Our culture is under a current obsession with labeling personality types. What Myers-Briggs type are you? Do you know your number on the enneagram? How about your love language?
I’ll admit, it’s super addictive. Take a quiz then learn more about ourselves–or at least have a reasonable explanation for why we are the way we are.
If you live anywhere near the Christian-o-sphere, you are probably familiar with Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages.”
At the very beginning of our marriage, Austin and I decided to take the online quiz that would tell us our love languages for certain. At no surprise to either of us–we learned that we speak very different languages. Personally, I am no believer in the certainty of personality types. We are image-bearing beings who change and grow and mature as our relationship with Jesus flourishes. But this one had me intrigued.
I realized that many of our arguments stemmed from the frustrations that Chapman’s book told me they might. So I made it my mission to start seeking to understand my husband’s love languages.
More than that, I decided I wanted to know how to speak all the love languages.
So have a date night where you take the quiz. Then, instead of starting with, “So this is how you can love me better,” ask, “How can I begin to love you better?” In the meantime, the Word of God is clear that all these ways to love are good, healthy things we should pursue within our marriages and other relationships.
Words of Affirmation
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
Speaking words of affirmation will often prove to be contrary to our fleshly desires. You see, we deeply value being correct. We want to know what is best, and we usually want to make it very clear to our spouse.
But that’s exactly the point.
Anything commanded to us in the Scriptures is going to be hard on our flesh. It will cut and chip away at the pride we all love to hold so dear. Pray that our words will not be steeped in pride but useful for stirring up love and good works in our spouses.
Acts of Service
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 4:10-11
Learning to intentionally complete acts of service is another love language that snips at our flesh. I don’t know about you, but after a long day, I want nothing more than to lay out on my couch, cuddle with my dog, and spend the evening decompressing–not putting forth more effort.
But feelings of exhaustion or weariness cannot be a reason for neglecting to serve our spouses.
Over and over again in the New Testament, we see the church serving one another and being commanded to live out lives of service. So how much more should we seek to serve our husbands or wives?
Here’s the part that I struggle with: serving Austin, but really just serving myself in the process. Though I may be all excited that I refolded his t-shirt drawer, he will likely say thank you, then go about with his day. Serving him has to look like doing something I wouldn’t normally do. Something that will tend to his needs–not just my desires. Maybe it’s waking up earlier than he for once and making him his favorite breakfast. Maybe it’s taking a couple of hours out of my day to help him with something from work. It may even be folding his t-shirt drawer if he expresses frustration! Whatever it is, serving is all about seeking to meet another’s needs–not assuming we know them already.
“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
If you are very familiar with the book of Hebrews, you know that this verse is not about marriage specifically but penned for the Church. The writer urges the body of Christ to meet with one another intentionally–to spend time with each other.
It’s easy to become bogged down in our own schedules. It’s easy to neglect to meet with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
That being said, it’s also easy to fall into our own schedules within marriage, to become ships passing in the night when we could put down our tablets or computers to spend quality time with our spouses. So again, if our command is to meet purposefully and regularly meet with the church, is it not implied that our marriages should get an even more intentional dosage of quality time?
Remember, quality time does not have to look like a romantic valentines-day-like dinner. Start wherever you can. Maybe it is putting away technology after kids go to bed and reading a book together before discussing its implications.
Maybe it is a fancy date night.
Maybe it’s a casual trip to Wendy’s.
Maybe it’s an early morning walk before work.
Whatever it looks like in our individual lives, let’s make it happen–especially if our spouses are feeling less loved because meaningful and purposeful time is missing.
“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Admittedly, physical touch is the furthest down on my personal love language list. When Austin and I first started dating, he assumed I was somehow embarrassed by him because I wouldn’t hold his hand in public.
And unfortunately, public affection is still a struggle for me–even two and a half years into our marriage.
It doesn’t mean I am not attracted to him (trust me, there is no question about that one). It’s just not as natural for me.
And so in rolls intentionality.
One of the sweetest blessings in marriage is that we are totally free in our physical touch. When I start thinking about it like that–like this is part of the blessing and freedom in marriage–the desire to lay one on him before we part ways in the gym or when we meet for dinner after a long day’s work becomes even more real.
If this is a love language you are struggling to embrace, pray the Lord would grant you gratefulness for the freedom you have in your marriage. Pray He would use that freedom to spark a new love for touch that would make your spouse feel deeply cherished.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
This last love language sometimes gets a bad reputation–as if people who treasure gift giving are somehow selfish lovers of this world. While we are certainly capable of falling to our flesh, loving the meaningfulness of gifts is not a sin.
So let our gift giving be filled with purpose. Let us outdo one another, not in money spent, but through intention invested. Let us consider what our spouses need, what means the world to them. Let us give them tokens that remind them of heaven.
The process of learning these five ways to love better has by no means been a cure for any part of our brokenness. In fact, the book of James reminds us that our fights are quarrels are not from forgetting each other’s love language, but from “selfish ambition.”
It always starts with veiled selfishness. I don’t want to love my husband well because I would rather just love him how I want to. In my mind, I am loving him well when I focus my efforts on how my heart loves.
And though I may somehow be seeking to love him, I am not being truly intentional until I begin to love him in ways that make my flesh uncomfortable.
Learning love languages is not about checking off a box or finding the perfect formula to connect with your spouse. It’s not the “secret” to a happy marriage.
The truth is, there is no secret or magic formula.
The point of learning your spouse’s love language is intentionality. It is saying, “I know I am not comfortable with this, but my husband/wife is. I am willing to put myself away to love my spouse well.”
It is leaving our selfish ambition–not to chase a personality test result–but to chase the intentional kind of love that leaves itself and sacrifices for another. The kind of love that has already been poured out onto us.