So there's this ad showing a young couple eating at a restaurant and she's all smiles 'cause he's just given her the perfect diamond pendant gift.
Predictably they are perfect -- perfect skin and hair and teeth and clothes, etc. Her grateful smile is perfect. His satisfied grin is perfect. Naturally the diamond pendant is perfect. Heck, even the food on the table is perfect.
The message is clear. Tell your sweetheart that you love her by giving her a diamond pendant for Valentine's Day and life will be perfect.
The missing piece here is the conversation. Ads like this don't include actual conversation between the couple because it's hard to figure out a perfect verbal exchange that's both universal and generic. The way that couples talk to each other -- their personal language of love -- is as different as they are.
Life has a way of knocking off the edges and carving away the surface stuff and smoothing us out until what's left is the real language of love. Sometimes it sounds like anything but love. But couples who tough it out, who say what they need to say -- and listen to each other in the process -- develop a language of their own that actually strengthens their relationship. Listen to conversation of a couple that's been together for a while and you'll notice there's not a whole lot of mush. Their real love language sounds closer to something like this:
"Just for the record, I can't read your mind. It has nothing to do with whether I really love you or not. I just don't know what I did to make you mad, and no matter how long you stay silent, I still won't know."
"I don't want to see your junk on the kitchen counter again. If we're going to be together forever, and our place when we leave earth has kitchen counters, it can't be heaven for me if I'm still looking at your stuff on the counter."
"This is a hammer. This is a wrench. Can you tell the difference? Good. Because when you use a wrench to do a hammer's job, it makes the job harder. And it really messes up the wrench."
"That's the fifth poopy diaper today. Your turn."
"Yeah, I know this is the third night in a row we've eaten this. So finish it off so we can move on to something else."
"What do you mean we visited my family last week so we're going to your family's this week?"
"The only way you can have a clean pair of socks is to put your dirty ones in the hamper."
"My tools ARE organized. Chronologically."
"Yeah, well, you may have the remote but we're still going to watch my show 'cause I have the batteries."
"I quit my job."
"I wrecked the car."
"I'm not pregnant."
A couple of universal phrases are sprinkled throughout the language of love. There are those three most important words of all: "I forgive you."
If you can't say those three words (and mean it), stay single. There is no perfect person out there, and sooner or later you're going to need to forgive. And to be forgiven.
And yeah, those other three words, "I love you," those are pretty important too.
They are ultimately powerful when they're genuine. And horribly wrong when they're not.
And finally, it never hurts to say "Happy Valentine's Day," on Valentine's Day.
If it's the day after ... you'd better figure out a whole different love language.
You can contact D. Louise Brown at email@example.com.