Two years ago, my father was driving me to the airport, as I was heading out on a romantic escape, with a man whose intentions and commitment I was having some doubts about, due to what I considered a lack of communication. Therefore, I asked my dad, “Dad, how many times should a man contact a woman, in order to show that he’s interested?”
As per my father, a man should talk to his sweetheart daily, at least to check on her and to reinforce the connection. This, I believe, stretches far beyond romantic relationships; because we naturally feel an urge to talk to those we love, to feel their presence and to make sure they are doing well. Some people I communicate with on a daily basis, we text all throughout the day, sharing thoughts, jokes, concerns, epiphanies, successes or struggles.
While most men may not be great communicators, they do however make sure to be present in the lives of the people they care for, in some way or form. For instance, fathers may take their kids to classes or play with them, husbands may take their wives on dates or call to check how they are doing, and loving boyfriends might buy small gifts or send a cheesy message at precisely 3 p.m., to let their girls know they are thinking about them.
When we share a living space with the people that we care for, expressing our love in concrete, practical, even material ways is much easier to achieve, and therefore, outranking spoken or written communication in the order of priorities makes less of an impact. Nevertheless, in the case of a long distance friendship or relationship, talking takes the place of a wide range of activities that one cannot physically share, for obvious reasons.
One of my absolute favourite reads is the Little Prince and more specifically, the 21st chapter, about the encounter with the fox, who explains relationships and interactions in terms of mutual “taming”, a process of earning each other’s trust, being responsible and protective of the established connection and nurturing it in a constant and meaningful manner.
Once a specific pattern and frequency of interaction is set into place – that constitutes a foundation for the future interactions between two individuals. Without that consistency and respect for prior arrangements, as the fox of the Little Prince would put it, “I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you”. Thus, love becomes a process of reciprocal care, constant give and receive, without taking the connection for granted, yet being perpetually grateful, reassured and confident of the strong bond, because of the love and care constantly showered upon one another.
On Sunday evening, I was talking to my friend about our expectations from a relationship, and we decided to try a little experiment, in which we were going to be our own boyfriends for the next two weeks, in order to figure out what is was we wanted from our romantic partners. To me, it revolved around the idea of spending time doing meaningful and uplifting things together, as well as receiving the verbal assurance of appreciation for my contribution to the relationship. I am technically a dog; I need to be played with and be called a “good girl”.
It instantly dawned on me that it all boils down to understanding the love language of one another, being fluent in the partner’s love language. According to Gary Chapman, the author of a book called “The Five Love Languages”, we each understand or communicate love in one of the following ways: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch. We may master each of these languages to some degree, but some will be predominant.
In this context, the conversation of two years ago with my dad quickly came to mind. Since my Freudian approach to relationships often paid off, I understood that, in fact, I had no example of such constant and committed communication with the most important man of my life, my dad. Therefore, I texted him explaining that I interact with the people closest to my heart every day, and therefore, I needed the practice and the tangible proof of fatherly love, by being in touch with him on a daily basis.
I am happy to report that today is the third consecutive day that my father texts me, bright and early, to greet me, to exchange news and thoughts and to join me in my research of things to know, sights to see and foods to try during my upcoming trip to Africa. I have to say, it makes me extremely happy to be able to share such an experience with my dad, and to further my knowledge on the many manifestations of love.
Love transpires through the little gestures that bring us closer together, create complicity and make us feel safe and accepted. Pick up the phone and text the people who mean something for you. Let them know you care for them, set up a meeting, cook a dinner or go out dancing together, tell them you appreciate their existence in your life, offer to help them with something they are struggling with, hug them, kiss them, make love to them, buy them flowers or tickets to a movie, a concert, or a game.
My fellow friend, I urge you to practice the Duolingo of human interaction. In order to solidify your status as a love polyglot and your bond with the people you love, make it your mission to spend a few moments every day learning and communicating in another language of love.