“Keeping love alive in our marriages is serious business.”
I completed a second reading of The Five Love Languages this week as part of an Internet book club of sorts, in which I am participating — along with thousands of others — whom follow the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” podcast with hosts Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft.
You can find a link to the episode of “Happier” that discusses The Five Love Languages here http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2016/08/podcast-80-five-love-languages/
My first reading of this book took place years ago, as part of a now hazy class that I participated in. The reason for the class has been lost to the sands of time but I still remember the lively discussions the class and this reading provoked between my then brand-new husband and I. This time around, I read it a bit more quickly, with an eye towards tips for tuning up our fifteen year old marriage in those areas where we may have let our “love language” communication slip. All these years later, I found the book (and the podcast) to have loads of really useful information that I can put into practice today to improve my already-great marriage tomorrow.
A note to readers: Although grounded in Chapman’s Christian faith and his examples are exclusively presented in terms of “marriage” and “husband and wife,” the book’s lessons are universal to all couples (married or not, gay or straight).
Chapman presents readers with a method for understanding why some couples find it hard to maintain the “in love” feelings they felt for one another at the start of their relationships. He suggests that once the passion and thrill of the courtship have worn off, and the partners settle into their day to day lives, they sometimes fail to express love to their partners in they way that they partners need to hear it. Therefore, Chapman recommends that we take the time to learn the Five Love Languages; determine what language our partner “speaks,” and then find ways to speak to them in their language; and lastly learn our own language and communicate to our partner how we could feel more love from them.
Of importance in this rubric is the understanding that we need to seek out ways to show our partner love simply for their sake: we cannot set out to find ways to communicate better with them in order to manipulate them into treating us differently. The choice to choose to speak your partner’s love language is a selfless one: “Real love requires effort and discipline. It is a choice to expend energy in an effort to benefit the other person, knowing that if his or her life is enriched by your effort, you too will find a sense of satisfaction of having genuinely loving another.”
The Five Love Languages, and some thoughts from Chapman on how to express them, are:
- Words of Affirmation — telling your loved one how much you care, love them, appreciate them; recognize their efforts, praise their appearance, offer compliments, brag to others. This is never harsh words, demands, nagging, or snappish “about time” comments…just simple words of recognition, encouragement, and thanks. “Love is kind…we must use kind words.”
- Quality Time — spending one-on-one time, sharing activities, share meaningful conversations, listen without interrupting, and reconnect with one another.
- Receiving Gifts — surprise acts of gift giving to show you care and have been thinking of them, items or tokens or handmade crafts that show you have been paying attention to their preferences. (Hints for things your partner may like lie the gifts she has given others, in the things she has expressed interest in, or are similar to things she likes to pick out for herself.) “Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give if your spouses’ language is receiving gifts.”
- Acts of Service — these are acts you do unprompted to make your partner’s life easier, less stressful, or to make them feel pampered or taken care of. (Taking our the trash, watching the kids so she can nap, volunteering to run errands on your way home from work)
- Physical Touch — these are any physical connections, including but not limited to romantic touch (sex, kissing, hand holding, hugs) and simple closeness (cuddling or snuggling on couch.) Chapman insist those of us whose partner’s use this language remember, “Your best instructor in loving touch is your partner, she is the one you are seeking to love. Don’t insist on touching her in your way or in your time. Don’t make the mistake of believing what brings you pleasure will bring pleasure to her. Learn her dialect.”
Despite feeling a times a bit dopey discussing our relationship in terms of the love languages — for the record, I hear love through “Acts of Service” and to a lesser degree “Words of Affirmation;” my husband is “Touch” and “Words of Affirmation” — we had a hours-long conversation on Saturday of ways we could improve our relationship by remembering one another’s love language. We also discussed the book with our three sons and found that each of them easily identified their love language as well, sparking a lively dinner debate about how to be more loving to one another. We rarely do things that outwardly self-help-esque and so I was thrilled at their willingness to talk it over, especially our teenager.
In all, there is no circumstance in which putting extra time and thought into how to strengthen your relationship is not a worth-while investment. The book is worth a glance if you have never read it, and the framework it presents is a unique and valuable way to think about being more loving.
“Being sincere is not enough. We must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.”