Love. The word was printed on the cover of my wedding invitations and yet it wasn’t until years later that I realized I had no idea what love really was. After getting married the euphoric feelings slowly faded and love slowly became difficult, awkward and just plain inconvenient. Frustrated and looking for answers, I remember reading Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages. It was then that I realized that my husband and I had been trying to express love to each other and we were doing it all wrong. I was not speaking his love language and he was DEFINITELY not speaking mine.
I don’t feel loved.
As a couple’s counselor, I frequently hear various concerns from couples regarding the “lack of love” within their relationship. As humans we desire to be intimate and to be loved. When we fall in love it is an exciting experience yet it is often short lived and self-centered. An exciting love relationship can quickly turn into hard work. If God designed marriage to meet the need for intimacy and love, how can we nurture an environment of intimacy and love? Maybe it begins by the way we experience and express love.
Love as a language:
Most children grow up learning their parent’s native language. In some cases a child may learn bad grammar, have underdeveloped vocabulary or struggle to learn a new language. Similarly, children also learn how to love by experiencing love from their caregivers. A child who experiences love will develop a love language based on their psychological makeup along with how love was expressed to them. A child who does not feel loved will also develop their own love language. In these situations, a child will have to work harder as an adult to feel loved and to communicate love.
These love languages are not for manipulating others or for getting what one wants; instead they are aimed at doing something for the well-being of the one you love.
Dr. Gary Chapman describes five different Love Languages in his book. He encourages us to learn to speak our spouses love languages in order to love well.
- Words of Affirmation: For some people hearing words of encouragement, praise or compliments is what they value most. These individuals place more weight on the words of others. Words are what fills their love tanks. Words can be words of kindness, encouragement or humility. On the contrary, because words are so important, negative or insulting words will not easily be forgotten.
- Acts of Service: These individuals enjoy acts of service as the greatest expression of love. These individuals want their partner to notice that they would like help in shouldering their responsibilities. In saying “let me do that for you” you are showing love and care. Because acts of service are so important, broken promises and laziness will not be easily tolerated. A lack of follow through shows a lack of value and priority.
- Receiving Gifts: Some people equate love with a tangible gift. Gifts don’t need to be expensive or elaborate but they do need to be meaningful and thoughtful. Gifts can also be intangible and might include a listening ear or your presence in the time of crisis. Gifts don’t need to be monetary in value and have everything to do with love.
- Quality Time: For some people spending time with loved ones is their preferred love language. Whether it be a quiet lunch or an afternoon walk, spending quality time and being the focus of their undivided attention leaves them feeling satisfied and comforted more than words. “Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful” to these individuals, since “being there” is crucial.
- Physical Touch: The language of physical touch doesn’t only refer to physical touch and affection in the bedroom, but refers to the everyday physical connections, like handholding, kissing, pats on the back, and any type of re-affirming physical contact. A person who desires physical touch and affection isn’t necessarily overly touchy-feely. For them physical touch shows how much their partner cares for them. If that physical bond is broken by abuse their entire relationship can be destroyed indefinitely.
So what can you do to love your spouse well?
Nearly 2 decades later, I’m still learning and perfecting how to love my spouse. If you’d like to learn how to love your spouse well start by taking the free online quiz found HERE.
Feel free to contact me for more information on how Christian Counseling can help you speak your spouse’s love language.