Love Languages, Ears, and…Tongues?
Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” opened my eyes to how people are different in the way they perceive and receive love. It sounds simple, but I really didn’t fully appreciate that what makes one person feel loved may be completely misinterpreted by another. As a married man, I frequently misunderstand my wife (HAH!). However, this was more than simply “I didn’t mean it that way”.
Everyone is a mix of the five love languages, but there is always a primary. For example, my primary love language is words of affirmation. My “happy file” (every preacher needs one) is filled with notes, cards, and letters from people upon whom I’ve had an impact with something I said, did, or shared with them. I revisit these memories often. Likewise, if you’ve ever received something like that from me, know that it came from a very deep and tender part of my heart. I’ve always felt most comfortable expressing myself in carefully-chosen words. Imagine my shock when I learned not everyone (even my own wife!) feels the same. Her love language is acts of service. It’s terribly inconvenient. I would much rather spend an hour thoughtfully constructing a hand-written note to show her my love and appreciation instead of unloading the dishwasher. But that’s not how she feels loved. I’ve always been puzzled when she asks me in a pained voice: “Can you do me a huge favor?” I say, “Sure, what?” It usually turns out to be something simple like opening a jar, or getting something out of a bottom cabinet. Then she showers me with praise and gratitude for this “huge favor” while I think to myself it’s no big deal. But to her, it IS. I finally realized why the other day.
She was telling me this long and involved tale about how she had called the IRS about a nagging tax issue. It meant waiting on hold forever, being transferred multiple times, and even being cut off once. I was getting a bit irritated by the intense DETAIL of the account and was struggling against making the “move along/get to the point” hand gesture because that’s just rude. After she was certain I had shared all of her frustration to a sufficient degree, she ended by saying, “So I just wanted you to know that I took care of that today.” Then it finally dawned on me after 25 years of marriage. She doesn’t just receive acts of service as her love language. She also SPEAKS in them. This was her way of telling me she did something which is supremely uncomfortable for her (talking on the the phone) for me. For ME.
Once I realized this I felt very loved. Even though I often receive acts of service with a quick “Thanks”, for her it was like writing me a five-page dissertation on what a great husband I am who deserves this level of effort on her part. Not only is it important to understand how people receive love in their love language, but it’s also tied to how they give it and show it. This was an epiphany for me. I am sharing this because maybe it will be for you as well. Maybe I will be a little more attentive to her actions now. Even though we may be speaking our love languages better, my wife would probably still prefer an unloaded dishwasher to a gushy poem. Eh, slow progress is still progress.