Gentlemen, if you’ve read author Gary Chapman’s 1995 book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, you may remember his premise that there are five ways to express and experience love:
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
He asserts that everyone ultimately has one or two top “love languages,” and we would do well to express our love to our wives in their specific language.
For example, a wife with a Gifts language may like and appreciate your spending time with her, but she would be really thrilled with a token of your affection, e.g., any small gift. On the other hand, a wife with a Physical Touch language might appreciate a material present, but what they really want from you is a warm hug or a short massage (which, by the way, is a great three-language gift: acts of service, quality time, and physical touch).
However, it’s possible, like in my case with my wife, that a couple can have love languages that are totally not your love languages. Caths, for instance, is a Quality Time person, which I’m not. On the other hand, my love language is Words of Affirmation, which doesn’t come naturally to Caths. What’s a couple with opposite love languages to do?
I have three suggestions:
1. Make a list of ideas that you can pull off, using your spouse’s love language. Take time to actually sit down and make a list of things you can say or do with and for your spouse, using his or her love language. You’ll be surprised at how many activities you’ll be able to identify, and once you’ve listed them down, you can begin to put these activities into action, a little at a time. Before you know it, your spouse’s love tank will be full to overflowing, and you’ll still have many other ideas in store.
2. Listen. When times get rough, don’t flare up, and don’t shut up. Chapman calls these expressions, “love languages” for a reason; they’re meant to be spoken in love. Many husbands will respond in two ways when their wives want to talk about improving their marriages: a) they immediately react in anger; or b) they shut up. Either way is dangerous, because both reactions will not instinctively deliver positive results. Remember that communication is a two-way street; for her to be able to hear you clearly, you must return the favor to her and set the stage for you to hear her. By simply listening, you can respond in a calmer, more loving way because your wife will know she will have been heard, and her opinion is important to you.
3. Graciously accept love, however it is offered. It’s natural for us to love someone the way we want to be loved. So if your spouse shows you love by paying you a compliment when you feel least worthy of it, or buying you a gift that may be too expensive for your taste, it would be counter-productive to immediately reject the gift, because you’re essentially rejecting their expression of love. Accept it graciously, then endeavor to make time to express your thoughts for future expressions of love. The key word here is grace; by appreciating the present and communicating about what other expressions of love you’d appreciate, you build up your spouse’s spirit and teach them a lesson about what you’d love more of, the next time around.
The big-ticket item to love languages is this: love is putting the needs of the other above our own needs. As the saying goes, “happy wife, happy life.” (The fact that there doesn’t seem to be a husband equivalent tells me that either men are too easy to please, or there is no word that rhymes with husband.) Husbands, love and honor your wives in ways that they will naturally respond to, and your life will certainly be richer and more pleasant for it.
Ephesians 5:22-28 puts it best: “22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
Don’t know where to start on that list? Here are a few ideas to get your think tanks going:
- Gifts. My wife has a huge Pride and Prejudice collection; for our 12th anniversary, I got her a 113-year-old copy of Austen’s masterpiece, and I was GOLD, even if gifts weren’t my wife’s primary love language. Identify your spouse’s passion and fuel it in little and big ways; while spouses who appreciate gifts are about both quality and quantity, erring on the side of thoughtful quantity is safer. A little token upon your return from work, or something to wake up to, will be appreciated by a Gifts person just as much as a one-time big-time present. (I should know; Gifts are my secondary love language.)
- Quality time. My wife’s number one love language is quality time, which is probably my second-to-last (I can’t stand physical touch). Take it from me, gentlemen: the key here is FOCUS. When you spend time with a spouse whose love language is quality time, turn off your mobile phone and focus on her. Close the laptop and spend the time with her. Whether it’s sitting beside her and watching her favorite television show, to shopping for shoes for her at the mall, for a Quality Time wife, spending time with her where your time together is the goal, is the ticket.
- Words of affirmation. That’s my #1 love language, and anyone with a Words language appreciates encouragement. Tell me when I did something right, or if you appreciate something I did or said. And complement me honestly. It’s that simple. (We’re not stupid, though; we know when we’re being pandered to, and false compliments or pity encouragements do not work, and hurt much more.) (Leave a comment below about how much you like this blog entry, and I’ll be over the moon. LOL)
- Acts of service. Wives with an Acts of service love language enjoy it when their husbands do little–or big–tasks for them. So drive them to the grocery store. Rub their feet. Do the dishes. Wash the car. Change the baby’s diapers. Book a babysitter, then take your wife out to a nice place to eat, then a show afterwards, and take care of the all the stops so she doesn’t have to. The possibilities are endless.
- Physical touch. Oh, blessed is the man with a Physical Touch wife! Hugs, kisses, meaningful strokes along her jawline or a naughty tweak on the cheek… all of these can speak volumes and fill up her love tank. Massages are magical; back hugs, piggy back rides, cuddles on the sofa, holding hands while driving… these are all great!
On Marriage Mondays, I share candid reflections on marriage and relationships. For comments and feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.