Over three decades ago, Dr. Gary Chapman authored a marriage enrichment book that has become a classic in the field. It has helped millions of married couples draw closer to one another by giving them the tools they need to express their love for one another in the “love language” their spouse best understands. The name of the book is, The Five Love Languages, How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. According to Dr. Chapman, there are five basic love languages we speak as human beings. These love languages are:
§ Words of Affirmation
§ Quality Time
§ Acts of Service
§ Physical Touch
But even though every person speaks all five of these love languages, we all have our favorite one. We all have a preference for one of these love languages over the others. What Dr. Chapman discovered in his marriage and family counseling practice is for the words “I love you” to be believable by our spouse, those words need to be supported by actions that demonstrate our love for our spouse in the way they desire that love to be expressed and affirmed.
Let’s consider some examples to help us better understand Dr. Chapman’s thesis for his book, The Five Love Languages. If a woman’s primary love language is receiving gifts, she would feel very loved if her husband showed up on Friday after work with an unexpected gift of flowers. But she would probably feel rather unloved if, on Valentine’s Day, her husband forgot to get her a gift. For some women, there is nothing more romantic than receiving a gift of flowers; jewelry or perfume from their husband. But other women, like my spouse, tend to see such gifts as a waste of money. Another woman’s love language may be “quality time”. This could be expressed by a “dinner and a movie” date night that her husband initiates or by going shopping with her without complaint. For many women, the best way for their husband to affirm his love would be practical “acts of service” like helping out around the house by volunteering to vacuum the house, do the dishes after dinner or unload the dishwasher without being asked.
A man whose love language is “words of affirmation” may feel loved best when he receives an unexpected note in a card expressing how much his wife appreciates him. If a man’s love language is “quality time”, his wife might make his day by watching his favorite TV show with him, going to the baseball with him or allowing him some guiltless time away from the family to play golf or go fishing.
It is important that we understand the love language of our spouse and try as best we can to express our love in that way so our love will be understood and felt by our spouse. But speaking our spouse’s love language is not going to come naturally to most of us because most husbands and wives have different love language preferences. If we are only willing to express our love for our spouse in the way that coincides with our love language preference, we may find it more comfortable for us. But such actions, regardless of how well intended, will throw cold water on our love’s passion because it indicates a greater interest in OUR comfort level than in the needs of our spouse. But when we are willing to make the effort to express our love in ways that show a sensitivity to the desires of our spouse, that has the same effect as throwing another log on our passion to make it a roaring fire!
Dr. Chapman has also discovered husbands and wives are not the only ones with a love language preference. It is also important for us to understand our children’s love language so we relate to them in ways that best communicate our love to them. These same principles can be applied to friendship relationships as well.
But what about God? Does God have any love language preferences? I believe He does. And like our spouses, God desires our love for Him to be expressed, not only through our participation in worship, but also in ways that He deems significant and appropriate. Growing in our love for the Lord can only happen when we understand God’s preferred love languages and make certain we express our love for Him in those ways instead of in ways that are easier or more comfortable for us.
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