Love languages can bring a great deal of insight, joy and encouragement. But they can also cause disappointment. Let me relate a story that highlights this.
An older friend of mine got engaged and called me up. He was excited that after all these years of waiting, he had finally found his “Eve.”
Because of my work, I of course riddled him with plenty of questions. I inquired after all her normal particulars, as well as those aspects he found most attractive. Just for fun, I asked about her love languages and re-familiarized myself with his. He said the big day was still nine months away, and they planned to do some type of marriage counseling in the meantime. After one more “Congratulations,” we hung up.
Since we live in different cities, I don’t see or hear from this friend too often. That’s why it was three months later that I next heard back. He had started marriage counseling and the therapist had asked them to read several books together. One of those just happened to be the “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman. Since I had asked about it earlier, he figured he might as well discuss it with me again. Honestly, he sounded like he needed to vent a little and was also seeking encouragement.
The Five Love Languages
The book goes into detail about the five types and has all sorts of examples. Just to recap, those are: Touch, Acts of Service, Gifts, Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. The premise is that each of us has a preferred order of languages, with one or two being most prominent. For couples, the book advises trying to understand your spouse’s love language and then to shower him or her with that. Chapman goes on to explain that when marriages begin to fail, it sometimes means one or both parties are not feeling loved. Therefore, he counsels couples to use his tool to evaluate potential problems. Then if needed, spouses can work to learn another one or two love languages. He reminds readers that it can be a tremendous amount of work, even seeming at times like learning a real second language.
Well, back to my friend. As he and his new fiancé read the book together as part of marriage counseling, they realized that they did not share either of their top two languages. His were Quality Time and Words of Affirmation; hers were Acts of Service and Gifts. Apparently, in their reading, she had paused at the point when the book specifies the possible need to learn. During a therapy session, she had said to him that her understanding of marriage meant to be 100% accepted as a spouse. For her, that included being unconditionally loved and respected; and more. Therefore, the idea that she and her husband might have to do something that she felt was unnatural—meaning, working hard to learn a second or third love language—somehow was not the kind of marriage she was seeking. She said that if he could not accept her with her existing love languages, then she was not sure if she could be happy. My friend told me later that he felt hurt in the moment but asked her gently if she might prefer a husband who shared her top love languages. She of course said, “No,” and reaffirmed her love for him. But at the next therapy session, she confessed that after much thought and prayer, she did want that kind of relationship. Minutes later in the parking lot, they cancelled their engagement.
As I mentioned at the start, this tool has the potential to induce sadness, as in the case of my friend. Some would say that’s but a temporary pain, just as a surgeon must cut with a knife to bring long-term healing. I was sad to hear of their break-up; but if both could honestly say that they would not be happy with the marriage they foresaw, then I guess it was best that they parted ways.
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