News and Views
ENHANCING & PRESERVING MARRIAGE #8 LOVE LANGUAGE
Saturday, August 04, 2012
At the heart of a good marriage relationship are a man and a woman who are best friends, who care deeply about each other's total wellbeing, who respect, accept, appreciate, affirm and trust each other. They can and do talk to each other about many things, make decisions together, listen to each other, and know how to respectfully agree to disagree. Each takes responsibility for their own attitudes, actions and emotions without judging or blaming others. Together, they work, live, play and love as a team. They cooperate with each other, aim to please each other, enjoy each other's company. They love each other through thick and thin, for better or worse, just as they promised.
There is evidence that, historically, past and present, no more than a quarter of marriages may be considered truly good. The rest more or less struggle to make the best of and improve the reality of what they have. Here is a concept that is fairly easy to understand and implement that may help a spouse to feel more loved and cared about.
While it is true that real love, the kind that the Greeks called "agape," involves an act of the will, a choice to have at least as much caring concern for the other person as for one's self, it is also true that loving is much more enjoyable and satisfying when the emotion of love is also present. In his many books about the five love languages, Gary Chapman also writes of two kinds of love: passionate love which is obsessive, euphoric, and lasts about two years; and covenant love which is the will to love after the obsession has worn off. He has discovered five fundamental ways, five "love languages," to express or receive love emotionally. He has also found that each person tends to have a primary love language, a way in which love is most convincingly received and expressed, as well as one or two secondary love languages. It is possible for all of us to learn to give and receive all five love languages.
The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.
Words of Affirmation are essentially saying true things that affirm the worth of another person. This includes words of appreciation for things another has done or for who they are, words of encouragement to help build potential and dreams, words of praise recognizing accomplishments, all spoken with kindness and care for the other person. These are the words we can choose to use to brighten the day for those we encounter casually as we shop, for fellow workers, but most importantly for family. These are the words every child needs to grow up with, every husband and wife need to share freely.
Gift giving is a universal expression of love. The value of a gift lies in the love it communicates. Careful listening and observation (and listing ideas so we don't forget) are needed in order to choose the most meaningful gifts. An object ceases to be a gift if there are strings attached or it is intended to compensate for a past wrong. Gifts are given unconditionally as symbols of love.
Acts of Service express love through the many, many ways we help one another. It is inherent in the concept Jesus taught of servant leadership, and most obvious in His act of washing the disciples feet. It is implied when Paul writes, "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...." (Eph.5:25 NIV) To be an expression of love, an act of service must be freely given out of choice, and can also express a sense of responsibility for the well-being of others.
Quality Time is giving another focused, undivided attention. It includes doing things together for mutual enjoyment when the focus is on each other, on the togetherness the activity helps produce. It includes meaningful conversations focused on listening, understanding, being there for each other. It is taking time to focus on each other, to learn about each other, to enjoy being in the presence of each other.
Physical Touch is that tender, affirming contact that helps us feel good. It's a hug, a hand on the arm or shoulder, a gentle pat or stroke on the cheek, holding hands, shaking hands etc. Babies do not thrive if they are not held, hugged, cuddled, tenderly touched. If I remember correctly, California psychiatrist Virginia Satire says, "It takes four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth and development." She was speaking of adults. Seniors in nursing homes do better when they receive affirming, tender physical touch. For Physical Touch to be an expression of love, care must be taken to be sensitive, appropriate, and culturally acceptable.
Although we can learn to give and receive love in all five love languages, we feel most loved when we receive love in our primary love language. Understanding this, and recognizing and practicing our spouse's primary love language can certainly help smooth a marriage relationship...
Consider this couple. Because his mother died when he was born, his mother figure was his grandmother who poured out her life in service to her family and all who entered her door. Little wonder that his primary love language was Acts of Service. To him, the rest of the love languages would probably rank in the order of Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time with Gifts a distant last. She grew up in a home where the necessary activities of life were viewed as chores that were done grudgingly, with a mother who was very critical. On the other hand, no matter how scarce money was, there were always good gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and gifts were to be appreciated because they represented the love and thoughtfulness of the givers. Little wonder that Gifts were her primary love language, followed in order by Quality Time, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service a very distant last. She regarded Acts of Service as duty, responsibility, work, something to avoid whenever possible. When she wanted him to do more of the work at home, to be more responsible toward the home, he heard it as a demand for love that she was unwilling to also give. On the other hand, when she went all out on Christmas presents and stockings for the kids, all he saw was the expense and he resented it. As to their secondary love languages, she was often critical while he had little time to spend with her or the children. Physical Touch was their major way of actually giving and receiving each other's love, but it wasn't enough to keep their love tanks filled.
When someone we love does not express their love to us in our primary love language, we may feel hurt and disappointed and not understand why. This is often the case when there is a hard to explain distance between parents and adult children. Therefore. with spouse, family or friends, one of the most satisfying ways to improve a relationship is to carefully listen and observe to learn what an individual's primary love language is, then to express your love for them in that love language.
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