After twenty-three years of marriage, I can honestly say that there is still more to learn and grown in within our marriage! We were just babies (twenty) when we said “I do,” and have gone through many seasons: college, career choices, parenthood, relocating (many times), debt, major purchases, loss, and struggle.
Our married journey started with the required counseling. We filled out workbook questionnaires and talked about our dreams and how we communicate and what we thought we wanted in life.
Seven years in, we were starting the parenthood journey. As all you Mamas know, babies bring a whole new dynamic to a relationship. I remember sobbing in the midst of my post-pardum hormone deluge, “I’m so glad you know the REAL me, because I don’t even recognize myself right now!”
During the ups and downs of marriage, we have also read many relationship books. One that was so enlightening was Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. We already realized that our basic differences were obvious: he loved to do nice things for me and wanted to feel appreciated for those kindnesses; I wanted to spend as much time as possible together.
Reading the breakdown of the Love Languages gave us a platform to discuss the ways we related to each other. The more we understood each other’s needs and ways we felt the most loved, the better we also got the misunderstandings of those needs that arose in our marriage. We also were able to identify why sometimes we felt like we were trying so hard to show love, but it was not always perceived or received as we had hoped.
If you haven’t heard of the five Love Languages, I’ll give you a quick summary here from the book’s official website, but you can also take the quiz for yourself:
- Words of Affirmation – words used to lovingly affirm/encourage
- Acts of Service – love displayed by actions
- Receiving Gifts – thoughtful, well-intentioned gifts
- Quality Time – undivided attention
- Physical Touch – appropriate touch that builds intimacy
My top love language is Quality Time. I want nothing more than to spend time with the people I love. In marriage, that means it doesn’t matter where we go, I feel loved when my husband sets aside time to be with me. One of our favorite date spots is a bookstore. We go there and collect some magazines or new books to explore and then sit together and maybe talk about where our minds are at. Acts of Service is my next greatest love language. I feel loved and appreciated when my husband helps me with the responsibilities I’m feeling burdened with because he knows it helps me feel less stressed. He’ll stop at the store on his way home if he knows we’re out of eggs. He offers to take the kids to school on whatever mornings it works with his varying schedule because he knows that I appreciate an extra morning or two where I can take my time to get ready for the day ahead. When I feel loved and appreciated, then I want to reciprocate the love and affections.
For my husband, he doesn’t need me to do chores for him though (but I do wash all his clothes). His top love languages are Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch, which is pretty typical for men. He needs me to speak unsolicited words of encouragement and appreciation for who he is to me as a husband and father. Most women are not surprised by a man’s need for physical touch, but it more than the intimacy shared in the bedroom. My husband needs physical connection. He needs there to be connection between us throughout the day. When we can’t hold hands or sit near each other, then he appreciates a text to let him know I’m thinking about him.
As created beings, we are so unique in our individual personalities and that includes our wants and desires. And I’ll be the first to admit that some days, I just want to be alone to think – I call it Quality Time with myself! We all need to refuel in the way God made us in order to be better at anticipating the needs of those closest to us. The most important part of any marriage is the desire to be more selfless in order to bring out the best in our mate. Understanding more about how he desires to be loved and feels love is the best way we can show love.
I encourage you to sit down and talk about this idea with your husband. Set aside some time to take the quiz together and talk about it. Promise not to get offended when each of you shares what works or doesn’t work in each of these areas. It’s worth it!