Romans 13:8 gives us a small but powerful command: “…love each other…” We are all created to love and be loved, but as Gary Chapman (author of The Five Love Languages) writes…
“People express and receive love in different ways.” Dr. Chapman states that “If you express love in a way your spouse doesn’t understand, he or she won’t realize you’re expressed your love at all. The problem is that you’re speaking two different languages!”
Feeling loved by your spouse is obviously important for a healthy, thriving marriage. When couples find themselves at a place in their relationship that feels stale and unsatisfying, one of the main reasons is that feeling loved is a primary human emotional need, and being deprived of that can lead to relational tension and destruction. Ephesians 5:33 states, “each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” It’s true that we need a balance of love and respect in our marriages (for another incredible marriage resource check out Love and Respect Ministries,) but did you catch the first part of that? The beginning of that verse says, “each man must love his wife as he loves himself…” Discovering your primary love language (your emotional communication preference) will help you not only to better understand your needs, but will also help you to love your spouse more fully and uniquely. It is difficult to adequately love your spouse if you are unable to see what your own needs are.
The five love languages described in Dr. Chapman’s work are: quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. In his book The Love Languages of God, Dr. Chapman writes about the love languages in human relationships being a reflection of divine love. We can find the Scriptures littered with examples of these five love languages (and probably many more that we are unable to comprehend with our physical minds) expressed by God to His people! Since we were constructed in His image, we are given the ability to receive and express love the ways that He does.
My wife and I have taken time to discover our own as well as one another’s love languages, and it has been so helpful in our communication and intimacy. My wife knows and understands that my primary love language is Words of Affirmation and that my secondary need is Quality Time. Of course I feel loved when she gives me gifts, or goes out of the way to serve me, but when she compliments, affirms, intentionally listens to, and encourages me verbally, I feel a deeper sense of love than I do compared to the other four languages. Dr. Chapman gives us verbiage to assist us in a more successful and fulfilling marriage!
Finding your primary love language can be as simple as asking a few questions such as: What do you request of your spouse most often? What makes you feel the most loved? What hurts you most deeply? What do you desire most of all?
Below are brief descriptions of each love language; take a few minutes to take the free assessment and sit down with your spouse to take seriously the idea of trying to become more affluent in speaking each other’s language!
Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, 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. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby – makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Quality time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. 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, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship.
Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.