Chores as a love language

I have come to realize that chores are a love language. At least in my house they are. If that makes you feel sad for me, don’t. It’s a lot sweeter than you think.

Chores are a pain. No one actually likes doing them. I don’t want to want to do the dishes — ever. I don’t relish sweeping or dust busting or folding sheets.

But what I do love is making my love feel loved.

I have a confession to make. I used to think that my wife was always trying to get me to do things around the house without directly asking.

“The fridge needs to be cleaned out,” she’d say. I’d hear, “You need to clean out the fridge.”

“The dishwasher is clean,” she’d say. I’d hear, “You need to empty the dishwasher.”

“We need to do laundry,” she’d say. I’d hear, “You need to do the laundry.”

I used to bristle when I’d hear her say those things. And, of course, being the stubborn girl I am, I wouldn’t do whatever the thing was.

And, you know what? She did them. Every time. She never said a word or scoffed or acted annoyed. She just, well, did them.

The thing is, when she mentioned the chore out loud, she was actually reminding herself, not me.

As soon as I caught on, I started to do the things. And you know what? She was touched. Like, actually touched. She was happy the thing was done, yes. She was happy she didn’t have to do it, sure. But most of all, she felt heard, and she felt taken care of.

Realizing that the thing she was about to do was already down was a relief for which she was very grateful.

Sometimes, life gets way too busy at our house: Traveling three or more times a month, making sure our little man Walter is taken care of, hosting a zillion guests all summer long, washing the never-ending pollen from our deck. You get the idea. Sometimes connecting starts falling to the bottom of the list.

That’s hard and scary. You don’t want life to overcome your love life. But sometimes a romantic moment, let alone a romantic date, isn’t possible amidst the conference calls and expense reports and spread sheets that fill my wife’s day, or the deadlines and interviews and emails that fill mine.

That’s why the love language of chores is such a welcome discovery. When I can’t show her how much I love her in a more traditional way, I can always take something off the list that she has constantly running in her mind. And nothing is better than when she gets off a call and says, “Ok, I’m going to start the laundry,” and I get to say, “Done.”

And it goes both ways, of course. The running list in my mind is just as long, and when I finally get ready to empty and load the dishwasher or take out the trash or dust bust the couch, and I discover she’s already done it, I don’t just feel happy, I feel so very loved.

It’s goofy, I guess. But it’s true. Being loved and cared for can take any form that works for you and your partner. Any form.

Love isn’t really that mysterious. It’s about taking care of someone else the way you want to be taken care of. It’s about loving someone the way you want to be loved. It’s about always thinking, “What would make her feel loved right this minute?”

Sometimes that means bringing flowers or planning dates or whispering sweet nothings. Sometimes it’s holding space or holding her or holding the world at bay. Other times, it’s simply making life easier by really listening to what your partner needs.

You know, we have a terrible habit as humans of making love and relationships even harder than they already are. We worry about every gift and card and event and occasion. But if we instead tuned in to our partners and listened to what’s weighing on them, we could find the simplest and yet most impactful ways of making them feel truly loved and heard and seen and cared for.

I’m not saying I don’t want to see a tiny box holding something sparkly under the tree, or that I don’t want to receive those wildly-romantic cards my wife always chooses for me, or that I no longer want to see her arms loaded down with the dozens of pink roses that she so often surprises me with.

And I’m not saying that I’m going to stop making or tracking down the most romantic, surprising, tear-inducing gifts for my wife for every occasion and non-occasion alike when I want to wow her.

What I am saying is that I am going to always remember what the first year of marriage has taught me: Love can be gifted without a ribbon. Listening can be as romantic as smooching. And, when my wife leaves me a stack of freshly-washed and -folded tanks, or I surprise my wife with a freshly-swept floor, that just might be sweeter than even the most decadent box of chocolates.

— Jenny Block

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