Love, the Language the Heart Speaks
I am Cajun. My Dad was born and raised in southern Louisiana and was one of 14 children. Dad’s parents were remarkable people who loved their family well. My Dad grew up speaking French and didn’t learn English until he went to grade school. In the 60’s when we visited my grandparents, Ma-mère and Pa-père, in Golden Meadow, Louisiana, most of the people in town spoke only French. On occasion, I remember, Ma-mère would ask my brother and sister and I to walk down the street to the bakery or the butcher shop and retrieve an item for lunch. She would tell us how to ask the man behind the counter for the item in French. We would practice repeatedly on our walk to the shop. I'm sure we butchered it with our southern accents, but when we got there, we placed our order hoping to come home with the correct item. If we forgot the order, we could ask in English as many times as we wanted, but could not communicate to the shop owner. And if the item was something like a pound of luncheon meat, it was impossible to pantomime and get the message across 😊. We would have the best intentions with all the situational clues that would lead someone to think we wanted sandwich fixings, given our age, time of day, etc., but without a common language, we were not able to communicate - the man behind the counter simply could not know what we wanted. It was no fault of his, or ours, for that matter. We just didn’t speak the same language. A common language must be found so that true fellowship can occur. That is the subject for today’s blog and part three in my series on marriage - LOVE IS A VERB. Learning to understand and then speak your spouse’s love language is a worthy endeavor. If you learn to speak the language of your spouse's heart fluently, your marriage will be benefited.
Now this idea about love languages is not mine, but is one that I gleaned from Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (1995). This book has been read by millions over the past two decades. I first read this book in 1996. After ten years of marriage, it answered many questions and issues that Jody and I had been facing in our marriage. If you haven’t read this book, stop reading, go down to the bottom of this bog under my “suggested reading list” and order it off Amazon. Don’t do this because I will make a whopping 7 cents, or that Chapman needs another book sold, but because you need Chapman’s answers and insights for your life and marriage as we did. To peak your curiosity, let me briefly summarize the book’s main points. Chapman states that there are five basic love languages that we all speak. We may actually speak two or more of the languages equally well, thus making us bilingual or tri-lingual. These languages are not static and change with each phase of life. So even if you have read the book in years past and have taken Chapman’s simple 30 question inventory, take it again. Your heart may be slightly different than it was before and you may speak a different language more fluently. Chapman further explains that we keep up with love in our hearts in a virtual “love tank.” When someone speaks your love language fluently, they make deposits and you respond with feelings of love. And when there are no deposits, your tank will become empty. Then your response to your spouse can become anything but loving. The five love languages Chapman describes are:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
These are relatively self-explanatory, but I will briefly give you my take on them. First, Words of Affirmation is the language spoken to people who need to be TOLD they are valued and loved. They feed off praise, and when verbally criticized, the wounds are twice as deep. These people are the ones who understand the old Japanese proverb: “one kind word can warm three winter months.” One way to positively rock this person’s world is by sincerely singing their praises in the presence of people they value or respect - maybe in front of their children and/or their parents. If you find yourself married to someone who speaks this language, you need to up your WORD GAME. You need to remind yourself that every word you speak matters and can build up or destroy your spouse. Start by noticing all the things you appreciate about your spouse and let them hear about it! We have had couples sit in our living room and cry because of words spoken in anger during an argument. When I hear the words, and realize that many of us may not have been offended by them, I realize that there is a chance the offended spouse probably speaks this love language and is more sensitive to words. After repentance and forgiveness is exchanged, a game plan for speaking truth in love and kindness should be discussed. If this sounds like you or your spouse, vow today to make your speech reflect more of the love that you feel in your heart.
Quality Time means just that. Time spent together needs to be intentional to feed your spouse’s soul. This love language has at least two dialects: focused attention and quality conversations. Jody and I are bilingual, and this is one of our languages, although we speak different dialects. Focused attention is Jody’s dialect and can be participation in one of our favorite activities – watching a game of football together. We are together, seated side by side and eating out of the same popcorn bowl. This is when Jody’s heart is smiling. Quality conversations is my dialect. I love soul bearing conversations. If you have spent much time around me, you know I have very little interest in where you bought your lovely shoes. Instead, I am interested in what your life looks like as you walk in them. My favorite moments are when Jody confides in me a challenge, a hurt or a prayer request. I love intimate conversations with him. When he lets his hard shell fall off and I get to talk to the gooey caramel center that is my wonderful husband, I am thrilled and my love tank becomes filled to overflowing. If your spouse is always requesting time spent alone with you, never feels heard or is envious of your time spent with the children, friends or hobbies, he or she may speak this language and need your time and attention. Your job is to find a way to either arrange time together or be brave and open up so that an intimate conversation can unfold. Remember, you are the only one who should be filling your spouse’s tank. And if left on empty long enough, your spouse may be susceptible to some slippery snake of a person sneaking in and filling it for you. This is how many affairs of the heart begin. A person can only walk around on empty so long. So, make this a priority today.
The third love language is Gifts. I don’t see many who primarily speak this love language, but many of us understand its role in the heart. If this is the road into your spouse’s heart, do not run out and secure a loan. These gifts do not need to be expensive - just very thoughtful. People who speak this language are looking for someone to truly know them. Understand their likes and dislikes and that your gifts should reflect that “you get them!” So, if your husband’s favorite ice cream is mint chip and you bring home a gift rocky road, your gift will not have the desired effect. He will assume you didn’t remember his preferences, that he is not understood or is not note-worthy. And, if the value of the gift does not reflect your financial means, you can accidentally insult or hurt your spouse. For example, if a millionaire presents his wife with a flower he snagged out of the neighbor’s yard instead of ordering roses from her favorite florist, a fight may ensue. But if you, with $40 in your checking account, stop on your commute home and pick up your wife’s favorite wildflowers from the side of the road and present them to her when you arrive home, you may thrill her soul and make large love deposits in her love tank. So, the size of the gift may not matter, but the message it conveys can be loud and clear. Have you ever met someone who celebrates their birthday all week or month? I would bet that this person speaks this language and that a parade of well-thought out gifts, that only he or she would appreciate, would be ideal!
Acts of Service is often the language that a heart speaks when life is busy and there is little to no time to get everything done in a day. This was the only love language I spoke when I first read this book in ’96. I had three small children, a dog and a husband who was always deployed. I always had a load or two of laundry going, a room or two in a state of disaster and a hungry child attached to my leg begging for a snack. Love during this phase of life was best expressed when Jody would wash the dishes, give the kids a bath or feed the dog. If your spouse is always nagging you to do this or that, more than likely their heart is speaking the language of acts of service, and his or her tank may be running low! If your spouse is a workaholic and never has time to help at home, you may feel very neglected. Resist the urge to bark out demands, but in a spirit of love, explain to your spouse your needs. Loving requests are the key. Give your spouse simple and clear instructions as to what love looks like today. And when he or she attempts to meet this service need- sing your praises loud and clear!
Physical Touch is a powerful love language. This language has a couple of dialects too, with physical intimacy and sex being the most common. This is Jody’s and my second love language, and once again we speak different dialects. Care to guess who speaks which one? You guessed it -the later has always been Jody’s dialect. When our children were very young and my love tank was low, I was often out of steam by the end of the day and left Jody feeling unloved. I was too tired to be interested or at times treated his need as just another job on my TO DO list. But when we read this book, we got much a needed answer to our issues. Jody and I realized that we were not filling each other’s tanks well because we didn’t fully understand our own hearts. We weren’t able to make kind loving requests of each other. But when he fed my love tank by pitching in around the house, I fed his too, so to speak! Now that I am no longer pawed all day by three precious children, my need for physical touch is much greater. Back in '96, I had that part of my love tank saturated with snuggles, holding my babies, kissing boo-boos, and in general caring for our children's daily needs. Today, as an empty nester, I now greatly appreciate Jody’s touch and crave it. It thrills my soul when he reaches for my hand as we walk into a restaurant or when he puts his arm around me at church. It tells me that I am his and that he loves me. So if your spouse doesn't speak your heart's language well today, wait awhile, they'll learn if you are patient, Now, if physical touch is your spouse’s primary love language, consider how much it hurts him or her when touch is used in an inappropriate way, withheld or is shared with someone other than you. Be careful and speak this language well. Respect the sanctity of touch and never misuse it. In two weeks, I will devote an entire blog to physical intimacy and sex in marriage as God designed it to be. So, keep reading.
When I first read Chapman's book on love languages, the song in the above scene from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” came to mind. The movie had always intrigued me, but now with this new knowledge, it became crystal clear what was being communicated through the song "Do you Love Me?". This scene is set in Tevye and Golde's (the main characters in this musical) small house. Golde is fixing dinner and Tevye has just come in from working in the field. Tevye asks his wife of 25 years, Golde, a shocking question- does she loves him? A few moments earlier in the play, one of Tevye’s daughters, when describing how she felt about her betrothed, had stated she loved her future husband and Tevye was perplexed. And now he asks the same question of his wife through song, “Do you love me?” Golde's response is a classic. She replies with all the acts of service she had done for him over all the years of their marriage (cooking, cleaning, giving him children, sharing his bed, etc...). But, this is not enough for Tevye. He keeps following her around the house asking her in his beautiful baritone voice, “Do you love me?” He is looking for a word of affirmation. He needs an answer. Finally, Golde concedes that yes, she loves him. Then Tevye and Golde share a giddy moment seated next to each other on their bed, knowing and feeling loved. It’s a beautiful song and a great way to end today’s blog on love - the language of marriage. Find out what language your heart speaks and the language of your spouse. Make it a point to start speaking this language daily! Be bold- let the language of your hearts sing throughout your marriage! It's never too late.
Speaking love well is most definitely a VERB, and will require actions from each of you. But the deposits you make into your spouse’s account will make you RICH IN LOVE and will ensure your love and marriage lasts the test of time! Keep reading, friend, and love each other well! Next week, part 4 in the series -the actions of repentance and forgiveness.
1 Cor 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.