The Language of Love
Last summer Angela and I celebrated our fortieth anniversary with a trip to Europe. During our three weeks there, we had the opportunity to visit twelve countries, and I marvelled at the fact that so many people were either bilingual or multilingual.
If you’re wondering, multilingual means that you speak many languages, bilingual means you speak two languages, unilingual means that you are English. I thought it interesting to hear some of our fellow travellers complain about the quality of the English that there were hearing from people who spoke several languages while they only spoke one.
This is the last of our Real Relationship series. Over the past couple of months, we’ve looked at the importance of our relationships, as well as some hints for healthy relationships.
And if you missed any of those messages, you can find them on our website or our Facebook page.
This week we are looking at “The Language of Love.”
Communication is so important in our relationships, but not just saying something, but saying the right something in the right way a the right time.
Friedrich Nietzsche once commented “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” Most couples start off as friends, but as they stop communicating, that friendship begins to fail, and then the marriage begins to fail.
We often think of communication as being critical in our marriages, but all of our relationships have communication at the core, what we say, and, just as important, how we say it.
Gary Chapman writes, “Something in our nature cries out to be loved by another. Isolation is devastating to the human psyche. That is why solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments.”
Through the years, I’ve read various books on communication, and there are two I wished I had found when I was beginning my ministry to recommend to couples who were getting married, and I often recommend them to couples who are already married, because we all struggle with these issues from time to time.
And it would have been super helpful if I had of discovered them when Angela and I were married 40 years ago.
And understand, these books aren’t scripture, they aren’t infallible, and you might not even agree with them, but I found them helpful and maybe you will, not just for marriage but for all of our relationships.
The first is “Men are like Waffles Women are like spaghetti” by Bill and Pam Farrel.
This Helped me Understand the Language of Gender
The premise of the book, and again it is a generalization, is that with men, we tend to be compartmentalized, like waffles. We put all of our life in boxes with walls around them.
So, this is my work box, and this is my family box, and this is my watching TV box, or in my case, my reading a novel box. And this is my . . . nothing box.
This is the most amazing thing, and women have a hard time understanding it, and that is that men can think about . . . nothing and relish in it.
And it often gets us in trouble because your wife will look at you as you daze into space and ask, “What are you thinking about?” and you honestly and innocently say, “Nothing.”
And their eyes cross, and they get confused looking, and they say, “Well, you can’t be thinking about nothing. What are you thinking about that you don’t want to tell me?” Seriously, ladies, the nothing box is one of my favourite places.
And while it seems that as men get older that their boxes begin to merge, the reality is that we are just getting faster at jumping from one box to another.
On the other hand, In the minds of women, everything connects, just like spaghetti, where one noodle touches every other noodle on the plate. Where this really comes into play is in communication. And all of those connections are powered by emotions.
So, when a man says, “Hey babe, what are you thinking about?” He thinks she will just open the box and tell him what the problem is, and then he will reach into his answer box and tell her what the solution is. Nope. She says, “I’m just thinking about work.”
And he thinks that she’s thinking about work, but she’s thinking about work and how things are changing, and when the cotton mill was invented, it put all kinds of people out of work, and what if technology changes and puts her out of work. And they were kind of counting on her salary to help put the kids through college, and if that doesn’t happen, than the kids might not go to college and instead will end up hanging around with the wrong crowd and getting in trouble and rebelling against the church wind up pregnant or in jail, and she says “Let’s go pray over the kids”
And he’s confused because he’s still looking in the work box and they don’t even have kids yet.
So, we need to understand that when we communicate with our spouse, we might be speaking the same language, but the dialect is different.
The second book that I wished I had discovered much earlier than I did is called The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman.
Chapman is a counsellor who began to see that in relationships that what couples were trying to express to their mates wasn’t always being received. Remember the old Verizon commercial? “Do you hear me now?”
Couples want to express their love, in most cases, but they weren’t necessarily using the same language as their spouse to communicate that love.
And Chapman came to the conclusion that we may hear “I love you” in different languages, and he identified five of those. And that may seem like a lot, but to put it in perspective, on the website Translators without Borders we are told that Nigeria is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, with over 500 languages spoken.
Now Chapman has really ridden this pony well, He’s now modified the book and we have The Five Love Languages for Teens, for Singles, for children, for the Military and for the Workplace. The only one he hasn’t written yet is the Five Love Languages for Pets.
Although when I googled it, I did find this article online https://www.foundanimals.org/which-of-the-5-love-languages-does-your-pet-speak
The five love languages identified by Gary Chapman are 1. Receiving Gifts 2. Quality Time 3. Words Of Affirmation 4. Acts Of Service, and 5. Physical Touch.
The problem, of course, is that if we feel loved in one way, we might assume that others feel loved the same way. And we’ll come back to that.
Again, this book isn’t scripture, not infallible, but This Helped me Understand the Language of Love
So, I thought, I wonder how Jesus expressed love for people? And I discovered that it depended on the person he was relating to. Jesus was multi-lingual in the love languages.
Shortly before Jesus went to the cross, he spoke these words to his apostles, John 13:34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
So, for a little bit this morning, we are going to look at the love languages as spoken by Jesus and what we can learn from them so we can love others as Jesus loved.
Matthew 16:17-19 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
Jesus Realized that Some People Feel Loved Through Words of Affirmation
Can you imagine how Peter felt when Jesus spoke these words into his life, affirming him?
Whatever self-doubt Peter might have had at that point would have been washed away when Jesus said, “You are a rock. I believe in you so much that I will build my new church on you. I trust you so much that I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
After Peter had denied Christ on Good Friday, on Easter Morning, when Jesus appeared to Mary and the other women, he made sure that they especially told Peter that he had risen from the dead. In John 21, we see Jesus meeting with Peter on the shore of the sea of Galilee. Once again, Jesus is speaking words of encouragement into Peter’s life.
Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” That may have worked for Mark, but most of us need a compliment more than just every couple of months.
And that is especially true of those who have “Words of Affirmation” as a love language. They need to hear “thank you,” “I love you,” and “you are special.” Compliments and encouragement go a long way, and criticism, and corrections cut especially deep for these folks.
Even when they are unintentional.
It’s not that you shouldn’t correct them, but you need to heed the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:15 to not just speak the truth but to speak the truth in love.
But it wasn’t just through words that Jesus expressed his love. Let’s keep reading in the Jesus story, Mark 1:40-42 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.
Jesus Realized that Some People Feel Loved through Physical Touch
There was nobody that longed for a physical touch more than the lepers of Jesus’ day. They were ostracized from those they loved and even from those they hated. They had to live outside the city gates and have no contact with anyone who didn’t share their disease.
If Jesus’ touch hadn’t healed this man physically, it had already healed him spiritually and emotionally. Jesus’ touch said, I love you and care about you. You matter to me as a person.
And so there are those who hear love through physical touch, and no, this language isn’t all about the bedroom. Although, there is some of that. This person craves hugs, holding hands, pats on the back or a touch on the cheek.
These are all ways they hear love. And so, when someone pulls away from that, the person whose love language is physical touch hears and feels rejection.
Whether that feeling is warranted or not.
Interestingly this is one of my primary languages, which may strike you as funny because I’m not known as a huggy person, and I don’t like the touch of strangers.
But when you think about it, for a person whose love language is physical touch, the touch of strangers can be a little creepy.
Physical touch doesn’t require a lot of time or money, but it does require a little thought.
Touching each other when you leave the house and when you return may involve only a brief kiss but speaks volumes.
Let’s continue to watch Jesus express his love to people.
John 13:3-5 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
Jesus Realized that Some People Feel Loved Through Acts of Service
The story might seem a little weird to us, but 2000 years ago it would have made sense, in a way. Remember there were no paved roads in Palestine the roads and paths were dusty in the dry season and muddy in the wet season. And footwear, when there was footwear, was simply open sandals. And so, people’s feet were perpetually dirty.
And so, at the door of each home was a container of water for people to wash their feet in, and in fancy homes there would be a servant who would wash your feet when you arrived.
When Jesus took the time to wash the feet of his apostles it was sending a message telling them how much he cared for them.
The person whose primary language is acts of service gives and receives love through what they do. Maybe it’s keeping the housework done, taking out the garbage without being asked, helping with the chores and keeping the car clean.
So, when one person see’s acts of service as a demonstration of love and the other person just see it as something that has to be done or something to be avoided, we see conflict.
The person who feels loved by what people do for them feels rejected when lawns aren’t mowed, garbage isn’t taken out, laundry isn’t folded, and shirts aren’t ironed.
Let’s keep going.
Matthew 15:32-37 Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?” Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”
They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.” So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food.
Jesus Realized that Some People Feel Loved Through Receiving Gifts
Throughout Jesus’ ministry we see him giving of himself, culminating with his giving his life on Calvary. Still, it is instances like this that we see Jesus giving a tangible gift.
He recognized that the people that day didn’t just have a spiritual need or an emotional need, but they also had a physical need, and he met that need with a gift of food.
The people were hungry, and he gave them food, something they needed right then.
This is probably the love language that people understand the easiest. When we are courting, we give each other gifts, boxes of chocolates, flowers, nice meals.
And we do that to express our love. And for some people that is their love language. For them nothing says “I love” you more than a gift.
Or as Gina Gershon said, ““I love giving gifts, and I love receiving them. I really like giving little kids extravagant gifts. You see their little faces light up, and they get excited. If it’s a really good gift, I love receiving it, like jewels, small islands.”
But don’t mistake this for materialism; this isn’t about the gift, it is about the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. They are given something tangible and in it they see an expression of love.
And when they give a gift, you know that they took the time to think about what that gift would mean to the receiver.
As Gary Chapman wrote, “A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money.”
And there is one more,
John 11:17-22 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus Realized that Some People Feel Loved Through Quality Time
I don’t think there was any home where we see Jesus spending more time then the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. It was here that we read the story of Mary sitting listening to Jesus while Martha got dinner ready, it was here that Mary was criticized for washing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, and when Lazarus dies, Jesus makes a four-day trip to be with the sisters.
Mary was receiving the gift of quality time when Jesus came to the house, and she gave the gift of quality time when she sat at his feet to learn.
It’s what Jesus promised the apostles, and us, when he said in Matthew 28:20 Jesus said “. . . And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
For some people, their language of love is Quality time. It’s not just time, it’s quality time. It’s not just there physically; it’s being there completely—with the phone down, the TV off and making eye contact.
When we were in the UK we had the opportunity to connect with Mike and Cathy Sheenan. Hi Mike and Cathy if you’re watching. A number of years ago Mike and Cathy were thinking of moving to Halifax, they watched us online, made a trip over and worshipped with us, took us out for a coffee.
When we realized that we were going to be in Wales, we reached out and made plans. Had lunch, discovered they drove 4.5 hours to be with us. We made the time count.
For those who give and receive love through quality time, minutes count. Nobody on their deathbed will say, “I wish I had spent less time with the ones I loved.”
Those who value this language are looking for your undivided attention, that shows them how much you love them. For them you spell love T.I.M.E.
And remember, you can’t make time. Time already is; you can only find time. So, find time on your calendar and mark your loved one in.
Dave Willis writes, “Love your spouse more than you love your career, hobbies, and money. That other stuff can’t love you back.”
This is important. Learn to speak the love language your spouse understands. Otherwise you’re like the obnoxious tourist simply speaking slower and louder because you can’t speak the language.
We are all familiar with the Golden Rule, not the one about “He who has the gold makes the rules.” But the real golden rule the one Jesus put in place in Matthew 7:12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
Your spouse wants to know that you love them, like you want to know they love you. And we do that when we speak our love in a language that they understand.
And here’s a warning, remember Paul told us to speak the truth in love? It’s just as important that we speak love in truth, don’t use your partner’s love language to manipulate or to get your own way.
Speak it because you love them, and you want them to know that you love them.
If you are interested in finding out what your love languages are, the book includes a test in the back or you can go online to Gary Chapman’s Website www.5lovelanguages.com
And I have a copy of each of these books that I want to give away, if you are getting married in the next year just take a connection card, that’s one of the blue cards in front of you and write your name and wedding date on it, hand it to me at the door, and I will make sure that the couple getting married the soonest gets a copy of both of the books I mentioned.