Some food for thought on the way love speaks to us
By Cath Jenkin
I need to make a confession. In my early 20s, I was a self-help book fanatic.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? Dog-eared on my shelf.
He’s Just Not That Into You? I’d done that quiz a thousand times before the movie disrupted everyone’s relationships.
The Secret? Honey, I had two copies and neither of them made me richer. The Celestine Prophecy? I can still recite parts of it.
I spent many an hour trying to analyse my life with the help of self-help books.
I’d get lost in the idea that, somehow, the next self-help book would be THE ONE that pulled it all together.
Luckily, by the time my 30s rolled around, I’d all but dumped the fanaticism, but one book stuck. The 5 Love Languages.
Dr Gary Chapman’s framework for navigating relationships is still important to me.
He expanded his concept into parenting, just in time for me to be raising a kid. It became a reliable way for me to stay grounded when speaking to and relating to other people.
It has helped me understand why, sometimes, relationships have felt unfulfilling. It has helped me understand new love, old love, ended love, renewed love, and infinite love.
Dr Chapman’s framework assigns your “love languages” in an interesting way, allowing you to understand how you prioritise each type.
They are: Words of Affirmation; Acts of Service; Quality Time; Gifts; and Physical Touch.
Sticking to that framework, I found out that my primary love language is Acts of Service.
That seems lovely, but for me, it’s a double whammy. I relate my love through Acts of Service, and battle to understand why other people don’t do it in return.
It’s been a plague on many a friendship, but one I’ve settled into understanding as the grey hairs settle in.
It’s the reason behind at least half the great fights I’ve had and, yes, it is absolutely one of the reasons why I’m a divorcee.
For me, Acts of Service lives out loud in my kitchen. This is why my child grew up being the envy of her peers, thanks to the lunchboxes I’d stuff with homemade muffins and exceptional snacks.
This is why I grow my collection of cookbooks. This is why I spend hours thinking up some experimental food item, only to have it fail and make me try again.
Meal planning is an act of love for me, and not a chore. It should be no surprise that in my 40s, my ideal love language is lunch.
When we moved into this house, Luke would laugh because I’d constantly be in the kitchen making food.
He will still tell you, nearly three years later, how he was not served the same meal twice in the first three months of Hedgehog House.
Matching that with his penchant for Chaotic Cuisine (ham and peanut butter DO NOT belong together!), you’ll understand why what happened next made me nervous.
As part of settling in and knowing the way forward, there was always food.
Whether it was lunchboxes, ladles, or boat-shaped sandwich cutters, preparing and serving meals has been the way I communicate kindness and love.
Then, 2020 happened, and all of us ended up at home, working at speed and learning online.
Our lives slipped into living our other primary love language: being allowed to procrastinate freely.
Schedules and routines aside, I kept running out of time to do all the things, and so did Luke. Nearly every day, I’d forget to make lunch.
We decided to re-divide the household duties, all managed while we worked and learnt.
Previously, Luke would handle the laundry. As life would have it, the one thing I wasn’t getting to was lunch, so we decided: Luke will do the lunch.
Which was when my love language got served back to me. The first day, Luke on Lunch Duty, and I was trepidatious, because this was an Act of Service I couldn’t get to. But I had to let go.
Instead of what I thought might be a once-off thing, Luke’s Lunches have become a daily midday masterpiece.
They’re delicious creations, made with thought and kindness. There are no half measures in these lunches.
A smattering of cheese I adore, salads I crave, and sandwiches with all the right fillings.
Luke’s Lunches have exceeded expectation. I’ll allow him his Chaotic Cuisine moments, because I know there’ll be a sane, sweetly served lunch on the other side.
Lunch, every day, is an emotional time for me.
Somewhere, in the big old flat I used to live in during my 20s, there’s a girl reading a self-help book in the bath.
She’s cackling with laughter. She knows, eventually, lunch will get served.