3.05.2011

acts of service

[photo credit]
have you read The Five Love Languages? well, neither my husband nor i have actually read it, but we know the five languages, and we refer to them all the time when we argue discuss things [it's actually pretty comical, now that i think about it, since we've never read the book]. he thinks that mine is "quality time", and i think that his is "acts of service". and that's pretty right on. we've recently also discussed the fact that my language is changing. i still want the quality time, for sure, but i also need "words of affirmation" right now. his, however, has remained "acts of service"... mostly in the form of my keeping the house clean.

i don't know why it took me almost six years to figure this out, but he really really appreciates a clean house. not just clean, but neat too. all the time. for almost six years of marriage, this has been our number one argument. i'm messy, he's neat. for so many years i just rationalized that it was something he should get used to, not try to change me, accept me for who i am, etc... how naive. how selfish. how totally backwards.

we would have the same argument every few days. the laundry wasn't done. he had nothing to wear. the counters was cluttered. the kitchen stove was dirty, which makes the entire kitchen look dirty. there are dishes in the sink. there's a trail of my stuff, tossed wherever i decided to drop it and not put it away. i'm not exaggerating when i say that every couple of days, we'd argue about this.

of course i took it as a personal attack, like he didn't appreciate the fact that i was working full time, going to school, nursing a newborn, running after a toddler, working part time, etc. [all of these circumstances have been true over the years, not usually all at once] but honestly, what wife isn't doing at least a few of those things? some of you are doing all of it right now, and we still have to keep the household running smoothly. anyway, the years went by with constant conflict in this area, and more recently i was beginning to feel completely defeated every time he would mention the condition of the house. it was getting gradually better, i was trying, why couldn't he see that? this demand, this requirement, and his reminding me of it constantly, made me feel like he didn't want me, i was a bad wife, i couldn't do anything right [sometimes i can be a little dramatic]. he should just love me for who i am, right? [for the record, he never said any of these things, he was almost always sooo kind and understanding when we'd talk about it. i was jumping to these conclusions myself.]

finally, i realized that this is something my husband needs, in order for him to feel loved by me. what could be so wrong with changing myself, instead of wishing that he would change and no longer need a clean house? i began a little routine of cleaning up every single day, just before he got home from work. i decided that i would notice, i would care, and i would do anything in my power to get the place looking presentable before he walked in. and you know what? he noticed. he saw it as a sacrificial act of love, and he so appreciated it. after all these years, i finally understood him. it has been one of the best decisions i've ever made, on so many levels:

1. i actually care about it now. i'm becoming more and more neat, naturally, and it doesn't take as much intentional practice anymore. i want things to be picked up and put away. neatness is not a bad thing. why was i so reluctant to become this person?

2. our home is relaxing, refreshing, calm, and orderly. we can be a family here. we can play and laugh and run and dance, and not have to worry about the messes getting in our way or holding us back or bogging us down.

3. no mess = no stress. in our marriage, that's the magic equation. my husband is instantly diffused when he walks through the door, relaxed and excited to see us. his mind isn't fixated on the messiness because it's not there. when i wake up in the morning to a clean house, i feel like i can start the day with a fresh start, a clean slate. it's so freeing to plan my day in the comfort and order of a cleaned-the-night-before kitchen.

4. i love decorating, and i love how our little house is coming along since moving in six months ago. i noticed the other day, that because it's so tidy and neat, you can actually see all the details that make our home, home. if it were a mess, no one would notice or appreciate how nicely everything is coming together, decor-wise.

5. i think that guests feel welcomed and honored when they walk into to a clean house. they feel like they've been prepared for, like you have been expecting their visit. they feel warmth, they feel home.

are you messy or are you neat? can there be a good balance between both? what is your spouse/significant other? does that create conflict? i'd love to know!! 

5 comments:

  1. Can totally relate! Great post!

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  2. awesome post :) we love that book

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  3. I'm definitely more of the neat freak. We still haven't found a balance!

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  4. Hi, I'm a recent follower but until now have been lurking without a chance to comment. So glad to have a moment to do so. Loved this post. What a great reminder that a lot of the small tasks I do aren't simply my "role" or responsibilities but rather acts of love!! Just the reminder I needed.

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  5. thanks for your comments, gals! i'm so glad to know we're not alone.

    kari, glad to "meet" you :) thanks for commenting!!

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