Thursday, February 17, 2011

On the road to fluency

What would it take to be fluent in another person's love language? Piggy-backing on the last few sentences of my previous post, I guess I don't want to brush past it too quickly. It's such a huge thought, deserving more than a passing comment or a surface treatment. It needs some serious reflection. I honestly never thought before of learning another person's love language as similar to learning a second language.

I've been slowly learning Spanish. I really had no desire to learn Spanish before meeting Ricardo. Swahili, yes, possibly even French (only because it's spoken in West Africa), but never Spanish. It's the classic case of acquiring new, unexpected interests as a result of a romantic interest in someone else, but it's genuine. As in, I'm not faking my desire to learn Spanish. After all, it's his primary language, and so the more I understand Spanish and am able to communicate with him in that way (or at least understand some of what he says), the better I understand him. It's forever a huge part of who he is, so naturally, I want to learn. I'm motivated to learn, and I find the whole process a fun and rewarding challenge. That said, I confess I'm thankful I'm not having to fake an interest in golf or video games (are they even called that anymore?) or comic books or bryology (the study of mosses and liverworts). Spanish and the many subsets of the Mexican culture from which he comes are within my realm of interest.

Regardless, the point is that Ricardo is someone I love, and therefore, he is well within my realm of interest. I want to know him. I want to understand what makes him feel passion or sadness or anger, what triggers his emotions, what gives him energy and what takes it away, what his dreams are and what he fears, what pulls him close and what drives him away. I want to know where he comes from and what has shaped him into the man he is today. I want to know all the nuances of his culture. I want to know what makes him feel supported and what makes him feel undermined. I want to know what actions on my part make him feel loved and cared for. These things are the substance of his primary language, more pervasive and yet more subtle than Spanish.

Too often, my own language gets in the way. More so, my desire or expectation that he be fluent in the ways I love can obscure my ability to speak his language. My first thought in a disagreement or miscommunication is generally not, "How can I meet Ricardo's needs in this moment?" rather, "How can I make sure my needs get met?" It's the sad truth. The good news is, I don't intend to stay there. Inch by inch, I'm making my way toward fluency in Ricardo's language of love. I've got a long way to go to fluency, but the challenge serves as a continual reminder to be intentional, to not grow lazy. I can think of no other language worth learning right now than his. I just pray I can be a good and faithful student.

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