Do You Speak Your Love’s Language?

Ways of expressing love vary between cultures: some say it, others show it. So how does expressing love translate in cross cultural relationships?

I was out for a walk and talking with my husband John over the phone, when I bumped into an acquaintance of ours.

I waved to him, and he asked me how John was.

“Why not check with him yourself?” I said as I conveniently handed him the phone.

I soon heard John say how much he misses me and our son Jaden.

“I don’t think Charlene misses me as much as I miss her,” he continued.

“I am super busy and have no time to miss anyone,” I tried to explain with embarrassment.

This was not the first time I was caught in this kind of embarrassment. John knows better than anyone I am not comfortable saying  “I love you” or “I miss you” in front of people, but he always makes me.

Although his tricks are sometimes annoying, I appreciate the changes he has brought to me over the years.

“I know it is difficult to change the way you communicate with your parents. I sincerely want you to have a healthier relationship with Jaden,” he told me.

I never begrudge saying “love,” “sorry” or” thank you” to my son. I tell him I love him every day.

This is completely different from my parents when I was a kid. If I remember correctly, my father never said love to me and only said he missed me once. It was during my first year in college and the first time I was far away from my parents. I would call them regularly to report what I did, what I ate and how the weather was. It was always the same. One day, a short silence came after my routine report, and “I miss you,” burst from my father’s mouth.

I was deeply moved. I knew how much he must have missed me to let those words out. He does not have to say those words to ensure his love for me. I have always known.

Chinese parents tend to disguise their love and care with high expectations, strict requirements and sometimes even harsh words and punishment.

If a child falls and starts crying, the parents would likely chastise their child for not being careful. In the meantime, they are checking how bad the wounds are. If a child gets a 99 percent on a test, they tell their child there is no reason for them to be satisfied when they could have gotten a 100 percent. While the parents are talking down to their child, they are bragging to other parents about how well their child did.

I cannot push my parents to say “I love you” as John does to me. Luckily, I found a smart way to achieve the same effect. I was teaching Jaden baby sign language and my mother happened to pick up a few sign words.

She signs “I love you” to Jaden as easy as waving goodbye. It is much less pressing and far more comfortable for my parents to show their love with a simple sign rather than words.