Filling The Tank


It’s Valentine’s Day, and as of this moment I have yet to purchase something special for my love.

There’s an excellent excuse for that, however; “receiving gifts” (and therefore thinking of buying them for other people) is not my primary “love language.”

Years ago, when my two oldest children were tiny creatures and not the independent (unless an infusion of money is needed for car repairs or online purchases) young adults they are today, a new friend invited me to a church-sponsored morning “get-away” class for parents of young children. Complimentary child care and coffee cake were provided, so saying yes to the opportunity was a no-brainer.

Once a week over the course of two winter months, a group of about 15 women (and a few men) gathered sans kids to discuss Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” Heck, I was there for the free food and hour-long escape from my one- and four-year-old kids; gaining insight to how I expressed and received love, and to my spouse’s respective love preferences, was simply a bonus.

The English major in me initially approached the book’s content skeptically. “Keeping the Love Tank Full” was the title of Chapter 2, and I worried Chapman was something of a psychological self-help huckster.

But as we delved into the details of the five “love languages” defined by Chapman– words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch– certain things began making sense.

“Ah, THAT’s how I landed my husband,” I mused, reflecting on the dozens of letters sent to him during his law school years in that distant land called Iowa. The man’s primary love languages, it became clear, were “words of affirmation” and “physical touch,” so it was suddenly evident what exactly must be done to keep his “love tank” full. Having showered him with frequent, affirming and descriptive letters during the lengthy absences we endured early in our relationship (Kids: This was PRIOR to e-mail, Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, Instagram, SnapChat and other means of instant communication you believe have ALWAYS existed! It even COST MONEY for each minute of our long-distance telephone conversations!), I had inadvertently stumbled right in to the habit of meeting one of his most primal “love tank” needs.

Also, it was easy to see that “receiving gifts” was at the bottom of my “love list,” while “quality time” and “words of affirmation” were close to the top.

(Amusingly, a man in the study group for whom “physical touch” and “acts of service” were priorities boldly admitted, “All I want is to open my front door and see my wife standing there, vacuuming in the nude.” Spicy!)

As years passed and another child was born into our family, it wasn’t always possible to keep everyone’s love tanks satisfactorily topped off. Indeed, over time I realized that my love language priorities had shifted somewhat; with an active household, three kids and non-stop demands on our free time, we sometimes lost sight of what made everyone feel appreciated.

These days, I’m a lot more grateful for the sacrificial “acts of service” my sweetheart performs to keep things running smoothly at home, and his early, unexpected gift last week of a box of chocolates and bouquet of flowers (coupled with a meaningful card inscribed with generous comments soothing to this “words of affirmation” gal) was most welcome.

Even though “receiving gifts” is not his first “language,” I’d be wise to crank up the Valentine energy, recall the early days of our courtship (which began–gulp–32 years ago!!) and let the ink flow in a holiday-appropriate card.

We never fail to make “gas dates” when our respective motor vehicles are nearly empty; how much more important, then, to speak each other’s primary “love language” on a regular basis and keep those “love tanks” adequately filled?

Now you’re talking.