Have you ever read about the five love languages? When I was in my first courtship, I purchased the bestselling book and tried reading it . . . and I was totally not impressed. Granted, even now that I can see that the concept is an important one, this theory still can’t be the sole saving grace of a relationship (especially in the context of marriage), since a successful and holy marriage has to be built on even more than simply keeping one’s emotional or “love tank” full. It can’t always be about preserving happy feelings, which is (if my memory is correct) the predominate focus of the book. (But hey, in today’s dysfunctional culture, you’ve got to start somewhere . . .)
But at nineteen years old, I didn’t like the book at all. It didn’t seem to relate to me and my ongoing experiences, and I was confused and suspicious. All of these “languages” are important to me. I’m supposed to have one I “speak”?
In retrospect, I lacked self-knowledge, and had a pile of growing and learning to wade through before I could come to a place where I was better equipped for a relationship. God, of course, allowed that all to happen in His own good time. Over the upcoming few years, I learned about the four temperaments from the Catholic perspective (a vastly important key, thanks in good part to The Dash <3) and, eventually, I mentally revisited the concept of the five love languages.
Ahh . . . this is starting to make more sense to me now.
Since the basic information is readily available in other places, I’m not going to dive into explaining Dr. Gary Chapman’s theories, but rather, I want to ramble about how important my own self-knowledge of the way love is (emotionally speaking) most effectively communicated to me became, and how this works in The Dash and I’s courtship.
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Yesterday, The Dash and I celebrated 14 months of courtship . . . and in the grand scope of our beautiful courtship, we’ve talked many times about how our love languages match and contrast. We’ve gradually become more aware of instances where one of us is trying to show affection in the way most natural to us . . . and yet it doesn’t quite cause the heartmelting reaction we would desire. We’ve learned how, if we rely solely on our natural inclinations of how to express affection, we’re speaking different languages. We have a long way left to go–but we’re learning!
Just for fun, I took the official love languages “quiz” (you can find it here) yesterday, and it entirely confirmed everything I’ve suspected about myself for a year or two. At the highest level, I am a “words of affirmation” person. Reading the site’s description makes me grin: “Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward . . . Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.”
That is completely me! And my next-highest languages are a tie between “physical touch” and “quality time,” which I already knew . . .
However . . . I’ve very slowly learned that The Dash has a different highest love language. In the past, when I’ve really wanted to show him how much I love him, I was most inclined to write a suuuuper long letter/email/text, thinking of all the words of affirmation possible that might boost his spirits, as his words of affirmation invariably boost mine. (Because a few loving words from him transform my whole day!) But over time, I’ve learned that, to The Dash, words aren’t his thing.
(I’m thinking . . . How is that possible?! How could he NOT want words of affirmation?! A long letter?! Me telling him how amazing he is?! Isn’t that just what he wants?!) Noooo, dear blind Mary . . . it isn’t . . .
This reality has taken quite a long time for me to ingest, and even now, fourteen months in, I feel as though I’m at the very beginning of learning how to channel my desire to show him affection into one of his predominate love languages, “acts of service,” or just being helpful in some way. Hilariously enough, “acts of service” are towards the bottom of my natural emotional register when it comes to love languages (although, of course, I’m not blind to them and I truly think they’re sweet!). And yet those are things that, emotionally, speak to his heart, and they are what he naturally defaults to in an effort to express his commitment and love. (By the way, he is such a serving person . . . that was evident from the very, very beginning, but it continues to blow me away now. I just had to brag.)
Learning these truths about one another, and making an effort to turn my expressions of love away from my default, towards things that make him happier (which is harder), has been such a beautiful thing for me. Inherently, it is a practice of selflessness, and what better soil for love to grow in? And it has also been an opportunity for me to mentally translate actions that I might have not initially realized were loving ones.
Thankfully, we do share similar languages that both rank high on our emotional registers, so we aren’t entirely polar opposites! However, our strongest shared love language is probably physical touch, which at this point in our courtship is kept to bare minimum and lies dormant for now. I consider this a blessing in disguise; Our Lord arranged things to where we’re having to spend our courtship learning how to give of ourselves and speak only in the languages morally allowed to us . . . in which we find ourselves quite different!
Again, I see myself only at the very beginning of this journey in learning how to love The Dash selflessly and well; to be intuitive to his heart and to be able to mature into actions and ways of loving that bring him joy. I know it will be a process involving time, patience, and learning curves, but I’m praying for the grace to grow in that process a little every day!