Hilary Fannin: What I learned about love from Winston Churchill
The Churchills' domestic arrangements sprang to mind when I was looking at a list of American bestsellers for 2016, which included The Five Love Languages
Winston and Clementine Churchill: rarely talked before 1pm
My father used to tell my mother, remarkably frequently, that the sole reason Winston and Clementine Churchill’s marriage survived was because the couple did not speak to one another before noon.
He said this so often, and with such conviction (usually early in the morning when he and the cat were slumbering), that I did a little research on Churchill’s daily routines and discovered, unsurprisingly, that my father was quite wrong.
Apparently, Winston and Clementine rarely spoke before 1pm, at which time they enjoyed a three-course lunch, together with family and guests, he drinking champagne, she imbibing a sombre claret. Then, after lunch, the couple occasionally enjoyed a civilised game of backgammon.
I don’t know what Clemmie did with her evenings, but Winston, after another whiskey and soda at 5pm (he had his first in late morning, after a bit of dictation work from his bed), crawled back into the pit for a snooze, awakening at 6.30pm to have a bath and dress for dinner at 8pm.
It has to be said that the similarities to my own life are pretty staggering. Oh no, hang on, they’re not; nope, sorry, not a sausage.
I mention Winnie and Clemmie’s domestic arrangements because their marriage (or at least my father’s fantasy version of it) sprang to mind when I was looking at a list of top-selling books on an American chart for 2016.
At number seven on this particular list (which was dominated by self-help books, detox diets, Dr Seuss and a Harry Potter play script) was Dr Gary Chapman’s multimillion-selling tome, The Five Love Languages.
“Are you and your spouse speaking two different languages?” asks Dr Chapman in his introduction. (Yes, actually, doctor, I’m speaking lots of words in English, many of them pertaining to domestic waste, while my spouse’s vocabulary is made up of seven words, which are: “Let me just finish this paragraph, yeah?”)
Anyway, Dr Chapman’s bestseller, his website, his online expertise, his cupcakes and action figures (all right, I’m making some stuff up because I’m jealous and small-minded) all help to guide couples in identifying, understanding and speaking their spouse’s or partner’s primary “love language”.
“Their what?” you ask from under the sink, where you could have sworn you put the bayonet light bulbs and the marriage vows.
Their love language; there are five of them and we each speak one, apparently. The five languages are “quality time”, “words of affirmation”, “gifts”, “acts of service” and “physical touch”.
Don’t look at me, mate, I’m groping around in the dark here too.
Anyway, learning your lover’s love language gives you a newfound eloquence that revives stale relationships, reignites damp trysts and generally sprinkles the fairy dust of romance over pungent, seen-better-days marriages or partnerships. Think sexed-up Shake’n’Vac in a handy cognitive behavioural dispenser and you get the picture.
Presumably, given the potency of the man’s message (he has sold more than five million books), the world is awash with couples snug in the jaws of contentment, and, for all I know, you and the bloke in the bunny slippers might be too.
If, like me, however, you’re new to the subject, the trick is finding out what type your mate is. Is he or she (a) a words-of- affirmation type, who likes to be told frequently that they are loved? Or, if you’re lucky, (b) a quality-time type, who wants to hang out with you in foreign cities, eating tapas and drinking cheap wine under difficult-to-identify trees. Or maybe they’re (c) a receiving-gifts person, also known as a person who likes to receive gifts. (Yeah, right, dream on.) Or maybe your significant other is (d) an acts-of-service type, the kind, presumably, who likes to see you do the hoovering. It’s also possible that Bunnykins over there is (e) a physical-touch type, who prioritises sex, oh, and hugging.
Clear as mud, eh?
So, if you’re in the market for relationship improvements, you’re encouraged to buy and read the book, then rush home and say: “Honey, I learned some really neat things about myself and how I feel loved. I love it so much when you love me by [insert preference, and no, that doesn’t include anything to do with custard]. I’d love to return the favour and love you in a way you really appreciate.”
Now that I’ve finished chucking up my breakfast in the schmaltz pan, can I just say here that, regardless of what new language you learn, “Where the f*** are the car keys?” doesn’t work in any of them.