Speaking the Language of Love
Love and relationships should come naturally. They should not be so much work.
“I believed I had found the secret to my wife’s heart.”
For many years on every birthday, every anniversary, every Valentine’s day – I would buy my wife three cards. Sometimes they were cute. Sometimes they were romantic. Sometimes they were funny. But always they communicated, “I love you.”
I would painstakingly take time choosing the right cards. Then I would pour over them, choosing just the right words. This process sometimes took hours. The amount of time didn’t matter to me. I wanted to make sure that I communicated how much I loved her.
Once completed on the night before the particular celebration, I would place them on the kitchen counter so she would see them first thing in the morning. I then imagined the next morning:
She would walk down stairs and, upon entering the kitchen, be surprised to see – not one, not two – but three cards. All addressed to her. A smile would spread across her face. “What has that crazy husband of mine done?” she would muse to herself. She would then carefully open each card, slowly savoring the words I had taken care to write. Suddenly her bottom lip would quiver and a single tear would stream down her cheek. She would then come bounding up the stairs to find me. Choking back tears of unspeakable joy, she would declare her undying love for me. Then pulling me close while gazing into my eyes, her lips would gently touch mine – expressing the passion that was welling up in her heart.
Yeah – In my dreams!
In reality – she would simply smile, say, “thank you,” and go on with her morning.
I did this for years. Bought the cards. Wrote the notes. Placed them on the counter. Imagined the scenario above. And her response was always the same. A smile. Thank you. On with her day.
I was puzzled. No – actually frustrated. Her response was so…so…so…blah. I had just expressed passionate heartfelt undying love and her response was the same as when I take the garbage out.
And so, I decided to do something truly “crazy.” I decided to talk to her about it. I asked her why her response to my expression of love was not met with the same level of passion in which I had given?
What I learned blew me away!
Speaking a Different Language
She told me that the cards did NOT say “I love you” to her. She admitted that yes – the cards were filled with words of love and desire for her. And that meant something to her. To be fair to her, she did express appreciation. She just wasn’t as thrilled to receive as I was to give. What I learned was that they did not mean the same thing to her as they did to me. Words are what say “I love you” to me – not to her.
I learned that I had been projecting my love language on her. I had been assuming that what said “I love you” to me would naturally say “I love you” to her. That makes sense – right?!
She went on to say that she felt most loved by me when I did acts of service for her.
- When I took care of the car (making sure that she was safe)
- When I bought her a Diet Coke (I was thinking of her)
- When I cut the grass and shoveled snow (keeping the house looking nice)
- When I went shopping with her (submitting to torture)
I realized that I had been speaking to her in my love language. In the way that says “I love you” to me. I might as well have been speaking a foreign language. In fact – I was.
Learn to Speak Their Love Language
Gary Chapman, in his best-selling book, The Five Love Languages, explains that the secret to expressing love to others is to understand their “love language.” Here they are, along with a brief description:
- Words of Affirmation – Using words to build up the other person. “Thank you for the cards. That really meant a lot to me.”
- Gifts – A gift says, “He was thinking of me, and look what he got me.”
- Acts of Service – Doing something that you know they would like. Washing the dishes, making a meal, vacuuming the floors, changing the oil in the car – are all acts of service.
- Quality Time – When you give them your undivided attention. Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off and no cell phones. Talking and listening.
- Physical touch – Holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse are all expressions of love.
Chapman goes on to explain that every person has a primary love language which speaks more deeply to them than all the others. Discovering each other’s love language and speaking it on a regular basis is the best way to keep love alive in a relationship.
The Secret to A Most Excellent Way
If you want to be excellent at expressing love to others – learn their love language. Oftentimes you can figure this out by observing how they express love to you or what seems to evoke a strong response from them.
However, the secret to discovering the most excellent way of showing your love to them is…are you ready for this…ask them.
Yes – sit down with them and ask directly what says “I love you” to them. Use the list of the Five Love Languages above as a guide. Ask for examples. Get specific. Be a student of them. Make no assumptions. And then whatever they say – believe them.
I say to believe them because our natural tendency is always our own point of reference. We must resist the temptation to project our own preferences on to others – even when they have told us otherwise. So, believe them and then act accordingly.
Speaking their love language is a critical step in keeping your love alive!
Bill Ferrell has been married for 35 years, has 2 adult children, and 4 precious granddaughters. He teaches individuals and couples how to experience loving and fulfilling relationships. He is also the Community Relations Director for GRIP Outreach for Youth. When he is not helping Chicago urban youth to experience a better life, or inviting others to join him – he is spending time with his family, running, swimming, biking, or reading a book. Or playing practical jokes on his kids.
For more resources on marriage and relationship building, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.