This past week I heard the song “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake. It’s playing right now as I write this post. It’s a catchy tune, upbeat lyrics, and a great summer jam. The problem is that most people fall in love and expect that this song is going to describe the rest of their lives with this amazing person they have found.
Dr. Gary Chapman states in his immensely insightful book, The 5 Love Languages, that the “in love” feeling will change after roughly two years.
There are several paths after that transition though. If we go down what we’ll call the “Hollywood” route, a couple will simply move on and try to find the next person that can give them that same rush they experienced first. If we go down what we’ll call the “Roommate” route, a couple will stay together but having never transitioned into lasting love they lose the spark. At the other end of the spectrum, a couple can learn how to emotionally fulfill each other in ways that speak loudly to their partner and the relationship matures and blossoms in ways that are unfathomable to others on different paths. We’ll call that couple the “Lasting Lovers.”
So what makes the difference?
Chapman lays out a framework for understanding the reactions of others to our efforts at love. He states that there are five primary “Love Languages” that people receive and give love through. Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Giving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Before we give a quick overview of these, I think that the entire mindset can be summed up in two quotes from the book.
Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving.
While in the context of giving gifts, this short sentence sums up the sacrificial and active role that Lasting Lovers experience. While the Roommates wonder why the feeling faded and Hollywood looks for the next ecstatic experience, the Lasting Lovers take action and are others focused.
A tender hug communicates love to any child but it shouts love to the child whose love language is physical touch. The same is true for adults.
Notice the distinction here? When you speak the right love language, you are directly connecting with the individual who you are aiming at. Someone may appreciate the encouraging words, but if they yearn for you to help with the laundry then your time is better spent in that activity.
The Five Love Languages
The Lasting Lovers learn their lover’s language (apologies for liberal alliteration). In all seriousness though, when one can identify their partner’s, or anyone else’s love language, they can target their actions to fill the other’s emotional needs.
A common Roommate response in the book to Dr. Chapman letting them know of the love languages is, “but that love language doesn’t come naturally to me.” Dr Chapman would respond with a 100% sincere and loving “So?” Refer back to the quote from page 82, if the spirit of love is giving, it would follow that you conform to the person you are serving in love.
One quick note, the use of the term “Language,” is extremely intentional. While one can interact with someone of a different language the meaning is often lost and there is certainly no nuance or meaningful conversation taking place. In order to fully experience a different culture one must experience it within the native language. The same goes for fully loving another individual. In order to truly experience life with them and find a life full of nuance and meaningful connection, it is imperative that you learn their language.
Check out the book for a full treatment of these languages.
Words of Affirmation. Words of Affirmation are sincere, delivered in appropriate tone, and usually come as compliments or encouragement.
Quality Time. Quality Time is time spent with the other person while fully present. Phones, TV, and other distractions almost completely annul the time as being “quality.” Quality conversations and quality activities are the two most common forms of this language.
Giving Gifts. A gift is a visible representation of one’s love for another. We can observe many “Hollywood” couples (literal hollywooders and figurative) trying to impress their partner with increasingly extravagant gifts. However a gift need not be expensive to express love. Although you shouldn’t get a washer for a wedding ring, some expressions of extravagance are signs of love 🙂
Acts of Service. This love language is one that can seem especially foreign to those that don’t receive love in this way. One may think, “Really? Doing my wife’s to-do list is an act of love?” But this expression of giving speaks just as loudly as any of the others to those that crave this love language.
Physical Touch. Many times men will assume they have the love language of physical touch because their affinity for sex is so strong. The love language physical touch is more than simply sexual attraction or actions however. The implicit touches such as a hand on the shoulder or a quick hug transfer an emotional depth that is far different than simple sexual desire to the person who’s love language is physical touch. Check out the story in this week’s video to hear about an example of that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PFTKJ_eDIE
So where does a couple diverge from the tingly feeling and embark into Hollywood, Roommate life or find Lasting Love? The answer lies in identifying your opposite’s love language and speaking it in ways that they receive.
Chapman says to identify your spouse’s love language you answer three questions in the context of his relationships. (from pg. 175)
- How does he most often express love to others?
- What does he complain about most often?
- What does he request most often?
In answering these questions you will begin to unearth the nuanced emotional framework of your spouse. This is a lifelong pursuit of intimacy. This knowledge is NOT common, guard the emotions of your spouse; these languages can be spoken with incredible benefit or devastating consequences.
I write this as a single guy, I am bit envious of you who are married reading this as well as looking forward to a lifelong partnership in the future.
Love well, friends.
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