We all want to feel loved by the significant people in our lives, and aging doesn't diminish that need. If anything, it might make that desire more urgent.
And, truth be told, time can be an enemy to strong relationships, in that the longer a relationship goes on, the more likely complacency, or even jealousies, can develop — es
pecially if two people don't understand that what makes one feel loved isn't necessarily what makes the other feel loved.
You see, we all have love languages.
And that's the crux of Dr. Gary Chapman's bestselling 1995 book, which has helped thousands of people — couples and singles alike — discover how they communicate and how they receive love, and strengthened countless bonds between people and their loved ones. Chapman's keynote address at Refresh Your Soul 2018 is right around the corner, and it seems like an apropos time to talk about how the five love languages apply to positive aging and caregiving.
Grudges are toxins to positive aging
None of us are perfect. Sometimes we hurt the people we love the most. And those failures can create emotional barriers between us and our loved ones.
They say that time heals all wounds. But that's not really true, is it? Time might make it easier to move on and accept the existence of differences, but we never really forget the psychic injuries we've incurred.
Think about it. Do you have a positive view of a person who hurt you 20 years ago and never apologized for it? Likely not.
You may have ceased dwelling on the rift, but if there has never been an attempt to rebuild the connection you formerly shared with that person, you probably tell yourself that you don't care much about him or her anymore.
That's, of course, a rationalization — a failsafe mechanism. And in some situations, it might be ok to move on without further ado, if the person who injured you was never a meaningful part of your life.
But what if this was a person who was important to you? What if he or she was a best friend, a significant other, or even a relative? Or, what if you were the injuring party (witting or unwitting)?
Grudges build up. They fester. They destroy your ability to trust others, and other's willingness to trust you, in equal measure. And that's not conducive to maintaining a positive outlook as you age.
It's important to learn your love languages, and to learn those of the people around you, and use them to avoid the misunderstandings and miscommunications that can wound.
Caregiving is an act of love
Caregiving must be rendered — and appreciated — in the language a senior and his or her caregiver each understands.
If the elder or partner being cared for cannot understand the love language that the caregiver speaks in, he or she may resent that person's ministrations. Likewise, if the caregiver doesn't understand the love language in which the person he or she is caring for expresses gratitude, he or she might resent the responsibility of providing care.
If resentments are allowed to develop in the caregiving relationship, they become significant barriers to positive aging. Those barriers can be removed by apology and forgiveness. But, as in love, people have different ideas of what constitute sincere apologies.
In their 2013 follow-on book, When Sorry Isn't Enough: Making Things Right with Those You Love, Dr. Chapman and his co-author Dr. Jennifer Thomas discussed 5 common ways that people express apology. And they wrote about how dealing effectively with our failures allows us to age in healthy relationships.
As the keynote speaker at the sold-out 2018 Refresh Your Soul conference, which will be held on March 12, at Xavier University's Cintas Center, Chapman will explain the languages of love and apology.
He'll tell us what they are, how they are communicated, and why, and help us to understand how we — as caregivers or care receivers — can use them to proceed gracefully, peacefully and happily in our caregiving relationships.
All proceeds from Refresh Your Soul benefit our non-profit Parish Health Ministry. If you didn’t get tickets, keep checking this blog for recaps and more information on ways we can all improve our caregiving communication.