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Why is it that so few couples seem to have found the secret to keeping love alive after the wedding? Why is it that a couple can attend a communication workshop, hear wonderful ideas on how to enhance communication, return home, and find themselves totally unable to implement the communication patterns demonstrated?
Finding the answer to these questions is the purpose of this book. It is not that the books and articles already published are not helpful. The problem is that we have overlooked one fundamental truth: People speak different love languages.
Most of us grow up learning the language of our parents and siblings, which becomes our primary or native tongue. Later, we may learn additional languages but usually with much more effort. Language differences are part and parcel of human culture.
In the area of love, it is similar. Your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as different as Chinese from English. No matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse understands only Chinese, you will never understand how to show love to each other. Being sincere is not enough. We must be willing to learn our spouse's primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.
My conclusion after thirty years of marriage counseling is that there are basically five emotional love languages-five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. However, there may be numerous dialects. The number of ways to express love within a love language is limited only by one's imagination. The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse.
Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse's primary love language, I believe that you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage. Love need not evaporate after the wedding, but in order to keep it alive most of us will have to put forth the effort to learn a secondary love language.
At the heart of mankind's existence is the desire to be intimate and to be loved by another. Marriage is designed to meet that need for intimacy and love. That is why the ancient biblical writings spoke of the husband and wife becoming "one flesh." That did not mean that individuals would lose their identity; it meant that they would enter into each other's lives in a deep and intimate way.
Again and again I have heard the words "Our love is gone, our relationship is dead. We used to feel close, but not now. We no longer enjoy being with each other. We don't meet each other's needs." Their stories bear testimony that adults as well as children have "love tanks."
I am convinced that keeping the emotional love tank full is as important to a marriage as maintaining the proper oil level is to an automobile. Running your marriage on an empty "love tank" may cost you even more than trying to drive your car without oil. Whatever the quality of your marriage now, it can always be better.
WARNING: Understanding the five love languages and learning to speak the primary love language of your spouse may radically affect his or her behavior. People behave differently when their emotional love tanks are full.
Before we examine the five love languages, however, we must address one other important but confusing phenomenon: the exhilarating experience of "falling in love."
At its peak, the "in love" experience is euphoric. We are emotionally obsessed with each other. We go to sleep thinking of each other. When we wake up that person is the first thought on our minds. We long to be together.
The person who is "in love" has the illusion that his beloved is perfect.
We have been led to believe that if we are really in love, it will last forever. We will always have the wonderful feelings that we have at this moment. Nothing could ever come between us. Nothing will ever overcome our love for each other.
Eventually, however, we all descend from the clouds and plant our feet on earth again. Our eyes are opened, and we see the warts of the other person. We recognize that some of his/her personality traits are actually irritating. He has the capacity for hurt and angel, perhaps even harsh words and critical judgments. Those little traits that we overlooked when we were in love now become huge mountains.
Welcome to the real world of marriage, where hairs are always in the sink and little white spots cover the mirror, where arguments center on which way the toilet paper comes off and whether the lid should he up or down. In this world, a look can hurt and a word can crush. Intimate lovers can become enemies, and marriage a battlefield.
What happened to the "in love" experience? Alas, it was but an illusion by which we were tricked into signing our names on the dotted line, for better or for worse. Did we really have the "real" thing? I think so. The problem was faulty information.
The euphoria of the "in love" state gives us the illusion that we have an intimate relationship. We feel that we belong to each other. We believe we can conquer all problems.
Does that mean that, having been tricked into marriage by the illusion of being in love, we are now faced with just two options: (1) we are destined to a life of misery with our spouse, or (2) we must jump ship and try again?
There is a better alternative: We can recognize the in-love experience for what it was-a temporary emotional high-and now pursue "real love" with our spouse.
The emotional need for love must be met if we are to have emotional health. Married adults long to feel affection and love from their spouses. When your spouse's emotional love tank is full and he feels secure in your love, the whole world looks bright and your spouse will move out to reach his highest potential in life.
Chapter Two LOVE LANGUAGE #1 Words of Affirmation
One way to express love emotionally is to use words that build up. Solomon, author of some of the ancient Hebrew wisdom literature, wrote, "The tongue has the power of life and death." Many couples have never learned the tremendous power of verbally affirming each other. Solomon further noted, "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."
Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. They are best expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as:
"You look sharp in that suit."
"Do you ever look nice in that dress! Wow!"
"You must be the best potato cook in the world. I love these potatoes."
"I really appreciate your washing the dishes tonight."
Giving verbal compliments is only one way to express words of affirmation to your spouse. Another dialect is encouraging words. The word encourage means "to inspire courage." All of us have areas in which we feel insecure. We lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. The latent potential within your spouse in his or her areas of insecurity may await your encouraging words.
Most of us have more potential than we will ever develop. What holds us back is often courage. A loving spouse can supply that all-important catalyst. Of course, encouraging words may be difficult for you to speak. It may not be your primary love language. It may take great effort for you to learn this second language. That will be especially true if you have a pattern of using critical and condemning words, but I can assure you that it will be worth the effort.
Love is kind. If then we are to communicate love verbally, we must use kind words. That has to do with the way we speak. The same sentence can have two different meanings, depending on how you say it. The statement "I love you," when said with kindness and tenderness, can be a genuine expression of love. But what about the statement "I love you?" The question mark changes the whole meaning of those three words. Sometimes our words are saying one thing, but our tone of voice is saying another. We are sending double messages. Our spouse will usually interpret our message based on our tone of voice, not the words we use.
The manner in which we speak is exceedingly important. An ancient sage once said, "A soft answer turns away anger." When your spouse is angry and upset and lashing out words of heat, if you choose to be loving you will not reciprocate with additional heat but with a soft voice. If your motivation is different from what he is reading, you will be able to explain your motivation kindly. You will seek understanding and reconciliation, and not to prove your own perception as the only logical way to interpret what has happened. That is mature love-love to which we aspire if we seek a growing marriage.
Love doesn't keep a score of wrongs. Love doesn't bring up past failures. None of us is perfect. In marriage we do not always do the best or right thing. We have sometimes done and said hurtful things to our spouses. We cannot erase the past. We can only confess it and agree that it was wrong. We can ask for forgiveness and try to act differently in the future. If I choose justice and seek to pay my spouse back or make her pay for her wrongdoing, I am making myself the judge and her the felon. Intimacy becomes impossible. If, however, I choose to forgive, intimacy can be restored. Forgiveness is the way of love.
Love makes requests, not demands. When I demand things from my spouse, I become a parent and she the child. In marriage, however, we are equal, adult partners. We are not perfect to be sure, but we are adults and we are partners. If we are to develop an intimate relationship, we need to know each other's desires. If we wish to love each other, we need to know what the other person wants.
The way we express those desires, however, is all-important. If they come across as demands, we have erased the possibility of intimacy and will drive our spouse away. If, however, we make known our needs and desires as requests, we are giving guidance, not ultimatums.
Words of affirmation are one of the five basic love languages. Within that language, however, there are many dialects. We have discussed a few already, and there are many more. Entire volumes and numerous articles have been written on these dialects. All of the dialects have in common the use of words to affirm one's spouse. When you hear a lecture on love or you overhear a friend saying something positive about another person, write it down. In time, you will collect quite a list of words to use in communicating love to your spouse.
You may also want to try giving indirect words of affirmation, that is, saying positive things about your spouse when he or she is not present. Eventually, someone will tell your spouse, and you will get full credit for love. Tell your wife's mother how great your wife is. When her mother tells her what you said, your remarks will be amplified, and you will get even more credit. Also affirm your spouse in front of others when he or she is present. When you are given public honor for an accomplishment, be sure to share the credit with your spouse. You may also try your hand at writing words of affirmation. Written words have the benefit of being read over and over again.
If your spouse's love language is Words of Affirmation:
Remind yourself: Words are important!
Write a love letter
Set a goal to compliment your spouse every day for one month.
Excerpted from The Heart of The Love Languages by Gary Chapman Copyright © 2007 by GARY CHAPMAN. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted January 22, 2009
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