When Greg and I were dating, it took me a good while to realize we spoke different languages. We seemed so compatible and everything seemed to just flow. But as our dating continued and got more serious, it became evident he was speaking Swahili and I was more of the !Kung dialect.
The first time I realized quality time might be my love language was when Greg and I were dating. We had planned spending an entire Saturday together — we didn’t have anything specific in mind, just that we’d be together. I was overjoyed at the idea of an entire day with the man I adored.
We grabbed some lunch and when we were done, Greg mentioned that he told a friend of ours we’d stop by his baseball game.
I suddenly became very quiet and very grumpy and couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong with me. I think I chalked it up to PMS.
Fast forward to the first few months of marriage. Our ministry and marriage all happened simultaneously, and suddenly our calendar became not our own. Week after week was event after event, and nothing was left for just the two of us.
One morning at the breakfast table I had a semi-nervous breakdown, and couldn’t quite identify what the problem was. Again, I dismissed it as PMS.
And then started taking Black Cohosh to get my mood swings under control
Eventually, I remembered the book The Five Love Languages and started putting two and two together. And I actually got to four, believe it or not.
I sat down with Greg and explained to him what was going on, and it was right then we began our annual planning for our lives. We still do it. At the end of every year (well after church annual planning is done), we sit down and plan out everything for the year — date nights, family date days, vacations, conferences, Georgia football games — all of it. And unless it’s a wedding or funeral, we try very, very hard not to move those dates.
Because once I know quality time is coming, I can handle everything else that takes up our time. (tweet this) This past fall and winter, Greg handled (with incredible grace and determination) his full-time job, doctoral school work, and assistant-coaching high school basketball.
Had it not been for weekly breakfast dates and occasional date nights, I would have absolutely lost my mind. Quite literally.
For someone whose love language is quality time, I think it’s important to first identify what quality time is not:
- It’s not a date with another couple or a night out with friends
- It’s not simply being in proximity with each other
- It’s not time together where you’re both on phones, tablets or watching TV
Simply put, for someone who speaks quality time as their love language, it’s one-on-one, undivided attention time. It can happen in a restaurant, a coffee shop, the couch or the bedroom. It’s knowing that at that moment, the other person is focused on nothing else but you.
How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is a quality time one? Here are a few ways to tell:
- They might suggest “doing” things as a way to spend time together. A parent might suggest a day of shopping. A friend might want to meet for coffee. A spouse might ask to have dinner and take a walk after. When I want to spend quality time with my children, it almost always involves going for ice cream, or playing at the park. Quality time (at least for me) is more special when it’s outside of the house because there are too many distractions at home.
- They eliminate distractions when communicating with you. If you’re having a conversation, they turn the TV off or the volume really low, so they can focus and really hear what you’re saying and maintain eye contact. Doing this is a way to show that you are more important than what else is happening, and is an indicator they would like the same courtesy. If you’re on the phone together, they might get easily annoyed at outside distractions like you having conversations in the background, or loud noises interrupting.
- Their time with you is focused more on fun than work. If during your time together they make a point to say they don’t want to talk “shop,” they might be craving time to just be. Sharing laughter, stories, dreams, desires — those can be an indicator of a quality timer — so bringing up budgets or issues will lessen the impact of your time together.
Here are some easy ways to speak quality time to your loved one:
- Turn off the distractions. When your loved one walks into the room to talk to you, turn off the TV and put down your smartphone or iPad. Maintain eye contact and don’t interrupt. Show them that they are the only thing you are focused on is them.
- Suggest a date. Whether it’s a spouse, friend or family member, suggest time together. Go out for coffee, lunch or a movie. Take them shopping or out for ice cream. It doesn’t have to happen all the time, but the fact you suggested it will mean a lot — the fact you actually do it will mean even more.
- Focus on fun. Effective quality time dates for me personally do not involve discussing budgets, work, schedules, or kids stuff (unless it’s to talk about how cute they are). Don’t bring up issues or problems — just laugh, learn and love.
The hardest thing about quality time is starting to speak it. If you’re not a quality timer, it will feel so awkward and uncomfortable to suggest time together — you might feel like a middle schooler asking, “do you wanna go out with me?” Not only that, it will be downright tempting to not scroll through Facebook on your phone or send off texts in between conversation. After all, you’ll think, “how much eye gazing can one person do?”
Speaking another’s language is always uncomfortable. But to the recipient, it’s not so much about succeeding as it is making the effort. Greg’s love language is not quality time at all. For him, driving in the car together used to count because we were in proximity to each other.
Now that we’re 10 years into this thing, he gets that quantity of time doesn’t matter…it’s the quality of quality time. And I love and appreciate every effort — so I don’t hold him to the fire if he checks his phone when I run to the bathroom or turns on sports radio in the car.
The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.
At least they’re trying.
What about you? Are you a quality timer, or is your spouse? What has worked and hasn’t worked for you?