I love the Sacrament of Marriage. I love working with engaged couples. I love FAMILY LIFE! Because of this, I am always looking for ways to stay hopeful in a world where the sacrament of marriage is often looked down upon and where relationships, be it with spouses, family, or friends, are too easily thrown away.
One of my favorite pieces of hope is the “golden nugget” found in Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages.” For those who have never read this great book, the five love languages are: physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time and gifts.
In my work with engaged couples, married couples, struggling couples, or family dynamics, I often see just how easy it is to completely misinterpret the actions of our loved ones. Let me share a personal example.
When my husband, Dan, and I were first married, we knew nothing about the five love languages, but learning each other’s love languages since, has been a great blessing. In the early years of our marriage, I thought the best way to show Dan I loved him was to give him my time, and not just my leftover time, but quality time. Dan thought the only way to show love was in the realm of physical touch. And, let me tell you, I am NOT a toucher! When I declined Dan’s physical touch advances, he heard, “I don’t love you.” When Dan played video games instead of spending time with me, I heard, “I don’t love you.” This kept going and even though we thought we were being very loving, we were acting out of our own love languages, leaving one another unintentionally feeling “unloved.”
About three years into our marriage, Dan and I began working with a team of couples who assist in pre-marriage preparation within our local diocese. A portion of the seminar had been changed since we had attended as an engaged couple and the love language profile had been added. That weekend, Dan and I took the profile for the first time and, even though we were not surprised by what our love languages were, we were surprised at how terrible we were at speaking our beloved’s love language. For instance, because my love language is quality time as well as acts of service, I would plan to spend time with Dan and I would make sure the house was clean and supper was prepared for him when he got home from work. I acted out of my own love language.Though he appreciated these gestures, it didn’t exactly say,
“I love you” to him. I had to get better at speaking his love language, the “dreaded” physical touch. I had to allow him to sit close to me on the couch while watching TV. I had to be okay with running into him every time I turned around because he desired closeness. And, even though we had a king-sized bed (which I thought was glorious to have my own space), he needed to feel me breathing through the night, so I accepted that the two of us would only occupy half of the bed.
Once I began speaking his love language, he flourished. He felt loved. I know that when Dan feels loved, he better speaks my love language, too. Dan knows that the easiest way for him to say, “I love you” is when I come home to a clean kitchen and living room area. What we have learned is that if we take time to speak each other’s love language and are conscience about doing so, the other feels love and more willingly and intentionally speaks the love language of their spouse.
This is the golden nugget I mentioned earlier, to find out your loved one’s love language and begin to intentionally act out of that one, not the one with which you are most comfortable.Love is sacrificial, but if you make that small sacrifice, think of the rewards. Dr. Gary Chapman then offers a suggestion to put this into practice in all relationships in your life.
He calls it the “tank check.” You are to ask your spouse, child, friend, “On a scale from 1-10, how loved do you feel?” If that number is anything less than 10, you ask, “What can I do to get that number to 10?” You then must be willing to do whatever it is they say, even if it’s to empty the dishwasher, or for me, the “dreaded” let me be so close that I’m breathing down your neck while you’re trying to sleep.
These moments of sacrifice are not huge, but small things done with great love that make your relationships flourish. And, who doesn’t want their relationships to reach the potential God has for them?