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It wasn’t like he spoke French, or we had grown up on different continents, or had families who forbade us to date each other…but it was close.
I was born and raised in a small town in Vermont at the base of the Green Mountains. So, it was kind of a big deal to be moving south to play soccer at a small, private college in North Carolina.
Just prior to departing on my new adventure, I was out shopping with my mom for all the essentials I’d need for school. Stopped at a red light, my mom turned to me and said, “Whatever you do, please don’t fall in love with a southern boy.” Well, like any teenager, I went right ahead and did just that.
Jeff was a baseball player from Southern Florida, and at the time, it seemed like sports was about the only thing we had in common. It was not “love at first sight”…at least not for me.
I mean, who would ever shave their own head, wear baggie Tommy Hilfiger jeans with stripes down the sides, a white tank top and sport a chain necklace with a cross?
And boy was he loud! His energy was electric! Jeff was that guy, yelling at the poor referee “to bend over and look out his good eye!” There were times I wanted to slink away, and crawl all the way back to Vermont.
I was not perfect by any means, but I was chill.
I was a Vermont-girl, who thought she was looking for a typical Vermont guy. You know, the rugged outdoorsy kind of guy who wears hiking boots, Carhart pants, flannel shirts, and enjoys quiet conversation over a good IPA.
Not the Miller High Life guy, who drank “The Champagne of Beers” as Jeff would call it. By the way, do they even make that beer anymore? He’d grab a bottle of “champagne” as he sat down to watch his beloved NASCAR.
Jeff was so foreign to me; he might as well have been from another country. He’d say things like “fixin’.” Why would anyone say they are fixin’ to make a sandwich? Is it broken?
Or when he’d yell, “G.D!” Which, I assumed for months was a reference to the Grateful Dead, not the abbreviation for an offensive expression.
The guy ate biscuits and gravy! He loved sauerkraut! He washed his shiny, silver sports car every Sunday afternoon while I tooled around in my beat-up truck which was nicknamed Swiss Cheese because of all the rusted-out holes caused by the cruel Vermont winters.
He liked fast-food, I liked fresh.
He cheered for Tampa, I bled red for Boston.
He loved Jesus…Who?
He was very conservative, and I was quite liberal.
He was so…Southern, and I was so…Not.
So, you know how magnets work…when like poles of two magnets are placed near each other, they repel. But, when the north pole of one magnet is placed near the south pole of another: Boom! We were magnetic!
As different as Jeff and I were, we were drawn to each other by a force that was quite literally out of our control.
In the beginning, all of our differences were part of what kept our romance exciting. We were the epitome of the saying, “Opposites Attract.” But, like anything in this world, when there are strong, opposing forces involved, life can get complicated- fast.
We knew we had to figure out a better way to communicate after we realized our love and excitement for each other could only be stretched so far.
Thankfully, around this time someone recommended the book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman; it was a game-changer!
Mr. Chapman explains how every person has a different way of feeling truly loved and there are five primary ways we feel loved by our partners; rarely do a husband and wife have the same love language. So, the challenge is discovering the primary language of your spouse.
The Five Love Languages are:
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
For some, it’s a mixture of two or three of them but most people have one primary love language which really makes them feel treasured by their partner.
For me, I always appreciate it when Jeff washes my car (Acts of Service), or surprises me with a small gift, but these acts rarely “fill my love tank” as the author describes.
As we discovered through the book, I feel most loved when my husband takes time to sit and talk with me, with no distractions, or when we go for a walk together. (Quality time)
Conversely, Jeff certainly appreciates it when I make him a tuna sandwich or I stop and pick up something at the store I know he needs. However, he feels most loved when I tell him how grateful I am for all he does for our family; what an incredible dad he is to our three kids or how wonderfully he provides for all of us. (Words of Affirmation)
Over the last 15 years, our marriage has been a continuous journey of learning to love and appreciate each other’s differences, all while trying to make our marriage thrive.
Understand each other’s emotional love language does not mean our marriage is challenge-free, or we have it all figured out, (especially since we’ve added three strong-willed, high spirited kids to the mix) but it does give us a road map to go by when we get caught up in the craziness of our life.
It is that simple? Of course not.
We still have our days. Like when Jeff’s been gone and I’ve been driving the kids in all different directions, dinner’s not ready, the dog hasn’t been walked, everyone has practice or a game, and there are no clean uniforms.
Then there are those times when the dishes are still sitting in the sink from breakfast, the laundry is overflowing, homework hasn’t been touched, field trip forms are missing, the floors are sticky with patches of who-knows-what, and I’m trying hard not to trip over the last thread I am hanging on by.
On those days, when I am trying to regain my footing, Jeff knows he can gently take my hand and go for a quiet walk together to hear my heart. And through this simple act, the pace of my heart rate lowers, my tank refills and I’m reassured of his love for me.
This didn’t happen by accident or overnight. It has taken us both time and a deep desire to invest in each other and our marriage. Sometimes we don’t do as good of a job of filling each other’s love tanks.
But, we have discovered over the years that keeping this simple idea in mind has helped immensely in keeping this Vermont-girl and Southern-boy…walking hand-in-hand.
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Megan lives in the Sunshine State with her husband Jeff and three young, active kiddos. She is passionate about her family, friends, fitness, food, and faith. With her English degree, she enjoys writing about her experiences and how important “enjoying the journey is and not the destination.” She hopes to relate and bring normalcy to others through the wonderful chaos of life!