John and i spend a lot of quality time together. Recently, we were sitting on my couch while dinner cooked. We were each playing our own game on our own computer. We were not watching TV together, we were not playing a game together, we were not cuddling. We were not even talking. But we were together. We each knew that the other person was there, and it was enough to simply be together in that moment.
We also eat meals together. We go on walks together. We spend time with friends, we go to concerts and plays, we go to church, we sit and talk, we watch movies. Quality time is important to a relationship. Whether participating in a specific event or simply being in the same room while you each do your own thing, the act of occupying the same physical space is powerful and wonderful.
This isn't just sex. This is when John and i are driving somewhere and i reach over to run my fingers through his hair. This is when we're at lunch with friends and he touches my knee under the table. This is when we're watching a movie and i lean against him. This is when i roll over in my sleep and he rolls over too, because even asleep he wants to be near me.
This is a simple expression of emotional intimacy. Skin-on-skin contact speaks volumes, and while we still don't fully understand everything about touch communication, we know that it is important and instinctive.
This is more than materialism. This is about sentimentality, tangibility, and permanence. I save everything, even ticket stubs from shows that John has been involved with, because they are a tangible reminder of something special that we shared. Yes, big sparkly diamonds are nice, and they are certainly also a tangible expression of memories and affection, but a gift can be an expression of love even if it is only flowers that you picked from your mother's yard (and John has brought me such flowers twice). Spending a lot of money on someone really does make a statement about your perception of their worth. But so does spending a lot of time making something for them, or spending a lot of energy to find the perfect greeting card.
Gifts are important because you can keep them. Quality time passes by, physical touch is fleeting, words are forgotten and acts of kindness come to an end, but gifts can be preserved. I still have gifts from old boyfriends that i don't even talk to anymore, because they are tangible memories of significant relationships. The relationship may not be in my life anymore, but it was important once, and it is partially responsible for me becoming who i am today.
Acts of kindness:
A few weeks ago, i came home from work to find the kitchen in shambles. We had all been up late the night before and had not cleaned the kitchen before going to bed, and the evening was full of gym trips and social engagements for my roommates. That left me to clean the kitchen or to not eat dinner. Before anything could be cooked or eaten, the dishwasher needed to be emptied and the dishes put away, the dishes in the sink needed to be put in the dishwasher, and several things needed to be washed by hand. The counters needed to be wiped down, the trash needed to be taken out, the stove needed to be cleaned, and the floor needed to be swept and Swiffered.
As i began unloading the dishwasher, John began washing the dishes in the sink. He had not dirtied any of them. I had not asked him to help. I was complaining about the fact that my roommates hadn't done anything in the kitchen, but i was not dropping hints. But he helped me anyway, because i was tired and stressed and he wanted to make my life better.
Words of affirmation:
This one is the most important one to me, but everyone is different. I express myself most easily and understand others most clearly through words. This is why i write letters, this is why i ask questions, this is why it kills me that i don't have a word to express how i feel. There is far less ambiguity in words than in anything else. A touch on the arm could be affectionate or accidental. Helping me with the dishes could be an act of love or a desire to hurry up and get the kitchen clean already so i can make your dinner. A gift could be meaningless to you, whatever significance it has to me, and quality time could simply be killing time until something happens. But words are what they are.
I save text messages and post-it notes from John. This poem was written almost entirely from those texts, notes, and actual out-loud conversations. Words matter to me. Gifts are great. Spending time together is great. Doing nice things for one another is great. Physical affection is great (actually, physical affection with John is amazing). They say that actions speak louder than words. But words speak more clearly.