Many of my clients and readers are aware, or have read, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. I have found this book very helpful in my work with couples. This book, along with “Getting The Love That You Want” by Harville Hendrix are what I suggest to most of the couples I work with.
Go here for a helpful self-assessment where you can take a quiz to find our your love language!
When I first read the book I thought of my dating experience with my wonderful wife. As the book suggests, we often have a different love language from that of our partner. Like many guys, one of my love languages is “Act of Service”…and of course, Acts of Service do not do a lot for my wife. She appreciates the things that I do but that’s just not her love language. I remember the time during our dating that I changed the oil in her car, thinking I was being super-boyfriend. I was expecting her to be gushing with appreciation (or that I’d at least get a kiss). When I was finished, instead she seemed annoyed. I asked her something like “hey, I just did this great thing for you, how come you’re not all happy with me?” To that she responded, “Well, thanks but I don’t like it. It’s dirty and I’m not sure you did it right!”. Whoa! Loving act turns south real quick. I may not be a mechanic, but I know how to change the oil in a car.
I believe Chapman’s book goes a long way in explaining why we as couples struggle with loving exchanges so often. Oil changes, scraping the ice of my wife car, bringing her coffee are all nice, they just don’t equate into loving acts for her. She likes “Gifts of Love” (not diamonds, though she wouldn’t turn them down…cards, flowers, silly gifts I pick up) and Quality Time (walks in the park ect). And of course I’m the kind of guy who barely remembers cards on a birthday!
So what’s the answer. Should she just “feel loved” with how I do things? As we all know, the answer is NO! I need to make effort to modify my loving acts in a way that create loving feelings for her. In other words, if I want her to feel loved, I need to do the things that feeling loving to her. I believe it was Scott Peck in his amazingly rich book “A Road Less Traveled” who pointed out that love is when we do things for another that we wouldn’t normally do!
So, now I buy 5 cards at a time and give them to her periodically. I schedule walks in the park or other activities that aren’t too busy and feel like quality time to her. I’m not the best husband in the world, but I want her to feel loved and know that if I do what comes naturally to me, I’m not speaking the right language.
Pick up the book and give it a try. I think you and your partner will be glad you did!
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
William Strong, LCSW
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