The Five Love Languages
How to Communicate to Your Spouse This Valentine's Day
February 12, 2013 - Your spouse may not speak the same love language that you do. Learn to communicate the depth of your affection in a way that your spouse can understand.
For Karolyn and me, almost every Valentine's Day now is a wonderful time because we are speaking each other's love language.
by Gary Chapman
Early in my marriage, I had visions of what married life was supposed to be like. My wife, Karolyn, didn't fulfill those visions.
I had the idea that every morning we would have breakfast together. Within the first six months of marriage, I realized that Karolyn didn't do mornings.
I also had the idea that we would go to bed together every night at 10:30. I realized after a few weeks that Karolyn didn't go to bed at 10:30. We spent a lot of time either arguing or in silence, withdrawn from each other. We were both Christians, but we weren't connecting emotionally.
We experienced several unpleasant Valentine's Days. I know what it is to feel like you're married to the wrong person on Valentine's Day.
I remember a Valentine's Day when I bought Karolyn a pearl necklace. She opened it and said, "That's very nice, darling." I was disappointed because she wasn't as ecstatic as I thought she should be. At dinner, she began listing things that I hadn't done for her around the house. I thought to myself, "I gave you this wonderful gift and you're criticizing me. This doesn't make sense."
Even though Karolyn was loving me by cooking the meal, I wasn't feeling loved because she was critical. In her mind, she was trying to help me do what she needed in order to feel loved.
I know now that gifts are not the primary way Karolyn receives love. She would have been much happier if I would have vacuumed the floors and forgot the gift. But that didn't make sense to me at the time. Karolyn shows her love to me through acts of service. I realize now that preparing a Valentine's Day meal was an expression of her love.
I figured these things out after going through 20 years' worth of notes from counseling sessions with clients. In doing this, I discovered five fundamental languages of love: Gifts, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time and Physical Touch.
My academic background is anthropology, the study of cultures. We have never discovered a culture in which gift-giving is not an expression of love. A gift is a physical symbol that the giver is thinking about you. A gift doesn't have to be expensive. People have always said that it's the thought that counts. But I remind couples that it's not the thought left in your head that counts; it's the gift that came out of the thought in your head.
2. Acts of Service
The Bible says, "Love not in word only but in deed" (Cf. 1 John 3:18). Do something. This love language is cooking meals, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, washing cars, taking the dog for a walk. It's doing anything that you know your spouse would like for you to do. When your spouse complains about uncompleted tasks, pick up on these comments. Learn to speak through acts of service.
3. Words of Affirmation
Another way to express love is to use words that affirm your spouse: "You look nice in that dress." "You look sharp in that suit." "I really appreciate what you did yesterday."
4. Quality Time
Quality time is not sitting in the same room watching television. Rather, sit on the couch with the TV off and look at each other and talk. Take a walk or go out to eat, just the two of you, and talk. When you give your spouse quality time, you're not reading a book or watching television. You're focusing on him or her. Maybe you are doing something that both of you like to do, but your focus is on being together, not on the activity itself.
5. Physical Touch
We've long known the power of physical touch: holding hands, kissing, embracing, sexual intercourse, running your hand through her hair, putting your hand on his leg as you drive down the road—touching in an affirming way.
Our Heart Language
Each of us has a primary love language, one of the five that speaks more deeply to us than the other four. If you don't speak your spouse's primary love language, he or she may not feel loved even though you're sincere.
Almost never do a husband and a wife have the same love language. Consequently, we each speak our own language. If words make me feel loved, I will give my spouse affirming words. But because her love language is acts of service, she won't feel loved even though I say, "I love you." She's thinking, "If you love me, you will do something."
Discover your spouse's love language and choose to speak it on a regular basis. Once you do that, you can drop in the other four languages, and they will be meaningful as well.
For Karolyn and me, almost every Valentine's Day now is a wonderful time because we are speaking each other's love language. One recent Valentine's Day, Karolyn joined me for a retreat at which I was to speak. We arrived the day before and woke early the next morning on Valentine's Day.
The first thing Karolyn said when she woke up was, "This is going to be a wonderful day because you are a wonderful person." Since my love language is words of affirmation, Karolyn got my day off to a great start. Speaking Karolyn's "language," I made up the bed before the maid even arrived.
We didn't give each other a gift that whole day, but we both felt loved. I felt loved because she gave me words of affirmation. She felt loved because I made the bed for her.
For Second-language Learners
What if the love language of your spouse doesn't come naturally for you? It almost never does. Once you discover which love language makes your spouse feel loved, then choose to learn to speak that language. Now it's no big deal for me to wash dishes or vacuum floors or make beds. But in the early stages of our marriage it was difficult for me—because I had made up my mind that, once I married, I was not going to do these things anymore.
Learning a second language is difficult. If you speak English, learning Spanish is difficult. If you speak Spanish, learning English is difficult—but you can do it. If you want your spouse to feel genuinely loved, learn to speak his or her love language.