Words have incredible meaning, especially when they say what you mean. Make the most of your messages by learning The Language of Love. Written by best-selling authors Gary Smalley and John Trent, this companion to The Two Sides of Love shows how “emotional word pictures” can infuse understanding and intimacy into all your relationships. Tyndale House Publishers
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The language of LOVE
By GARY SMALLEY JOHN TRENT
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Gary Smalley and John Trent, Ph.D.
All right reserved.
When Everyday Words Are Not Enough
Judy sat at the kitchen table, feeling more lonely and discouraged than at any other time in her life. Only a few hours earlier, she had come face-to-face with her worst fears. Now, try as she might, she couldn't stop wishing she could turn back the clock and undo what had happened. Slumped in her chair, she blinked back the tears and kept replaying the scene over and over in her mind....
It was early afternoon on a cool, fall day. Judy drove her new Buick past the rows of well-kept houses. Each was a monument to someone's climb up the ladder of success.
Judy fit perfectly into the upper-class neighborhood. Her blond hair and fair complexion were a tribute to her Swedish ancestry. And at 39, she still looked as young and trim as many of her friends in their late twenties. Her striking blue eyes flashed with satisfaction as she pulled into the driveway of her two-story Victorian home. Columns of red brick laced with ivy, together with the manicured lawn, reflected just the right blend of formality and warmth. Her two children were off at school, so the house would be quiet. After a full morning of shopping and errands, she looked forward to a few moments to unwind.
Pulling into the garage, Judy lingered in the car. Closing her eyes, she let the last strands of a haunting love song carry her away to a moonlit beach. Finally, with a sigh, she turned off the stereo, opened the car door, and began unloading the trophies of her morning's conquest. Carrying a sack of groceries in one hand and her keys in the other, she opened the garage entry door.
What Judy didn't realize was that she was also opening the door to the most painful discovery of her life.
Crossing the floor to the kitchen, she put the groceries down on the island counter. When she turned around, her eyes were caught by a sheet of notebook paper taped to the refrigerator.
She recognized the handwriting immediately. It was her husband's. On the outside of the folded piece of paper he'd written, "Judy, don't let the kids read this."
Don't let the kids read this? she thought to herself. If they'd seen this before I did, they'd have read it in a second!
As she unfolded the note, she tried to shrug off the uneasy feeling that suddenly came over her. She struggled to convince herself that the message would concern merely their business or personal finances. That's why he didn't want the children to see what was inside, she thought. But her hands trembled as she began to read:
We both know we've been drifting apart for a long time. And let's face it, I don't see you or anything between us changing one bit.
You may as well know that I've been seeing another woman. Yes, we've been involved, and I really think I love her. I'm telling you all this because somebody is bound to see us together, and I wanted to tell you before someone else did. Judy, let's make this as easy as we can on the children. It doesn't have to be a big thing with the kids unless you want it to be.
I don't love you anymore, and I really wonder if I ever did. I've already had my attorney draw up the papers because I want a divorce-now.
I've got to go out of town on a business trip. I'll be back in two weeks and will come by to pick up some things and say hello to the kids. One more thing. I'll be staying at an apartment I've rented until this is over. Steve
Judy clutched the note in her hand as her eyes flooded with tears. Her mind flashed back to a moment in childhood when a slip of paper tore away another important person from her life. She was five years old when the War Department sent the unwanted telegram-two paragraphs regretfully informing her family that her father was the latest casualty of the Korean War.
All these years later, a few paragraphs scratched on a sheet of paper loosed another avalanche of emotional pain. She had again lost the most important man in her life, but this time the note bore no hint of regret. Memories and hurtful emotions collided within Judy's mind, leaving her inviting, once-tranquil world in shambles. In response to her tears and heart-wrenching sobs, her beautiful home offered nothing but silence.
Judy was devastated. But she hadn't reached bottom yet. The worst was yet to come.
From Darkness to Despair
The family went 14 days without hearing from Steve. During that time, Judy somehow managed to survive the chilling, devastating force of her emotions. Fully a hundred times a day, Steve's handwritten words crashed through her mind. And with each remembrance, she was left to pick up more pieces from her shattered heart.
I've been seeing another woman.... Yes, we've been involved.... I want a divorce.... I'll be staying in my apartment until this is over....
Waiting for Steve to call or come by was a daily, emotional roller coaster. Each trip up the stairs, Judy passed walls lined with smiling family pictures. And each glance at them was a painful journey through 19 years of marriage and the raising of two children.
Every opened drawer, every closet door left ajar, every corner of the house held its silent reminder of love lost. For almost half her life she had loved and shared herself with one man-someone who said he didn't care anymore, and may never have cared. But looking at her children's faces caused the most agony.
Night after night, in spite of her own inner hurt, Judy had to be both comforter and counselor to her son and daughter. She tried her best to put up a good front and explain what had happened. But how could she answer a seven-year-old boy's endless questions, especially when she didn't know the answers herself?
Mommy, why isn't Daddy coming home? Is he mad at me? Mommy, what have we done?
And how could she deal with her teenage daughter's angry fits that erupted every time her father's name was mentioned? In his note, Steve had written so offhandedly, "It doesn't have to be a big thing with the kids." But every tear Judy dried from her children's eyes ripped holes in his logic.
Each evening, after watching their sadness and confusion finally succumb to a fitful sleep, Judy would escape to her own bedroom. There, her mind crowded with lonely thoughts, she would cry herself to sleep in a queen-sized bed that suddenly seemed 10 times too large.
As another evening crawled by, she wondered for the hundredth time, Is there any chance we'll ever get back together? No sooner had the thought drifted through her mind than the phone rang. It was Steve.
"Hello, Judy," he said in a detached, emotionless tone.
"Hello, Honey," she answered automatically, the words slipping out before she had time to think.
Honey? Why did I say that? she scolded herself. She wanted to be angry with him. She was angry with him. But now that he'd finally called, the anger she'd struggled with for days seemed to momentarily step aside.
Hearing Steve's voice made her yearn to see him again. She ached for him to put his arms around her ... tell her that he still loved her ... that it had all been just a terrible mistake.
But when Steve began to talk, all hope drained from her heart. His words came fast and cold.
"I'm glad you're home, Judy," he said. "I'm calling from the car phone and I'm on my way over to drop off some papers. I can't stop and talk now. We've tried talking for years, but it's never helped." His words carried the biting edge of a north wind in January. "I'll be there in a few minutes."
Before Judy could respond, the phone went dead in her hand. She shot up from her chair and hurried upstairs to tell the children their father was coming over. And as she went back downstairs and waited in the living room, thoughts cascaded down on her from nearly two decades of marriage.
They had always struggled to communicate with each other, even during their courtship. Over the years, arguments had accompanied far too many conversations. The fallout from their cold war of words had chilled their relationship and frozen a layer of insecurity deep within their children's lives.
For all Judy's married life, only one thing remained consistent. She had always longed for Steve to understand her feelings, needs, fears, goals, and wishes. If only he could understand me; if only I could relate to him in a way he respected; if only we could both get beyond the arguments and angry words and communicate in-depth with each other; if only ...
Suddenly, the headlights of a car flashed through the living room window. Judy paused for a moment, quickly looked at herself in the hallway mirror, and straightened her skirt. Then she opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. But as she stood watching Steve walk toward her, she noticed his car. The lights were still on; the engine was running.
Her eyes instantly opened wide, and she leaned forward, almost involuntarily. Oh, no, she gasped, blinking in disbelief. He's brought the woman with him!
The streetlight pushed back some of the darkness, and though Judy couldn't see clearly, there was a woman sitting in the front seat. Whoever it was, she refused to look up.
Steve walked up to the porch. He looked as handsome as ever, but his eyes lacked even a spark of warmth. "Here are some papers I want you to read," he said abruptly, thrusting a manila envelope at her. "There's a legal document you need to sign and return to me as soon as possible."
"Steve!" Judy cried, pushing the folder back into his hands. "I can't sign any papers. I don't even know if I want to sign them. We need to talk with someone first. Can't we go to a counselor or a pastor or-"
"Now listen, Judy." Steve's voice rang in the cool night air. "I'm not putting things up for a vote. We've talked for years, and nothing's ever changed. I've thought this through, and I'm not interested in hearing you say for the thousandth time, 'It'll work out.' Let's get this straight. It's not going to work out. This marriage is through. Over! Finished! I want out! It's time I got on with my life."
Suddenly, there was a sound behind them in the doorway.
"But what about our lives, Dad?"
Neither Steve nor Judy had heard their teenage daughter come down the stairs. She stepped to her mother's side. "Dad, I can't believe you're doing this! What are you trying to prove? We love you so much, and this is so embarrassing."
"Kimberly, you just don't understand," her father began, extending his arms toward her.
"Don't touch me! Don't ever touch me again!" Kimberly sobbed as she pushed him away. "I can't believe you're doing this to Mom and me. And what about Brian? You don't care about him, either, do you?" Her tear-stained face was a mixture of anger and terrible sadness.
"I do care. But I'm not going to stand here and argue like this. Anybody could drive by and see us. Your mother and I ... well, we just can't talk anymore. We've never been able to talk. I can't explain it, but we just don't get through to each other."
"Look!" he said, his voice blasting like a rifle shot. "I'm not going to get into this now! I've got to go; the car's running. I'll try to drop by or call or something later this week."
He turned abruptly and stormed off the porch. But then just as suddenly, he turned back and said, "Say hello to Brian for me." With that, he walked back to the car-and out of their lives.
Kimberly ran up the stairs to her room, crying. Judy stood frozen at the front door, watching her husband and another woman drive away. As the red taillights shimmered through her tears and disappeared into the darkness, she kept asking herself, Why did this have to happen? Why? Why? Why?
The Language of Love: Moving Beyond Everyday Words
Judy and Steve faced an all-too-common problem that was ripping apart their marriage: failure to communicate in a meaningful way. It's not that they hadn't tried to talk. Over the years they had spoken thousands of words to each other. But their lack of communication skills kept their marriage in shallow waters. They were never able to attain the depths of love and compassion for which they both longed. As with many other couples, their relationship wasn't ruined because of a lack of words. Their problem was that everyday words were not enough to provide insight, intimacy, and understanding.
Our need to communicate with another person may not be as dramatic as Judy's was that night. But for all of us, our communication skills directly relate to how successful we'll be in our marriages, families, friendships, and professions. And if we're serious about having meaningful, fulfilling, productive relationships, we can't afford to let inadequate communication skills carry our conversations. There's got to be a better way of connecting with others in our lives-a way that can guide us safely into the depths of love.
You may be a parent getting nowhere trying to talk with your teenager; a married person in a growing or struggling relationship; a friend groping for the right words to encourage an emotionally hurt neighbor; a boss who can't seem to motivate or explain an important concept to your employee; a worker trying to express an important point to your supervisor; a teacher struggling to get a class to listen and remember what is taught; a counselor attempting to maneuver behind a couple's defenses and bring change to their relationship; a minister or public speaker who wants to challenge and stir people to action; a politician trying to sway the thoughts of a state or nation; or even a writer trying to capture a reader's heart.
No matter who you are or what you do, you can't escape the need to communicate meaningfully with others. And without exception, we all will run into the limitation of everyday expressions.
In a world awash with words, can we find a way to add new depth to what we say? Can a wife find a method to penetrate her husband's natural defenses and get her point across so he will long remember it? Can a man express himself more vividly or say the same old thing in a brand-new way? Can men and women say more by using fewer words?
To all the above, the answer is a resounding YES! Largely unused in marriages, homes, friendships, and businesses is a tool that can supercharge communication and change lives. This concept is as old as ancient kings but is so timeless that it has been used throughout the ages in every society. It's a powerful communication method we call emotional word pictures.
Unlike anything else we've seen, this concept has the capacity to capture a person's attention by simultaneously engaging a person's thoughts and feelings. And along with its ability to move us to deeper levels of intimacy, it has the staying power to make a lasting impression of what we say and write. With fewer words, we can clarify and intensify what we want to communicate. In addition, it enables us to open the door to needed changes in a relationship.
This method can challenge the most intellectual adult, yet can be mastered by a child. In fact, we were astonished at how Kimberly, the teen in our opening story, quickly learned and dramatically applied an emotional word picture when faced with the breakup of her parents' marriage.
Journey with us for the next several chapters as we discover the primary method that:
ancient wise men used to penetrate the hearts and minds of men and women;
Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill utilized to inspire their countries in times of great peril;
Hitler used to capture and twist the soul of a nation;
professional counselors employ to speed up the healing process in broken relationships;
coaches and trainers use to inspire and motivate professional athletes;
top sales managers utilize to train effective employees; and
comics and cartoonists have mastered to make us laugh while challenging us to think.
And, most importantly, emotional word pictures can enrich your every conversation and relationship. That is, they will enable your words to penetrate the heart of your listener-to the extent that your listener will truly understand and even feel the impact of what you say.
Word pictures form a language of love everybody can speak. Specifically, it was this language of love that confronted the barriers surrounding Judy's husband. In the next chapter we'll examine the amazing results of how this irresistible means of communication met the immovable heart of a runaway father.
Excerpted from The language of LOVE by GARY SMALLEY JOHN TRENT Copyright © 2006 by Gary Smalley and John Trent, Ph.D. . Excerpted by permission.
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