Of all the habits we might develop to have a healthy marriage, loving our spouse seems like it would be the easiest, right? Love brought us together, so why should it be something we have to pay attention to?
I once had a client inform me, “I told my wife I loved her the day I married her. And I told her I'd let her know if it ever changed.” So romantic. And I wonder why they were in marriage counseling :).
Unless you subscribe to that man's philosophy, most of us like to be reminded that we are loved. But we speak different languages. One of the most practical resources for learning what speaks to our beloved, is the classic by Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages. If you haven't read it, that's ok. I'm going to summarize for you here so you can put it to use tonight.
Chapman identifies 5 ways that we receive love. You may love your spouse dearly, but if you are acting out of your OWN love language, then no matter how well intentioned, your spouse will not feel the love you're working so hard to communicate. Bonus: this applies to children, friends, co-workers. Learning to pay attention to someone's love language will go a long way in creating connection in ANY relationship.
Let's say I love chocolate chip cookies, so I bake you a double batch of chocolate chip cookies for your birthday. But you're allergic to chocolate. Whomp, whomp. My loving, homemade gift might be appreciated, but will fall short, because I didn't take the time to check out YOUR favorite cookie flavor.
The 5 Love Languages
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical touch
Which of the 5 is your primary love language, the thing that fills your cup? What do you think is your spouse's primary?
Being mindful (creating the habit) of loving our spouse in a way that resonates and fills them up is one of the most life giving acts of marriage. Choose to speak your partner's love language, and you will notice the overflow coming back to you. We don't give to get, but the natural cycle of love is that when someone FEELS loved, they are more likely to ACT in a loving way. Win/win.
So here's the challenge:
- Take a few minutes tonight and talk this over with your spouse. Are your love languages the same? Chances are, your primary love language is different. And that's what makes loving our spouse something we LEARN, and practice on a regular basis. Trying to love out of our own love language, though it may be very sincere, will miss the boat, and we'll be left standing at the dock, wondering what went wrong.
- Make a list of specifics to share with your spouse to get started. This takes away some of the initial guesswork. Learning any new language has a learning curve, so be ready to translate.
- Choose to love your spouse EVERY DAY for the next month, in their love language. This will be one of the most painless, and rewarding exercises you will ever do.
Years ago, in response to Mark's surprise at something I had done, I said, “Just because I love you.” We soon shortened it to “JBILY”, when we did something for the other. And now you know the rest of the story.