The Heart of the Five Love Languages

Posted on October 10, 2011 by

I have a little book on my bookshelf called The Five Love Languages. It’s a mini-book version of a much more comprehensive book, but the mini version is more than sufficient since it cuts to the chase. The gist of it is that each person has a love language, or a way that they most readily perceive and receive love. You can find a synopsis of the love languages here. It’s good because our natural tendency is to love and relate to others in the way we most readily respond. For a woman whose love language is words of affirmation, being married to a man of few words can create some tension if she’s not paying attention. And for a good number of years I wasn’t.

My husband and I are still into each other. We have deep connection even after 17 years of marriage and the corresponding 17 years of aging. In a world where youth is worshiped and perpetual youth is marketed as the key to happiness, it feels good to be settled and content in a relationship based on shared values, shared history, and shared faith. A relationship where love made is truly love made is satisfying in ways difficult to put into words.  After 5 babies with the resulting up and down weight loss, and not a few abdominal stretch marks, SAM still thinks I’m beautiful.

Part of it is because I’m just his type, which luckily for me isn’t the Hollywood standard of beauty. More importantly, I think it’s also because I learned his love language, and make a real effort to love him the way he needs instead of the way that I need or the way someone else has prescribed as “the way” to love a man. Everyone has a love language even if they are not aware of it. My ability to connect with my husband reached a new level when I learned his.

His language is physical touch followed closely by acts of service, preferably acts of service where I help him fix the car or cut the grass. He finds me most attractive not only when I’m all fixed up, and when I’m dirty from helping him do “man stuff.” My language is words of affirmation. I’ve applied the lesson I learned, and he has learned that a few words fitly spoken are worth far more than diamonds and pearls. Date nights are far less important to me than words of affection and appreciation.

Given the choice between having his wife sit next to him and rub his back or spend half an hour shining the kitchen sink, my husband will choose the hands on his back every time. A neat house is good, a super clean house not so much if it means I can’t sit close to him because I’m cleaning it. Filter what you read at Flylady through the prism of what works in your own marriage and family. Nothing personal against the Flylady. I rather like her. I’m just sayin’.

If there’s one thing that has struck me about online conversations, it’s how they can get you thinking about things in an unhealthy way if you’re not careful. For example, I never really thought much about looks and whatnot outside of my husband’s opinions, except for my weight which multiple pregnancies has caused  me to watch closely. That is, until I stumbled into the blogosphere. All the talk of modesty and femininity and such was good in many ways, and not good in others. The same can be said of spiritual issues. There are a lot of ideas floating around the Internet and it’s a landmine for those not secure in their faith, values, and beliefs.

In other words, any prescriptive advice I offer to a wife whose husband’s love language is words of affirmation may cause more harm than good because I’m used to dealing with a man whose love language is physical touch. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in the past 17 years is to pay attention to my own husband, learn how to best love him, and act accordingly, no matter how I much it requires me to step out of my comfort zone. It’s the best advice any wife can offer to another.

We often get that love, by definition, requires a focus on the one being loved. This should be common sense but in a world where we’re taught to filter everything through the way we feel about it, it’s easy to get frustrated when our attempts to define how our spouse should feel about our efforts to love them hit a brick wall. We aren’t conditioned to pay attention to others so closely and people with a love language different from our own may seem to be unappreciative when in reality we are the ones failing to make a proper connection.

Fortunately for me, touching my husband is very comforting. Resisting the urge to talk his ear off? Well, that’s another story. Funny thing about preferring another before yourself: it is deeply gratifying once you get over yourself. I’m not sure why preferring others gets such a bad rap. Maybe it’s the times in which we live.

Our culture has created a billion dollar industry from books detailing the differences between men and women. Volumes are written with catchy slogans like Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Counselors charge hundreds of dollars an hour to tell you that you can’t love your man properly until you fully love yourself. In other words, they take your money to give you advice that lands you in divorce court, all under the guise of helping you save your marriage.

There’s one thing I know for sure and it bears repeating: Love is by definition focused on its object. If I’m thinking about me, I am not focused loving my man. “How do I love thee, let me count the ways…” makes my heart swell, but that’s just not his thing. And that’s okay. I have learned to speak his language, and he has learned to speak mine.

It’s the best linguistic study. I highly recommend you try it.