How to keep your marriage alive
Marriages take hard work. Sorry for the brash intro sentence but it’s true. Building a healthy marriage will take knowledge, strength, humility, vulnerability, wisdom and endurance. Unfortunately most people who enter into the establishment of marriage…yes both males and females, may possess only one or two of these traits.
They may think that they have more but they are fooled. You will tell how much you truly have when the relationship is challenged…and it will be challenged. I was one of those guys that appeared to have all of my ducks in a row. I went into my marriage with my wife feeling like I had acquired a lifetime of relationship knowledge and that I had already invested enough work and developed enough strength to endure any hardship. I was fooled. Ridiculously fooled!
Pop Your Own Bubble
After the high of the initial “in love/could 9” period wore off, I began to notice things that I was not accustomed to seeing. I began to notice a gradual decline in my wife’s (then girlfriend’s) happiness within the relationship. She would say things like, “I don’t feel like you really love me.” Or, “You say it but you don’t show it.” As a man, this was very difficult to hear…Could it be that I was not capable of loving her the right way? Is it possible that I had a chink in my “man armor” and that I was being exposed? Was it likely that I did not have my ducks in a row? Of course not! It was all because of some past wound that she was struggling with. The problem was not with me…it was with her! Did I mention that I was foolish?
Of course my “man insecurities” would not allow me to own up to the fact that I lacked the ability to love her. Of course my defenses would project the blame onto her…wouldn’t yours? If I could not love her the right way…that meant that someone at sometime in some other place could love her the right way. Was I ready to deal with her mind wandering…her desires shifting from me to some other dude? Heck no! I had to fix this, and I had to do it fast. That is when I started to actually use the tools that I had at my disposal. That is when I began reading the book; The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Last, By: Gary D. Chapman. This book fundamentally changed my world view on how to express love and literally became the # 1 “go to” tool that I use with all of my clients. Allow me to share why this book works.
The 5 Love Languages
This book focuses on the basic needs that we all have as humans; our need to feel loved and secure, as well as our desire for relationship. Most of us grow up learning the language of our parents, which becomes our native tongue. Later we may learn additional languages, but usually with much more effort. In the area of love, it’s similar. In relationships, your emotional love language and the love language of your partner may be as different as Chinese is from English. No matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse only understands Chinese, you will never truly understand how to love each other.” Learning how to speak the love language of your partner is the most important concept to understand as you look to establish a health foundation for your marriage. Most relationships fail because of this. Mine almost did. It was like she spoke Chinese and I spoke English. When I communicated my love to her in English, because she only understood Chinese…she did not interpret what I was saying as love. Let me give you a brief rundown of all five love languages so that this makes more sense.
1.) Words Of Affirmation
In this language, people need to hear compliments; to be “stroked” by the words of others. Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Verbal compliments or words of appreciation are powerful communicators of love.
2.) Quality Time
In this language, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Quality time means giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. What I mean is taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and maintaining eye contact while talking. Time is a strong communicator of love to this person. The love language of quality time has many dialects. One of the most common is that of quality conversation – two individuals sharing their thoughts and feelings on a personal and direct level.
3.) Physical Touch
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Holding hands, kissing and hugging – all of these are lifelines for the person for whom physical touch is the primary love language. With it, they feel secure in their partner’s love. “Love touches” don’t take much time, but they do require a little thought, especially if this isn’t your primary love language or you didn’t grow up in a “touching” family. Sitting close to each other as you watch TV requires no additional time, but communicates your love loudly. Touching each other when you leave the house and when you return may involve only a brief kiss, but speaks volumes. I learned that this was my wife’s primary love language…which sucked for me at the time because for me growing up, my family was not super “touchy.” I had to learn how to speak this language to my wife.
4.) Receiving Gifts
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures. Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest. A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” A gift is a symbol of that thought. Gifts come in all sizes, colors and shapes. Some are expensive and others are free. To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts, the cost will matter little.
5.) Acts Of Service
Can doing the laundry really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on a person with this love language will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments and making more work for them communicates to them the opposite of love. People who speak this love language seek to please their partners by serving them; to express their love for them by doing things for them. Actions such as cooking a meal, cleaning the bathroom, washing the dishes, sorting the bills, walking the dog or taking their car for an oil change are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.
Determining Your Own Language…
Either take the assessment here, or since you may be already speaking to others your own love language, you can discover your own love language by asking yourself these questions:
❤ How do I express love to others?
❤ What do I complain about the most?
❤ What do I request most often?
Speaking in your spouse’s love language probably won’t be natural for you. It sure wasn’t for me. Dr. Chapman says, “We’re not talking comfort. We’re talking love. Love is something we do for someone else. So often couples love one another but they aren’t connecting. They are sincere, but sincerity isn’t enough.” I have noticed that we often love others based on how we would like to be loved. That is why when I would tell my wife how much I loved her verbally, she would say, “I can’t tell.” I was speaking my love language to her…not hers.
As I mentioned earlier, The 5 Love Languages is a must read. I read it literally every year. Once you start reading this book you will be engaged from beginning to end. If you are serious about your future marriage and would like to learn how to navigate within any relationship, this book will be probably the greatest asset to your library. If you don’t already own it, click the link below to pick it up on Amazon.
Also, I invite you to join our Mastering Marriage 7 Day Email Prayer Challenge by subscribing below. By doing so, you will have access to our email list where you will receive 7 specific prayers for you to pray over your marriage over the next 7 days plus tons of free resources and tools just like this article that can help enhance your marriage.
Question: What is your love language. Do you have difficulties expressing your spouses love language? Answer below.