Using the Five Love Languages in Your Marriage
What Are the Five Love Languages?
As a therapist, I see couples who come to therapy to work on their marriage, and sometimes this is a last ditch effort to keep their marriage intact. I hear comments like, "He doesn't love me anymore", "She doesn't understand me", or "We don't have anything in common". Much of the time what this means is that they have forgotten how to communicate and enjoy one another, and are associating that with a loss of love for each other.
One thing that I usually start with when counseling these couples is an understanding of the Five Love Languages. Often a man or woman in a relationship feels they are showing love to the other party, but the messaage is not getting across. Accoring to Dr. Gary Chapman, people show love in one of five ways.
Words of Affirmation
A person uses words to show love. Being affirmed by another person can often make someone's day. Do you like to hear, "The dinner you cooked was fantastic", "You really are a great mom to the kids", or "I appreciate the way you work really hard to make our home special" as a wife. As a husband do you enjoy hearing, "Thanks for being such a great dad" or "Our yard looks so nice after you mow it".
This love language entails spending time together, listening to the other person, sharing with each other, or being engaged in fun activities together. Talking and sharing things that happened during the day may be important to a partner or at times, just being together in the same room on the same piece of furniture :) watching a movie together.
Do you like to give little gifts to another person? Do you find enjoyment when you pick flowers for someone, bring your husband his favorite fudge when you go to the store across town, or find that one special card that says just the right thing? Your language is gift giving. You love to brighten someone's day with a little treat and you probably enjoy receiving a little treat as well.
Acts of Service
This includes those special things that you do for someone else. Do you often like to fix a special dinner for your husband? As a husband, do you enjoy taking your wife's car, having it detailed for her and filling it up? Doing things that you think will mean something to the other is the Acts of Service love language.
Physical Touch and Closeness
Hand holding, kissing, arms around the other, or sexual intercourse, this love language means that you enjoy being in close physical contact with another person.
How Do the Love Languages Fit in Marriage?
So what do the love languages mean for marriage? Often one spouse uses one love language toward their spouse that they would like reciprocated, but their spouse uses another. Neither spouse recognizes that their partner is attempting to show love and they begin to feel frustrated. Let's look at an example.
Mary's love language is giving gifts and she often leaves little things for her husband to find.One day she went to a local specialty store and bought some fudge that her husband really enjoys. He reluctantly thanked her but felt she shouldn't have spent the money, not realizing that this was her love language. Mike, the husband, often asks his wife to go out with him to eat, to walk along the beach, or to go to a movie. Mary, after a long day with two small children, will often bow out, stating that she's tired and wants to stay home and get to bed early. She doesn't realize that Quality Time is his love language, and he begins to feel that she doesn't want to spend time with him. Both begin to resent the other and their marriage starts to suffer.
What can be done? It is very important for couples to begin to recognize the love language of the spouse. What love language does your spouse show to you? That is most likely the one that he/she would like to be shown.
In the above example, Mary should recognize that Mark likes Quality Time. She needs to be able to provide this for him. Being tired is a fact of being a mother and potentially working as well and Mark needs to understand this, but the two need to communicate and compromise. Set a date night so that Mary can prepare herself for the time that they will go out. She might decide not to do as many activities with the children that day so that she will be more rested for the night. As for Mark, he should recognize that Mary enjoys giving him small gifts at times, and he should express his appreciation, but he should also realize that this is also the way she feels loved as well. He might bring flowers to her work place or home, write a card to place on her pillow, or just pick up a special dessert for the night. What about a special ice cream treat for after the kids go to bed?
When you begin to recognize love languages, your own and the language of others, you can apply the information to any relationship, parent/child, teacher/student, or even friendships. The ways the languages are shown to others will vary, but the information remains the same. For more information I highly recommend Dr. Gary Chapman's website as well as the various books written by Dr. Chapman on the subject. Since the introduction of the subject in 1992, different variations have come out including The Five Love Languages of Singles, The Five Love Languages of Children, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, and Five Love Languages, Small Group Edition among others.