Have you ever read Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages? I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already. In it, Gary explains that people communicate love in different ways, and he shares the wonderful things that happen when men and women learn to speak each other’s language. Chapters are categorized by love language and each one ends with simple steps to express a specific language to your spouse and guide your marriage in the right direction. The five love languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
If you need refreshing on which ones are your love languages, you can take the free test online.
Words of Affirmation is my primary love language. With each day, I realize more and more how much I need this from not only my husband, but from my friends, my family, and my community. The website’s profile for my love language says, “Unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward.” When I think of times my husband has looked me in the eyes and explained to me why I am so important to him, why he loves me so much, why he is proud of me, I was on cloud nine! Those words made my “love cup” overflow. But when time has passed and I don’t get that, I start to feel alone and start to doubt myself. And what’s even worse than not getting any affirmation is when I verbally get put down by someone. “Insults can leave this person shattered and are not easily forgotten.” And whether it’s done intentionally or unintentionally, it cuts me deep. I need people in my life who build me up and speak positively to me to feel loved.
My husband’s love language is Physical Touch. “A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial to this person.” Now here’s where I see God’s sense of humor come in, because any one who knows me knows I am the furthest from a touchy-feely person. Growing up, my older sister always wanted to cuddle with me, play with my hair, hug me, hug me again, hug me even more (can you guess what her love language is?) and I would always get irritated and push her away. Looking back, I did a poor job at making her feel loved. But with my husband, I can’t do that. I do it sometimes, but I shouldn’t, and I’m learning that to make him feel loved, I need to speak his language. Get out of my own discomfort and learn how to speak love in a way that he will receive it.
So who cares about all this love language stuff anyways? Why does it matter? Well, knowing how you speak and receive love is crucial to your relationship. It’s a romantic to think your spouse will be able to read your mind and know how to love you. But let’s be honest here…that is an unrealistic dream. It is unfair to expect something from your spouse if you’re not willing to communicate with him/her. No one is a mind reader. Not even that actor or actress who seems to have the perfect, movie-screen marriage. We have to learn how to communicate better with each other. So when you learn more about your spouse’s love language, you’re on the right track to learning how to selflessly speak that language to him/her.
Some of you are probably saying, “but my spouse refuses to do this kind of stuff. What’s the point in me taking learning it?” Your relationship can still benefit if you share your new love language insights with your spouse in the right way. Most of the time your spouse wants what’s best for you and for your relationship. But it’s important to let your partner know your love language in a way that doesn’t belittle them or make them run for the hills because they’re afraid of another fight. Dr. Chapman explains this in more detail in the book, so don’t be discouraged! Just pick it up and start reading 🙂
And it’s not just about your marriage. While The 5 Love Languages was written to help couples connect in a more fulfilling way, I think it is a great tool to help build your friendships too. I can think of so many times a friend or even a stranger uplifted me and spoke positively to me. And being that words are my love language, I remember those moments perfectly! I remember how loved I felt that someone went out of their way to encourage me. Our life group discussed love languages once. We went around the room and everyone said what their language was, and told us a way that any friend could make them feel loved. Stopping by work to bring them their favorite Starbucks drink, giving a hug, encouraging them…you get the picture. Image how transformational it is to learn to speak someone else’s love language!
If you haven’t read this book, do it. If you have, I encourage you to read it again. But don’t read it for the purpose of making the world understand how they need to love you. Don’t make yourself the victim here. Read it through the lens of learning how to serve your spouse, your friends and your community. How can you make others feel loved? “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11).” “We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).” Where is God inviting you to take the next step and love the people in your life?