“Celebrating the Many Faces of Love” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Feb. 11-17, 2015, page A7)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of Feb. 11-17, 2015

CELEBRATING THE MANY FACES OF LOVE

Valentine’s Day is coming up this week. Years ago, when I was still a college student in the Philippines, a classmate told me that his high school friend, whose father is in the motel business, revealed that motel business is slowest on Holy Week and at its peak on Valentine’s Day. I hope that you will not be swept up by the fake sentimentality in advertisements by companies that just want you to part with your money. Their message is that without their product, your Valentine’s Day celebration will not be complete.

We know better. We know that love is celebrated every day – not just once a year – in considerate words and thoughtful gestures that mean a lot to our loved ones. This column discussed the 5 love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch, developed by Dr. Gary Chapman originally for couples. He has since expanded the applicability of this system to singles, children, teenagers, and co-workers, among others. The key, as we know, is to determine which language your partner speaks and which language yours is – there could be a primary and a secondary language. When I took the test at the back of the book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” I learned that my primary love language is “quality time” and my secondary one is “physical touch.”

However, we know that the initial spark of passion, no matter how intense or all-consuming, gradually eventually turns cool. There must be a hardier basis for the relationship for it to last. I’ve heard it said before that love is not a feeling but rather a commitment. Especially for those of you who are in binding unions like marriage, you know that there are days of blah and days of hurrah. But what keeps you together through the years?

So I ask my first role models of a lasting marriage: my own parents, together for almost 46 years now. What’s their secret? Hearing them say it, it’s a matter of contributing one’s strengths into the relationship: affection, laughter, music, cooking, conversation, and the simple enjoyment of companionable silence during their road trips to nature spots. I could point out further that, since my Mom is a Pisces and my Dad is a Virgo, they are actually astrological opposites, and you know what they say about opposites, right? Sometimes it just boils down to basic chemistry. You either have it with this person or you don’t.

That’s one of the things that my good friend, Dr. JR Gatpolintan, would say. Just this January, he was named by his peers as one of the best Infectious Diseases specialists in the San Francisco East Bay area. (Check out the January 2015 issue of the San Francisco Magazine.) He was my batch mate and seatmate during the first two years of Medicine proper at the UP College of Medicine. He was and continues to be my good friend. He is now happily married to his husband, Rich Forhez, who is a Czech-American businessman. According to Doc JR, what they have in common are their sensitivity/empathy, their love languages, and their lust for life. Multiply these into maybe half a million households of either married or unmarried same-sex couples (www.census.gov). Sure, they’re in the minority in the big picture – but can we really legislate who gets to love and be loved? Are we here to judge each other? Come on. As humans, regardless of gender, don’t we have a basic right to love, understanding that it also comes with responsibilities?

There are many faces of love indeed. I know a heterosexual couple who have been together for more than 15 years, but they have not considered getting married or having children. What’s notable, of course, is the fact that their “live-in” arrangement has lasted more than the average USA marriage that according to statistics lasts about eight years before divorce occurs. They have met in high school, grew graciously together through the years, and now in their mid-30s remain loving, supportive, and appreciative of each other.

I know of three women, all married to their respective husbands, whose married lives undergo the usual ups and downs, but who long to give a different kind of love: the love of a mother for a child. Please forgive me for mentioning them again here in my column in this way. I will continue praying for these friends of mine because I know that they will make excellent mothers and because children who are wanted are gifts from God. To be fair, I think that their respective husbands would make good fathers, too. I just wonder why it’s easier for some women to conceive, i.e., “nahakbangan lang, buntis na,” when some of them don’t even want to keep their unborn child. Now take my friends who are still childless after so many years together. There’s a cosmic injustice there somewhere, but again, who am I to judge? I will just continue to pray for them and support what’s best for them. When the Divine Wow grants my prayers – for them, for you, for myself, for all of us – that would make me a very happy camper indeed!

I’m old-fashioned when it comes to love. If I were the President of the Universe, I’d distribute LOVE across the Earth and the stars and lots of it, with joyous abandon, not caring who or what is touched by love’s magic. Let us not limit the celebration of love to just one day. Let us instead do little acts of love and kindness for each other every day – because love is not just a feeling but a commitment. Now here’s a little plug from my Mother, who is a Master Gardener: instead of giving someone cut flowers, buy them a potted plant that can flourish in the soil long after the occasion has passed. This would count toward your love-and-kindness points for your loved one, and your sphere of influence, great or small, would become all the better for it.

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Photo by Mary Gow-2015. Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

“HOLIDAY FORUM: WHICH LOVE LANGUAGE DO YOU SPEAK?” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Dec. 24-30, 2014, page A7)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Dec. 24-30, 2014

HOLIDAY FORUM: WHICH LOVE LANGUAGE DO YOU SPEAK?

Whether you call this season Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Nativity, Midwinter, Noël, or Pasko in Tagalog, this is a time of rejoicing, thanksgiving, and the traditional giving and receiving of gifts. So before we go on, please allow me to greet you first: Maligayang Pasko po sa inyong lahat!

I credit my professor in our “Passion and Purpose” class at Chabot College, Prof. Cherise Martinez-McBride, with alerting me to these “Five Love Languages” by pastor and marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman. The first book in his continuing series was published way back in 1992, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” so I’m sure that some of you may already be familiar with these love languages. However, I will operate on the assumption that we all need a refresher course, especially since this season is a great time to express our love and appreciation to our nears and dears, whether family, relatives, and friends. Are we really speaking our loved one’s language when it comes to the emotional expression of love?

According to Dr. Chapman, based on his over 30 years of counseling couples, he determined that there are five distinct love languages:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Quality time
3. Receiving gifts
4. Acts of service
5. Physical touch

These languages are not only “spoken” by married couples, although the original books were geared towards spouses. These languages are also applicable to singles, children, teenagers, and co-workers, to name a few other groups. Here are brief descriptions of each love language. If you want to take the interactive profile quiz so that you can be sure which language/s you speak, you can go to http://www.fivelovelanguages.com

1. Words of affirmation — According to Dr. Chapman, “One way to express love emotionally is to use words that build up… Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love (Chapman, p 43).” You don’t have to exaggerate. Words of affirmation could be as simple as, “You look stylish in that dress,” or, “I really like how you fix my lunch box that I take to work with me every day.”
2. Quality time — If this is your love language, you appreciate time spent with your friend or partner doing something that both of you like to do. It also means focusing one’s attention, no fair glancing at your cell phone while your partner is talking, and maintaining eye contact to denote that you are here in the present. Quality time is about communicating, both speaking and listening.
3. Receiving gifts — If you think that this particular language is just about receiving “expensive” presents, you may be half-right. If you consider that the costly gift is an investment towards the longevity of your relationship, then money may be no object indeed and you would have made your partner happy. However, if your partner’s language is receiving gifts, then he or she may also be yearning for the gift of your presence — yes, of you just being there. Gifts could range from simple or handmade (a fresh flower plucked from the garden, an origami swan, etc.) to complex or expensive ( intricate jewelry, a dinner in a 5-star restaurant, etc.). The most important thing is that you put your partner’s needs and desires first because you genuinely want to see him/her happy.
4. Acts of service — This means doing things you know your partner would like you to do. As Dr. Chapman puts it, “Such actions as cooking a meal, setting a table, washing dishes, vacuuming, cleaning a commode, changing the baby’s diaper, dusting the bookcase, keeping the car in operating condition, paying the bills, trimming the shrubs, walking the dog, changing the cat’s litter box, and dealing with landlords and insurance companies are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort, and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love (Chapman, p. 118-119).”
5. Physical touch — This language is spoken by people who feel loved and comforted when they are in close physical contact with their spouse, through holding hands, kissing, hugging, and sexual intercourse. These are all valid emotional expressions of one’s love for the partner, but most especially if it’s the language that your partner speaks.

What is the point of learning about these five different love languages? Well, first of all, we have to know ourselves. Do you know what love language you speak? You can use Goodsearch.com to look for free tests that you can take to evaluate yourself or go to http://www.fivelanguages.com. Next, ask your partner to take the test, too. Hopefully the test you both took will be the springboard to a stimulating discussion between you about your similarities and differences. You need not be discouraged if you somehow interpret the results to mean that you and your partner are “not compatible.” Really, it’s about learning to speak a second language. You won’t be adept at the new language at first, like for example, someone like me whose primary language is Tagalog trying to speak Deutsch, but with practice then I’ll get better at pleasing my partner by speaking his language.

Let me tell you a story of a couple whom we will call Julius and Carrie. Julius, a hardworking top management type, is the kind of person who gives directions by telling you the distance of their house from the nearest gas station in meters of measurement, like let’s say “200 meters north of the Shell station.” Carrie, on the other hand, would just tell you that their house is right across a sari-sari store called Aling Tinay’s as soon as you round the corner on the left. Julius’ primary love language is acts of service, and so since Carrie takes care of her housewifely duties, being a good wife to him and a great mom to their two boys, he thinks that everything’s OK. However, it turns out that Carrie has been unhappy for a long time. She says that no matter how hard she works around the house, she rarely hears anything like acknowledgment or appreciation from Julius. Now could you guess what Carrie’s primary love language is?

This wonderful season, I encourage you, my dear readers, to be agents of love by spreading the valuable lessons we’ve all learned along the way. The world we live in can be confusing and fearful, and it may be easy to give in to cynicism and doubt. Please don’t. Instead, choose to believe. Choose to hope. Choose to love. So yes, I say, Merry CHRISTmas to all of us!

*******************************Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

(Photo Credits: http://www.taylorpublications.com)