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Even though words of affirmations is a close second, and can switch places depending on my mental health, energy, and situation, I think quality time is the one that wins out most of the time. When it comes to romance, I know the thing that hurt me the deepest was any indication that the other person didn’t want to spend time with me. I get very upset when people are late because I want to maximize the amount of time I get to spend with them, and if they choose to spend time with someone else over me, it sends me down the deep end. If someone texts me asking me to hang out, I see that as one of the ultimate indications that they value me. But even better than that is if they call me just to chat. I also know that this is my primary love language because if I’m feeling too tired or am not able to give quality attention to the conversation, I will refuse to answer the phone or avoid people for weeks. I would see it as the ultimate insult to not give careful attention to that conversation, because if someone didn’t do the same for me, I would feel slighted. But, at the same time, if I’m close enough to someone where I can articulate that I’m chewing on food or doing my hair or walking to the bus and can only talk for a few minutes and they are okay with that, I see that as a sign of our closeness. If you have to run errands and invite me to tagalong, or vice versa, then I know that you get me.
My ideal close relationship involves finding even the smallest moments to have a deep conversation, send text messages throughout the day, or meet up for a half hour over a lunch break. If you love me, you’re willing to find even small moments to spend time with me as a stop gap to when we can hang out for longer. If we’re at an event together, my heart will soar if you seek me out to have a one-on-one conversation in an alcove somewhere. At church, I love to pull my friends aside for prayer time and to hear their problems, and get to the deepest part of them. Admittedly, I can be kind of nosy and persistent, but it’s often worth it, and I feel closer to them afterward.
When I spend time with my friends, I love long stretches of time where we can meander through whatever topics come up. Walking around the mall or by the river, or just sitting on a rock and watching airplanes. Watching a movie, having a long meal.
If we are doing an activity that precludes deep chats, that’s when I tend to feel less connected, disconnected, or even lonely. For example, I did an escape room with a group a few days ago. Even though we were all in the same setting in very close proximity, this didn’t necessarily make me feel closer to them, because we were focused on achieving a task, not in getting to the heart of each other. It was still fun, but I was happy when it was over and I got to have a long drive with one of them afterward, immediately diving into our deepest vulnerabilities, hopes and dreams. That’s the part of the evening that I treasure.
I’ve often said that what I most look forward to in heaven is unlimited time for these kinds of conversations in breathtaking settings. As much as I didn’t mind when the escape room was over, I wished I could have lingered in the car with my friend forever.
At the office, my meetings often go quite long because I love letting other people talk and being able to share my own experiences with them, and just letting the conversations flow. If someone doesn’t want to share, I get the feeling that we are not close and that they don’t trust me.
I’m the kind of person who likes to talk during movies. Not too much, but I like to see what someone else thinks about my favorite moments, or if they agree that I think something is stupid. This is part of getting to know them and having them get to know me. Unless I’m dead on my feet and just need a warm body, I don’t think I would be able to get through an entire movie with someone without a comment or a noise at least every five to ten minutes. I still want to be able to hear what’s happening, but I also don’t mind when it comes to the point that we need to pause the movie and have a deeper conversation because we both have too much to say.
After church events, I love being able to hear what people thought of it, and I love the times when the party can keep going at a restaurant. I even suggested an impromptu drive to the mountains after church one day, because I wanted the long, uninterrupted time with a new person and someone I only partially knew to get to the bottom of their souls and figure out how I can pray for them. And also because admiring the mountains is a quality activity that can involve either quiet reflection together or the occasional deep conversation.
It’s not all about the conversation, though. When I look back on what I miss about relationships, it’s also being able to have a fun experience together, building something together, or sitting quietly. If you’ve ever been called “clingy” or “desperate,” maybe you’re like me, and when you like someone either romantically or as a friend, you just want to spend time with them all the time, and you might worry that you’re coming on too strong. My ideal relationship would be to have someone that I can keep with me as often as possible, who is accessible at random times. Whether we are working side-by-side at the same desk in the same office, or I know they would welcome me stopping by their cubicle for a five-minute chat, they are someone who can be there, and I want to be there for them, as much as I am able, considering my need to also spend quality time with myself.
How do I show love to myself? For me, I also love to talk to myself in various ways. I love to get deeper to the heart of myself, and understand how I tick. This is why I love to journal, and write essays, and create content. I love to talk to myself. Yep. Out loud. Sometimes in public. I’ll just be walking down the street and be chattering away, sometimes without even realizing it. Sometimes I’m praying, sometimes I’m just talking or singing to myself. I love the sound of my own voice, and I love my thoughts and ideas, and sitting down with myself to sort through a problem. As noted before, I consider myself one of the smartest, prettiest, and most talented people I know. During the times when I don’t have the energy to pour into others the way that I want to, it’s probably because I need some time to go into the wilderness and be with myself for a bit. If I’m not able to pour into myself this way, I’ll be a very grumpy and restless guest or confidante.
An ideal day spent by myself would be spent in a lot of the same ways that I would love to spend time with others. Praying by myself. Going for a long walk or sitting and watching something interesting, like the city lights or the flow of a river. I used to think I was pathetic for going to the movies or out to a fancy restaurant by myself, but now it’s something that I really enjoy when I have the time and money. I do sometimes talk to myself at restaurants. And when I’m watching TV at home, I am constantly yelling or making sounds at the characters for my own benefit (and theirs, because honestly, they should really listen to me.) In the same way I’d love to sit next to someone by the river and read a book or listen to a podcast or music, I love doing that by myself, as well. Although sometimes I use cooking as a utilitarian act of service, sometimes I like to spend time crafting meals for hours because I like my own company. Why do you think I can clock ten or fifteen hours in a day watching Netflix or YouTube when I’m having a particularly low day or a bad episode and need to self-soothe for weeks? Just being quiet and letting myself be is how I can fill my own love tank.
Even though I am still learning not to hate it, God has put me in situations where I have to go to church by myself and sit alone, then go home by myself without seeing a single person that I can hang out with. Then it’s just me and God, and people thinking I’m crazy because I’m laughing inappropriately at the funny jokes that the two of us come up with at inopportune times. Then I get to discuss with Him what I think He’s saying to me on a deeper level, and how I can apply this to show love to Him better.
God and I also spend time together working on my book. I go to Him with a lot of my plot and character problems, especially as I am diving deeper into what I want this book to say about Him, and how I can honour my readers, even if I know the book won’t necessarily be something that most churches will want to promote. God and I also have some inside jokes in this book that I sometimes don’t even remember the origin of, but I feel closer to Him when we can share them.
When I’m not hiding from God or putting Him on the backburner, I love these extended periods of time to laugh with Him, philosophize with Him, or yell at Him. If you see me walking down the street and I’m cursing like a sailor or laughing like a lunatic, I’m probably just praying, so don’t mind me.
From what I’ve read in the Bible, quality time is important to God. He literally came down to earth to spend time with His creation. At the beginning, He dwelled in the garden and popped by to visit even after we’d ruined everything. He told Martha that he should take a clue from Mary, who was loving Him by sitting and listening to Him, rather than Martha, who was trying to love Him through acts of service. Although He affirmed the value of her actions, He clearly told her what He preferred, at least in that moment.
Despite being a major celebrity who was often surrounded by thousands of people, He wanted time to be alone with His closest friends to pay special attention to them and give them special insights into His plans and desires. He often says that He wants our devotion and attention. He wants to be ingrained in our hearts and minds, to be the thing that we meditate on and go to for fulfilment and company above anyone else. He wants us to let Him know us and for us to spend time getting to know Him by reading His words and what others have to say about Him. He wants us to spend time with each other, praying and doing His works.
He’s building a future heaven where we can be with Him forever, the way that it was meant to be in the beginning. The ultimate blow was when Jesus felt that the presence of His Father was no longer with Him, no matter what physical pain He was in. At the end, the ultimate punishment for those who spurn Him will be eternal separation from His presence. If Jesus is pained by this prospect for some of His children, we should take this seriously.
So how can this love language be traumatic, or even stem from trauma? Well, some people who grow up in dysfunctional families with toxic primary caregivers whose main love language is quality time can feel stifled and trapped by clingy people who get upset by lack of attention. If you grew up with primary caregivers who were reluctant to let you spend time with your friends or insisted that any free time you had should be spent at home, this might be a challenge for you. You want to spend quality time with people, but you grew up with messages that any time you weren’t as available as someone needed, that made you a selfish, ungrateful person. You might have grown up with people who just wanted you to be “around” at the expense of spending time with other people, whether or not it was even quality time. These controlling and sometimes abusive tactics were your primary caregiver begging for you to love them in the only way they knew how, but now you’re terrified that if you start spending too much time with someone, they might start to demand all of your time, and turn on you when you’re ultimately not able to do this.
Of all the withdrawals of the five love languages, being abandoned is the thing that haunts me the most in my failed relationships. When friends and relatives that I was once close to suddenly stop wanting to spend time with me, or we have a falling out and they no longer want to be around me, this is something that cuts me to my core in a way that is often more irreparable than with the other love languages.
As a borderline individual, I have these dichotomies in my mind that make it difficult to love people the way I want to. I want someone whom I can spend all my time with, but at the same time, if someone starts wanting to spend more time with me than I’m able to give, I’ll probably get triggered and run away, distancing myself from that relationship. It’s not always a sensical reaction, but if you’re loving someone who is neurodivergent or traumatized, it’s probably confusing to them, as well. It’s something that must be continually worked on with God and therapy. As with everything, I appreciate being able to take things a day at a time, and being given space to work through my triggers when they occur or if someone points them out to me. Maybe your loved one will benefit from a similar conversation.
My Quality Time love tank is probably the biggest one, and therefore the one that keeps me going and keeps me most invested in a relationship. It’s the one that needs to be topped up the most often. It’s the most functional and has the least amount of damage. The cap is unscrewed and almost always open, ready for filling by just about anybody, whether it’s someone I meet on the street or my closest friend in the world. It’s the one that needs to be kept the fullest and to be full first for me to have my other love tanks accessible to someone and open for business. Although I need a few others filled as well to feel whole in a relationship, this one is the priority.
So, there’s some ideas for how to say “I love You” with quality to God, to yourself, and to those around you, based on what I’ve seen in myself. What makes me happy, what makes me feel left out or angry, what makes me feel closer to them, and how it relates to my traumatized brain.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13