real life

Talk to me like lovers do


Adam got a wife out of a rib.

And ribs have helped make a better wife out of me.

Ribs have become my ‘act of service’.   This is a new turn of phrase for me.  And it’s one that’s helping me understand what goes on inside my husband’s large blonde head.

It comes from a theory penned by Gary Chapman that we communicate our affections in five different “love languages”.  Most people are drawn to one or two above the others.

The first love language is “quality time”. Love means putting aside time that’s just for the other person. Even if it’s to just to sit on the deck, share a beer and ignore twitter for an hour.

Then there’s “touch”- which is not as saucy as it sounds. It goes beyond bedroom antics – it’s showing your affection by reaching out to the other person- whether you’re resting your hand on their leg while they drive, grabbing a sneaky hug in the pantry, or holding hands while you walk down the street.

After that are “words of affirmation”.  For these folks saying you love someone is important, but it’s the reasons why that mean the most.  It’s what prompts Harry to list to Sally all the things he loves about her; including that it takes her an hour and a half to order a sandwich. It’s also why I cry every time I watch that movie.

Then there are gifts.  These aren’t just about bling and shiny things. It’s considering what the other person might crave or adore, and making the effort to source it just for them.

“Acts of service” is the last love language. They’re when you do nitty gritty, practical things that help your partner.

When it comes to me, I’m all about the kind words and touch.

Give me an unprompted cuddle, say you love me because I’m a hard worker and I’m yours for life. Because that’s what I respond to, it’s what I instinctively do to others.  I write soppy cards that circulate through three drafts. I’m an enthusiastic hugger who pats people on the back mid squeeze. These gestures make up the sentences and syntax of my ‘love language’(yes, it’s turgid terminology, but you get the idea).


But here’s the kicker; my language is Swahili to my spouse. It’s all clicks and run on syllables.  To him, it can be smothering.

He, on the other hand is fluent in acts of service. Which is how scenarios like this eventuate:

Him: buried in the computer.

Me: getting frustrated he’s screening when we could be having quiet time together on the couch.

Him: getting equally frustrated with me. I’ve failed to deduce that what he’s actually doing is expressing his devotion to me by building a cloud to automatically back up my data- so I never lose anything again.

It’s a pattern I now recognise in my dad, when carefully crafts cairns of folded underpants.  It’s in my brother in law when he labours to build a living wall to make my sister smile.  It’s there in my best friend’s Mum, when she makes sure there are rollmops for her spouse in the bottom of the fridge, even though the sight of them makes her skin crawl. They’re all expressing their affection by doing things that will make the days of those they love better.

So this year for the husband’s birthday instead of writing a soppy card and buying him a jumper that he probably doesn’t need, I’m trying to speak his language.

As my act of service, I’m cooking him a fat platter of pork ribs.

To me the thought of gnawing sticky threads of meat off the bone is about as appetising as eating a keyboard. But to him, both the taste- and my act of making them spell only one thing. Love.

Recipe for slow cooked pork ribs to please a spouse can be found here.

What is your language of love ?