It was Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages that finally helped me understand my wife’s rejection. Her love language isn’t gifts, therefore every bouquet of flowers and box of candy fell short of garnering the response I’d hoped. She wasn’t really rejecting me, but it sure felt like it. She simply misunderstood the importance of accepting expressions of love in marriage.
I recall recognizing my wife had struggled through a few rough days and thought I would cheer her up with a bouquet of flowers. So I stopped on my way home from work to grab the best-looking bunch of roses I could find. I bragged to myself the entire ride home. “I’m such a good husband to buy flowers for my wife. She will be so appreciative. It will make everything all better for her.”
The kitchen scene
When I arrived at home, I charged into the house to find my wife deeply engrossed in homeschooling activities with our three kids. The kitchen table was littered with school books, papers, and pens. A serious conversation was taking place between my wife and our youngest son regarding his attitude toward school work.
Undeterred by the chaotic scene and her obvious preoccupation with the mountain of schoolwork to accomplished, I bolted across the kitchen to present her with the flowers I had so thoughtfully selected. As she took the flowers from me, I lifted my head high and awaited the accolades that were sure to follow.
Instead, I received only a weak “thanks” and she placed the flowers among the papers on the table as she returned to math homework with our son. I was demoralized. Luckily, the words didn’t come out of my mouth, but they certainly went through my mind. “That’s it? I bust my [bleep] at work all day, but still find time to get flowers for you. And all I get is ‘thanks’!” Boy, am I glad I didn’t actually say that.
In her defense, she was very involved in the important activity of school with our children. Additionally, gifts would be considered Jennifer’s last love language. Those flowers didn’t speak love to her at all. Now, if I’d sat down to help my son with his math or made dinner for the family while she continued school, that would have spoken her love language.
But enough about her, let’s get back to me. Let’s examine the rejection I felt. Though I know she wasn’t rejecting me or even rejecting the gift of flowers, it sure felt like it at the moment. I moped away from the kitchen table like a little boy that had just lost his puppy. I felt as if I couldn’t do anything right for my wife.
Why is this little exchange in our marriage so important? It’s important because, unbeknownst to me, the experience shaped how I attempted to show Jennifer love. More specifically, it caused me to be more cautious about showing her love. Feeling rejected hurts, so expressing love just became riskier.
It happens so subtly, even unconsciously; we shy away from expressing love in various ways because we fear rejection. Inside our marriage, we stop offering acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, or gifts because we fear it won’t be well received.
You must recognize and cheerfully accept expressions of love from your spouse. It might be contrary to your love language, but it is nonetheless important to your spouse. In fact, the expression of love they offer is likely their love language. This makes your rejection all the more painful.
Don’t make expressing love a risky endeavor in your marriage. Accept them cheerfully, no matter how menial or small they may seem. The best way to accept an expression of love is to reciprocate with words of affirmation. This frees your spouse to express their love in deeper and more meaningful ways without fear of rejection.