News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

February 12, 2014

MARK BENNETT: Quest for the perfect Valentine’s Day gesture may not involve gifts

TERRE HAUTE — You’ll need a broom, a pickup truck, trash bins, shop hooks and aspirin.

Filming a “Sanford and Son” remake? Preparing for the apocalypse?

No and no. Instead, the aforementioned items compose the perfect Valentine’s Day gift from a husband to a wife.

Maybe. (You didn’t seriously think it was that simple, right?) It depends on her “love language.” If you’re scratching your head and muttering, “say, what?” then let the expert, Gary Chapman, explain. He’s the author of The New York Times bestseller book series, “The Five Love Languages,” host of a radio program heard daily on more than 150 stations, and a North Carolina-based couples counselor. His video seminar — based on another of his books, “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted” — will be viewed by participating couples on Terre Haute’s southeast side at the Mount Pleasant Church south campus worship center on Saturday, Valentine’s Day Weekend. (Registration ended Monday.)

The actual holiday arrives Friday. Chapman, in a phone interview from the Tar Heel state, offered a clue for any guy still wondering what to give his wife for Valentine’s Day.

Ready?

Ask her.

“Ask your wife, ‘If I wanted to do something really, really good for you for Valentine’s Day, what would it be?’” Chapman said. “Let her tell you.”

Anticipating a follow-up question, Chapman continued, “Now, you have some wives who say, ‘Well, if you don’t know, then I’m not going to tell you.’ And those wives don’t understand that men can’t read minds. But typically, if a man asks his wife, ‘I’d like to do something really nice for you this Valentine’s Day — what would you like to do?’ — and if you say that a few days before Valentine’s Day, then she’s likely to give you an idea.”

(The logic, he emphasized, applies for gift-hunting wives, too.)

Left to our own devices, men tend to lean on “traditional things,” Chapman said, such as candy or flowers. Nothing wrong with either, he said, especially if that’s part of a couple’s tradition. “Just add something else to it that will really make her feel loved,” Chapman said. “It’s really, essentially, a matter of finding out what her love language is.”

Those personalized languages, according to Chapman’s definition, are the ways people express and understand emotional love. They are, drumroll please: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. If you can’t decide which language speaks best to your loved one, Chapman’s website — 5lovelanguages.com — helps pinpoint it with a free online quiz. Ideally, both parties in a couple will take the quiz, “and then whatever you do on Valentine’s Day should be in keeping with their love language.” (The quiz also features options for single folks and parents.)

Keep in mind, the quiz and the entire “Five Love Languages” concept have nothing specifically to do with Valentine’s Day or gift shopping. The holiday merely illuminates the value behind their intent. Chapman published “Love Languages” in 1995. Since then, it’s been used “to help a lot of couples learn how to connect to each other and stay connected to each other emotionally,” he said. His video seminar to be shown Saturday in Terre Haute teaches couples important skills to handle communication differences and deal with criticism to attain “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.”

Thus, the quest for the perfect Valentine’s Day gesture may not involve gifts, per se.

“It may be words of affirmation,” Chapman said. “It may even be writing her a poem, or even just a letter telling her how much you appreciate the things she does, the way she looks.”

You may be wondering what happened to the broom, the truck, trash bins, shop hooks and aspirin. Fear not (and rest up); the quiz may lead you in that direction.

“For example,” Chapman said, “if her language is acts of service — doing things for her — and she’s been complaining for six months or six years that she wants him to clean out the garage, then probably the greatest thing he can do for her for Valentine’s Day is clean out the garage. Doesn’t sound romantic, but I’m telling you, if that’s her love language, it’s going to speak volumes to her.”

As a bonus, you might also find that long-lost socket wrench.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com

 

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