How To Qualify A Relationship

I am totally convinced that the 5 love languages are essential to qualifying a relationship. In fact, I think it’s the #1 key to a successful relationship. Forget all this stuff about honesty and respect. Although those are important, too. I’ll explain.

I wrote back in July how your love style can help or hinder you on dates. This was before I knew anything about the Chapman book. At that point I noticed how small conflicts in the way I communicated with my girlfriends could turn into huge issues down the road. But I didn’t have the vocabulary or the principles nailed down to really understand it. Then, Honey turned me onto Chapman in her post here, and I blogged about love styles (ie Love Languages) further when I wrote about insights from dating three chicks at once. Then I read the book. Now, I have a context and a way to quantify communication with my partner.

I took the love languages stuff further. I’ve been dating this new girl, Sarah, and on our third meetup I brought up the 5 Love Languages and how I figured we could determine if we’re compatible pretty much right away. I suspected we were pretty compatible (after all, it was the third date), but the conversation served several purposes. First, it confirmed what I suspected about our communication. Second, she was totally into the material, which was good, because we could both operate out of the same context. So now we understood, in a perfectly reasonable way, our strengths and weaknesses. We matched up very well in 4 out of 5 styles, and that last one, quality time, raised a flag for both of us. So definitely we were going to have to work on that, and maybe we’d have problems down the road. But maybe not.

Here was the conflict. I asked her to rank herself 1-10 on give & receive for all 5 love languages: Words of affirmation, touch, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. We matched up in everything but QT. She gave herself a 10/10 in quality time, that is a 10 in needing quality time and a 10 in her ability to give it. She even said that if 11 were a choice, she would have picked it for needing. I ranked myself as a 7 in need and 6 in giving for the same quality…although it’s probably closer to 5 if we’re not gonna bullshit around. As you can see, with her 10 (or 11) in need and my 6 (or 5) in giving, that is a potential problem area. The quality time conflict, btw, is something that has bitten me in the ass before.

Quick question for Honey: Was this a problem for us? I seem to recall we spent a lot of good quality time together. But it’s been a long time and I’m not sure.

Let me back up and explain. Here is the deal with me and Quality Time. I’m one of those brain focused types, where my mind is constantly whirling and spinning and going in circles. It is analyzing and processing and outputting ideas and crunching up the tasks I give it and the experiences of my life. My brain gets really tired each day, way before my body or my emotional center runs out of energy. WAY before. I have a finite amount of this mind energy, and that energy runs out after 3-4 hours. After that, I’m basically a zombie mentally. Once I’m in this low energy state, I have to recharge, and I do that by napping, reading, watching TV, or otherwise fucking around in private. After that I get pumped up again (mentally) and I can go for another chunk of time with high mental output.This makes me highly effective in bursts, but it means I need an atypical amount of downtime. What sucks is I’m rarely in sync with my girlfriends.

Here’s a real real example of what I’m talking about: I worked 10 hours today. Came home, totally exhausted. Couldn’t even muster the energy to respond to emails. Napped for three hours. Woke up, felt awesome, did freelance work and blogged until two in the morning. My girlfriend wasn’t here, but if she was, I wouldn’t have been able to take that huge nap and I would have been a zombie the whole night.

Incidentally, I think this is partially a Gemini trait and partially a trait of people who just happen to draw energy from their heads. I’m half baked on this theory, but I think people draw energy from one of three primary sources: head, physical, and heart. They all overlap somewhat, but there is a definite primary source. My last girlfriend, she was 100% heart centered. Honey, I think, is mostly head centered. Which is why we got along so well.

I am digressing. The effect this has is that I run out of mental energy for my girlfriends. Conversation becomes a HUGE chore and I’m not a lot of fun to be around while in this state. So I have this fear of being boring around my partners, true. But also when I’m around other people, I can’t recharge. I can’t get out of the low energy state. Because being around a girlfriend requires energy. And the low energy state is very unpleasant to be in. The consequence is I take the private time and lose the quality time with my girlfriends. And they get super pissed.

So I explained all of this to Sarah and she took it really well. She actually said she suspected that about me already, which is amazing because it was only our third date. Or maybe not because she’s intuitive.

I also said that I’m conscious of this issue and I’m actively looking for ways to spread the energy out and keep some in reserve for the times when I’m with my girl. And I am very willing to listen to solutions if anyone has ideas on how to deal with this. I have been thinking about meditation. She also said she can be needy sometimes, and it’s something she’s working on.

So that’s when I knew she was a keeper, because we can talk, and we can compromise. And she’s hot.

Talk about the 5 love languages right away and figure out if you’re compatible. If you’re not doing it, you’re dumb. I don’t see how anyone gets through a relationship without this stuff.

If you’re not dumb, you might also like these great posts:

  • Hammer

    Two comments for you brothaman:

    1. I think that the mental energy thing could be diet related. Since I’ve cut way down on eating carbs in favor of protein and fat I have noticed that my focus has become much more stable and energy spikes have become less of an issue.

    You did a 30 day challenge on vegetarianism last year, I think you might want to try a 30 day challenge on a paleo diet this year, as it’s not only going to give you more energy throughout the day, but it will also prevent you from getting cancer, heart disease and basically all chronic disease down the road.

    2. While love styles may in some way factor into ultimate compatibility at it’s core level, I’m still pretty convinced that a woman’s love style is very maleable, and probably has as much to do with where she felt neglected in a previous relationship (often just with her father) as it does some other intangible thing like a horoscope. That’s why it becomes much more an issue of frame control and frame dominance as it is mate selection. If you manage expectations early on and lead her, you can make her feel pretty comfortable with any situation.

    Having the information that you now have from her about her love style is good, because now you have a much better idea of how you need to mold her expectations so that the relationship is your ideal situation. That NathanX Relationship Mastery product tells you all about how to do that.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Article on Exercise Not Leading to Weight Loss =-.

  • Kat Wilder

    After 15 years of marriage I learned this — each of you must make space just for you. No partner, no kids (if you have ’em), just time to be by yourself. It refreshes you, re-energizes you, refocuses you. Then, and only then, you can fully give what your partner needs. Otherwise, people set themselves up for resentments, etc.

    If you have a partner who can’t respect that (and want that, too), I’d tread carefully.

    And Lance, three dates is cool, but it takes months for a person to reveal him/herself. We all say things in the beginning, not because we’re lying but because we really want to be that person. But, we are who we are, and that shows up in time.
    .-= Kat Wilder´s last blog …A matter of trust =-.

  • dadshouse

    A 10 out of 10 for quality time seems needy to me. Don’t get me wrong, quality time is essential. I have tons of quality time with my kids. But giving and receiving QT at a 10/10 (or even 11) level? Is just too much. You need to be happy with yourself. Then you don’t seek validation from others, and you can give love more freely without conditions.
    .-= dadshouse´s last blog …Tiger Woods Affair Scandal Now Pathetic =-.

  • Honey

    I have been thinking about your question re: us and quality time – I think that we did spend a decent amount of time together and it was generally great (totally agree about both of us getting our energy from the cerebral and that’s why we clicked so well). The fact that we were interested in pretty similar things academically and had even worked together at one point gave us a lot in common intellectually as well.

    OTOH, one specific downside I remember is that when we started dating, you said you were excited that my apartment was closer to your super early a.m. coaching gig than your house was, but then you only spent the night at my place a couple of times. Since you yourself had pointed out that staying at my place would drastically reduce your commute time *and* be closer to school, I was a bit hurt that we didn’t hang out more at my place (but then I have noticed that I have to be at home to recharge, so it was very energy-consuming for me to be at your place all the time).

    We also both had roommates and so lots of our quality time was on “dates,” which is fine, but I don’t know that we really hung out in chill-out mode where we were 1) in one of our our home environments, and 2) not spending any money. The time I remember most specifically as quality time is when you brought a Kurosawa movie over (I think it was Seven Samurai). That was one of my favorite times with you, I think.

    In my current situation, I get home 2 or 3 hours before Jake so I am usually pretty reenergized by then. Then he’s at a bit of a disadvantage, so I try to let him play with the dog for half an hour or 45 minutes before doing anything, and I’ve noticed that he makes a special effort to get home early if I have evening plans (so he has time home alone) and he also takes about one day off per month just so he can be home alone.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …How To Qualify A Relationship =-.

  • Offwinger

    I have a question:

    What does 10 out of 10 (or turning it up to 11 -snerk) on quality time actually LOOK like? Does it mean you’re giving high quality time ALL of the time to another person? Seriously, what kind of behavior is that?

    The reason I ask is that I’m extremely removed from this. My own needs for quality time are very low, while my need for space & independence are high.

    Meanwhile, in terms of giving, I can not give *anything* a 10 out of 10 in quality time. I can’t give a 10 out of 10 to myself, my spouse, my dog, my job, my family, my friends, or my most favoritest hobby/activity.

    I can give a lot of time to something or someone. I can give very focused, quality time or attention to something or someone. But I am incapable of giving anything or anyone in my life a 10 out of 10 in quality time. As an introvert, I need time to be alone to recharge. As someone who both works and plays in high energy activity-bursts, whether we’re talking about mental or physical challenges, I need downtime to veg afterwards, whether I have company or not.

    So here’s what I don’t get: how can someone give quality time to another person all of the time? Does this mean they don’t have any other significant things taking up time in their life, spending time by themselves or having a significant hobby or interest or other friends? Does this mean that they define what quality time is differently than I would (e.g., I wouldn’t count watching a tv show or game as quality time together if you’re not actively interacting or discussing)? Is there something else I’m missing? Because I can understand someone *wanting* a 10 out of 10 in quality time, though it seems frighteningly clingy and needy to someone like me, but I can’t even begin to understand how someone genuinely could *give* that!

  • Janak

    I’m probably a lot like you in terms of bursting/downtime. Now that I think of it, my best relationships have been with chicks who were the same way, whether our cycles were synced or not. Because even if they didn’t, we at least understood each others’ needs in that regard and could respect each other’s desire for periods of solitude, without reproach or hurt feelings.

    I’ve tended to regard people who are actually recharged BY others as fortunate, but I guess that trait comes with its own set of problems. Like the sort of neediness your girlfriend is referencing.

    In terms of how you can change it, I’m not sure you should. Plenty of great stuff gets done in this world by burst-and-busters, and maybe you just need to accept that that’s how you are and associate with people who understand it and accommodate it. It sounds like maybe your new girl can, or is at least willing to try. Good luck.
    .-= Janak´s last blog …Sexually perverted moments in video game history =-.

  • Lance

    Hammer, excellent feedback, thanks for reading as always. So, this paleo diet. I’m interested, and I’ve actually been thinking about doing another vege month for 2010. Where should I look for more information?

  • Lance

    Honey, good point about me spending more time at my house vs. your place, which was indeed a very short drive to my coaching destination. It was exactly what you think it was…a need to re-charge at my place and also use my computer etc to do homework and stay on top of my coaching homework. I won’t lie though, back when we dated I was *terrible* at carving time out for my partner, esp. the type where we’re together and in chill mode. Sorry about that. For what it’s worth, I’ve developed the ability to do that in the last couple of years. Along with a lot of other things.
    .-= Lance´s last blog …How To Qualify A Relationship =-.

  • Lance

    Offwinger, this is a great comment and one that probably begs an entire blog post on it’s own. But I’ll try to address it in a nutshell. I think when I (or anyone) says they are a 10 in giving quality time, they’re saying they can carve the right amount of time out to spend with their partner, and ALSO make it time that’s quality by whatever their definition is, be that interesting or fun or chill or whatever. So, I’d say that 10 is a person who is highly intuitive to what their partner needs in terms of QT and can execute that time giving.

    The thing is that you’re going by your own definition of what QT is. Let’s use an example: I’m just pulling a number out of the air here. You think that 25 hours is perfect and you can give that 25 hours really well. But your partner disagrees. My QT might be 40 hours. So even though you’re awesome during those 25 hours, your partner could say that’s not enough and it still screws you up.

    Honey and talked about this a little bit in two posts, which I’ll link below, but I think it’s important to start to quantify certain aspects of the relationship, like amount of time spent per day and per week that you need and can give. That sounds totally cold, I know, but it could save a ton of grief in your relationships. Does anyone do this?

    .-= Lance´s last blog …How To Qualify A Relationship =-.

  • Honey

    You could do a paleo diet and a veg diet in close proximity and compare. That might be interesting.

    FWIW, it’s totally possible to do a high-protein, high-fat diet that is low in carbs that is also vegan. Tofu and seitan both have higher percentages of protein per serving than meat – the big difference is how you cook them.

    I think the malleability of love styles is an interesting concept and am musing about a blog entry on this.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …How To Qualify A Relationship =-.

  • Offwinger

    Ok, that’s a start and breaking it down in utilitarian terms really helps me, but I still don’t get the scale.

    Someone saying they need 10 out of 10, is that saying that they have more finicky standards in what counts as quality time or that they need more hours or both?

    Your post makes it sound like being a 10 means you can match what the other person wants. But that’s inevitably scaled to a specific relationship, not to the person. For instance, my QT needs are very low. If I get 3 hours per week of direct conversation & contact, I’m good to go. I’m in a relationship where my needs are being met. Does that make him a 10 out of 10 on QT? Hell no. Because the minute he met someone who was even twice as time-demanding than I am, he might struggle. Similarly, he needs a few more hours than I do per week, but his idea of QT is pretty chill. If we’re reading separate books in the same room and not even talking more than once every 30 minutes, that counts to him as quality time. Does that make me a 10 out of 10 because I can meet that? Again, no.

    So I guess what I’m wondering is if someone says they can be a 10 out of 10, what is the limitation on that? At what point do they say, no I can’t meet those needs – either in time or how you define quality.

  • Honey

    Apology accepted, Lance – I was pretty terrible at articulating what I needed back when we dated, too, mostly because I didn’t have the ability to step back and analyze my interactions the way I (try to) do now.

    It’s pretty wild that we haven’t seen each other in person, let alone hung out with each other in any sort of sustained way, in probably 7 years. I am always grateful that we’ve kept in touch and think that we’ve done a lot of the kind of growing together that most romantic couples only dream about achieving. I bet if we lived in the same city we’d realize that we’ve each grown a lot more than the other has even given us credit for (and I think we give each other a LOT of credit!).
    .-= Honey´s last blog …How To Qualify A Relationship =-.

  • Lance

    Getting re-charged by other people is a REALLY important idea and I’m glad you brought this up. These people are sorta rare, and I know I’ve maybe only been with 1 or 2 chicks that actually helped recharge me when I was around them. Sadly, most people are takers and not givers. I think my current gf is a recharger, though, which is something that really excites me. It’s easy spending time around her and I feel like like she *levels me out* during the long stretches that we’re together. I’m not exactly sure why yet, but I’m going to break it down and see if I can figure it out. Janak, your thoughts on this would be much appreciated.
    .-= Lance´s last blog …Not Just Love Styles – Work Styles, Too! =-.

  • Hammer

    Yea but beans are shit for you. They fuck with your hormones increasing your estrogen levels and decreasing testosterone levels which will still cause cancer and chronic disease in the long run. That said, it may help with the energy thing.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog …Article on Exercise Not Leading to Weight Loss =-.

  • Honey

    seitan isn’t beans…
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Not Just Love Styles – Work Styles, Too! =-.

  • Honey

    Interesting, I had not heard that about testosterone and estrogen, but it turns out it is a myth:
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Not Just Love Styles – Work Styles, Too! =-.

  • Honey

    The longer you are around someone, the more you get addicted to the good endorphins you feel around them and the more they help you recharge, I think. I talk a little in my latest post about how I can’t relax and recharge at the end of the day until Jake gets home…now, I lived by myself for almost 3 years so this was not always the case. It grows once you stop having to be in “holy crap I hope I’m impressing” mode.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Not Just Love Styles – Work Styles, Too! =-.

  • Lance

    I wasn’t really talking about addiction or endorphins when I talked about rechargers. There are some people who are very chill and give off an almost Zen-like vibe that chills out other people and has the effect of recharging someone. Sarah is like this. I took her to a party this weekend. Normally at a party I would get crazy and whoop it up. But when she was there I was relaxed and I felt like sitting around the firepit and talking. The effect was so noticeable that a couple of people mentioned it to me. Even her voice is soothing.

    The difference IMO is that interacting with this person isn’t draining. In fact, she returns energy to me or in subtle ways can level me out. I’ll contrast this with myself. I’m a high energy dude and I know that occasionally I can drain members of the group because I’m so busy being rambunctious and tweaking fun out of it. So I have to be careful and practice energy management in group situations.

  • Honey

    Oh, I knew you weren’t talking about that – my point was that it’s always draining at first. Once you get more settled into the relationship (rather than exhausting yourself trying to impress at every turn) and also get to know each other better and develop your own dynamic, the sense of recharging will begin to happen even if it wasn’t there in the beginning.

    That said, to find someone who recharges you even when you don’t know each other that well yet bodes even better for the long-term.
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Hookers, Scandal, Money, Tiger Woods =-.