While vacuuming or doing the dishes might not seem to fit into any love language category, when we take time to keep an orderly, comfortable house for one another, we are cultivating a home, and when we cater to our spouse's love language in the process, we are maintaining its foundation.
We’ve all heard of Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages. In fact, most of us know which love language speaks best to us and which means more to our spouse. I am a Physical Touch gal who doesn’t believe a marital argument is over until my husband, Josh, voluntarily hugs me or holds my hand. Josh responds best to Words of Affirmation. Until he audibly hears, “I’m so proud of you,” he simply doesn’t believe it.
Understanding these details has saved us many arguments or at least brought quicker reconciliation. After all, male and female brains are vastly different, so any extra measure you take to understand each other’s way of thinking is invaluable.
What about you? What about your spouse? If you aren’t familiar with The 5 Love Languages quiz, take a few minutes to answer the questions and understand how you receive love. Share the test with your spouse.
Whether you are like Josh or me or discover your love language is Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, or Quality Time, I have a simple but impactful challenge for you: find ways to include your spouse’s love language in chores. Yes, the mundane, annoying chores.
While vacuuming or doing the dishes might not seem to fit into your love language category, when we take time to keep an orderly, comfortable house for one another, we are cultivating a home, and when we cater to our spouse's love language in the process, we are maintaining its foundation. In a true home, partners can retreat to find refreshment and feel the sort of love this harsh world doesn't easily dish out.
(As someone flipping a second house with her hubby, incorporating chores into how Josh receives love has made this process less chaotic and stressful and strengthened our communication skills.)
Let’s dive into the five love languages and decide which chores we could burden for our spouse that will speak most to their love language:
Words of Affirmation
I’ll start with Josh’s love language since it’s the one I most actively try to engage these days, especially while renovating an 1890s Tennessee farmhouse.
While I can’t audibly speak chores into completion, I can do simple tasks for him that create engaging conversation where I can praise him for the hard work he does. For example, Josh is a pilot. He’s on the road (or in the sky, rather) for four to five days at a time, and once he comes home, he’s busy working to fix our house. Instead of him worrying about washing his pilot uniforms while balancing all the plumbing and carpentry for the house, I make sure to wash, dry, fold, and hang up his uniforms so they are ready for his next flight.
When I’m finished, I let him know his uniforms are ready for the suitcase, but I also pair it with, “Thank you so much for working so hard for our family. I see all the effort you’re putting in at home and on the road. And I’m grateful.”
Handling his work laundry is a physical task that sets the stage for an audible conversation where he can hear that I am proud of him and recognize the countless hours he puts into flying airplanes and building bookshelves, hanging wallpaper, and fixing leaky faucets in our rickety farmhouse.
Which chores in your household make the most room for encouraging conversation?
Okay, let’s jump to mine! I receive love best from physical contact, and while I don’t like for Josh to take charge of my household responsibilities (because I have my own method that I believe works best), I love when Josh takes time to do chores with me.
Now, this might sound a bit like Quality Time, and in a way, it is, but here’s where it’s different for us Physical Touch folks: we love when the chores require us to have close interaction. For Josh and me, that looks a lot like outdoor work. We grow vegetables, fruit, and flowers on our little Tennessee farm, and I love when Josh and I can get our hands dirty helping one another plant. There’s lots of hand-to-hand contact while potting soil or patting seeds into the ground.
I also enjoy it when Josh fills our birdfeeders with me. It requires us to help each other lower the birdhouses, spread seeds, and hang them back up. Just a simple “Let me help you” from Josh as he places a hand under mine means more than all the chocolates and roses he could ever deliver to the doorstep.
“Shouldn’t the gift be the fact that I did the chore for you?” would be my sarcastic reply, but here’s the catch: people who accept love by Receiving Gifts aren’t ungrateful for the chores you do, nor are they demanding pricy gifts. Instead, the tangible gift serves as a mental and emotional reminder that someone thinks enough of them to know them intimately, just as a husband and wife should know one another.
But what does that look like in everyday life? Well, take some time to tidy up your husband’s nightstand by organizing books or power chargers, dusting off the nooks and crannies, and putting his favorite candy bar or drink on the nightstand’s coaster.
It takes five minutes to dust a nightstand, stack books, and wrap up chargers, so why not go the extra mile and put his favorite snack by the bed so he can enjoy it that night while watching television or reading a book? He’ll appreciate your effort to clean up his space and know he’s worth the tiny details, like you stopping by the store to grab a Coke or Reeses Cup he loves.
Hubbies, I recommend taking some time to declutter the living room, perhaps putting up toys, dusting side tables, and straightening up pillows, but add a candle or new picture of you two to the space, and I promise that will mean more than any amount of vacuuming or sweeping you could ever do.
Acts of Service
This one seems like a no-brainer, right? Doing chores for your spouse is an act of service, but a selfless act of service is taking on that one chore you both hate for a substantial time.
Josh and I are expecting our first little one soon, and with this beautiful pregnancy, I have encountered intense food aversions. Just the sight of unfinished food on dishes lying in the sink makes my stomach churn. Josh hates—loathes—washing dishes, but he has taken on that responsibility for the past four months without complaint. I don’t have to ask or beg. He does the chore voluntarily because though he hates washing dishes as much as I do, he knows how hard dishwashing has been for me since pregnancy.
What about your spouse? What is the one chore they cannot stand? Josh is a trooper at taking out the trash, but he never wants to do the detailed work of replacing the old trash bag with a new one. So I always come behind him and handle that small part of the task. Maybe your husband knows it’s time to clean out the garage, but it’s an overwhelming feat. You could spend 30 minutes each day decluttering, organizing, and cleaning one space at a time to inspire him to get the job done!
Expressing the Quality Time love language might not seem authentic if you and your spouse are forced to clean out the hall closet or sanitize the kiddo’s bedroom post-stomach bug. Ew. But quality time doesn’t have to be defined by the tight parameters of just being in the same room as each other.
When things get icky and gross, create a playlist you and your spouse can listen to while sanitizing doorknobs and washing yucky bedsheets. Include their favorite oldies, the songs that make them want to dance, or even the song the two of you danced to at your wedding. When things get chaotic and disorganized, quality time might look like hosting a faux-pas beauty pageant as you try on all the old, goofy, or mismatched clothes, hats, and accessories you find lurking in the hall closet. You know what makes your spouse laugh, so go for it!
Plenty of household chores require both husband and wife, forcing you to spend time with one another. But the quality aspect of this love language is found in thoughtful moments when you prioritize your spouse’s mental, emotional, and physical needs rather than simply completing the chore.
For quality time, it’s all in the tiny, seemingly insignificant details.
Take some time over the next several days to think through how you can use mundane household chores to show your spouse that you care about a neat home and, most importantly, a happy, healthy home where everyone feels seen and loved.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Nattakorn Maneerat
Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves connecting people to grace bigger than expected. Follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland and check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, to discover how you can not only love God but like Him too.