Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting over the Five Love Languages

Let's be fair and truthful... I really do appreciate the discussions around the Five Love Languages. If you do not know about them, you can learn more here.

Despite that fact that I have a fairly fantastic marriage and am typically happily enamoured with my husband, I read the Love Languages book. I gave my hubby the verbal CliffNotes, after which we each took the test to discover our own love language. We determined that my love language was "words of affirmation" (which means that I like to give verbal declarations of appreciation and love) and that his was "acts of service" (which means that he likes to show love by doing things for people.) We set out to speak each other's love language. I looked for ways to do things for him and he tried to compliment me more.

It didn't take long for me to become disgruntled. He told me, truthfully, that compliments don't come naturally to him and that he thought they sounded forced and fake, even though they're true. Compliments were a foreign language to my husband but suddenly I wanted him to speak that language fluently.

In reading other Bible-centered materials I realized that the change needed to start with me. So I started doing more Acts of Service... Making sure everything was picked up before he came home from work. Making delicious meals. Cleaning windows more often. Cleaning floors more frequently. When he didn't notice and didn't compliment me on it, I quickly became resentful. My Acts of Service were not producing the change I wanted to see in him. "If I'm speaking his language, why isn't he speaking mine?"

After a time, I deduced that he couldn't see my Acts of Service to him because he was at work when they were happening.  Perhaps if he saw them when he was at home, then that would spur him on to speaking my language. So I made sure he saw when I did the dishes after supper. I folded laundry in the evening when he was around. I told him about the different things I did through the day so he would understand how busy I was, "doing" for him. And still, my efforts produced no change in him (at least none that made me satisfied.)

I went in and out of happiness, misery, and contentment until I learned two important truths:

I should look to change myself, not others. Typically, actions on my part that are intended to produce change in someone else are selfishly motivated. Look back up at what I've already written. I chose to do more acts of service to manipulate my husband into telling me nice things. I used my love for my husband to motivate me to do those things, but ultimately, my goal was to prompt him to change.

Realizing that I needed to focus on the change within myself brought me to the second realization:

I can choose to be happy or miserable, despite the actions of any other person. When I make my husband responsible for the way I feel, I put an impossible task on him. He can jump through one hoop one day to make me happy and that same hoop might make me miserable the next day. But it's not the hoop or his actions that determine my happiness or misery. I am the sole moderator of my emotions.

So, here I am, an imperfect person, married to another imperfect person. I have decided that I am not going to hold my husband hostage to learning a foreign language.  I choose happiness instead. I see him washing dishes or shoveling and I see love. And when he tells the kids that "Mom always makes such great meals for us, doesn't she?" I smile and know that he really is speaking my language. But even if he didn't, I would still love him, and I'd know that he loves me.

None of this is meant to say that the Love Languages are bad to learn.  I think it's great to know how the people around you feel most loved. But it's also important to trust that when someone says they love you, and they show you that they love you, they really do love you. Don't look for them to perfectly fill the void in your heart. They can't. They won't. They're just as broken and imperfect as you are.

Jesus said it best when he pointed us to the source of perfect love. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:28-30

He is my perfect source of peace and love and rest.

Everything else is just gravy.


  1. Good post Wanda. One of your best. :-) I love the book, but I agree, it is really addressing your loved one's needs and if you do it without thought of return or affirmation, it will still change things--mostly your attitude toward that loved one. :-)

  2. This is fantastic, Wanda. So true! To put those kinds of expectations on a marriage are a recipe for disaster. Not only that, but, I believe that your "love language" can change as well, through the years. At one time, compliments and words of affirmation would have definitely been a biggie for me. Now, not so much. When my husband helps me with raising our children and cleaning, that makes me feel respected and loved by him. So, there should be no pressure to be a certain way because of a book.

    1. VERY true! In fact, just last year we took the test again as part of a group exercise, and discovered that we were both higher on "Quality Time" than before.

  3. Daniel and I read this book fairly early in our marriage (it might have even been when we were engaged). We thought it was was interesting but I don't think either of us tried very hard to learn the other person's love language. For us, it seemed to be enough to learn and understand that our significant other showed their love in ways that were different from how we showed our love, and that was enough. I think sometimes just recognizing that we are different makes a huge difference in how we see and treat each other. Good thoughts, Wanda!