in love with them.

Photo by Ashley Burns

Acts of Service

• Cook your significant other’s favorite meal.
• Handle household chores without being asked.
• Take care of the pets or kids to give your spouse time to themselves.
• Take their car to be washed, detailed, or serviced.
• Wake up a little early to start the coffee before they’re up.

Receiving Gifts

• Pick up your loved one’s favorite treat on the way home from work.
• Snag a small gift card to their favorite lunch spot.
• Make a homemade card.
• Make a “coupon book” for future treats or gifts to be redeemed later (i.e. Good for one ice cream cone after a bad day).

Physical Touch

• Make an effort to sit closer on the couch or hold hands during a movie.
• Give an unprompted massage.
• Kiss before bed and first thing when you wake up.
• Vow to hug before leaving the house.

Quality Time

• Put the kids to bed 20 mins early and ask your spouse about their day.
• Plan a date night.
• Take a walk around the neighborhood.
• Initiate a “no phone” rule at dinner time to truly engage and interact.

Whatever your individual love languages may be, and however you choose to express them, the essential part of this challenge is making time to put your sweetheart first and then letting them know you are doing so. I truly believe that focusing on each other and putting the feelings of your significant other before your own are the foundations of a successful relationship.

Let me know how you and your spouse make each other a priority in the comments below!

xo,

Heidi

Related reading:

6 Ways to Spend Valentine’s With Your (My) Swolemate (This one is great all year long!)
5 Years of (Mostly) Wedded Bliss + How We Met Vid!
Our 12 Month Transformation, Month Two: Giving Love to Others
Sweet Lips Speak Kind Words: Spreading Love. Not Gossip.
40 for my 40 year old || Why Chris Powell is the Greatest Man on Earth