I was finishing up my Junior year at the University of Washington when I first met Dave. Call me young and dumb but after a month of dating, I knew he was the one. We had that crazy obsessive love that every girl dreams about. I’ll never forget though when “Practical Dave” said to me, “Love is a choice. I’m choosing to love you everyday of my life regardless of the good, bad and the ugly.” Instead of rejoicing in the fact that he just said he chose ME and ONLY me, I took offense to his cold, unmagical approach on love. Was he telling me that he could essentially feel this same way for any ol’ person off the street and love them just as much? What if he chooses one day not to love me anymore?
Dave and I have now been married for seven wonderful years. Like every couple, we’ve fallen out of that euphoric “in love” state and naturally over time, have chosen to commit ourselves to “real love” – an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. A love that unites reason and emotion. A love that involves an act of will and requires discipline. In our vows we swore that in good times and in bad, we would hold on to each other forever with a realistic view that we are not going to always be as perfect as we seemed right then. Ironically, after a few chapters into “The Five Love Languages,” Dr. Chapman (author) confirmed after many years of research that love is a choice. This love begins with an attitude that says, “I’m married/committed to you, and I choose to look out for your interests.”
Do you find yourself constantly needing more from your significant other? Is your love tank empty? Do you try to communicate what you need but it just doesn’t seem to sync in? If you answered "yes" to any of these, it’s probably because either you or your spouse hasn’t learned how to express the right love language! After many years of counseling, Dr. Chapman noticed a pattern: everyone he had ever counseled had a “love language,” a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. He also discovered that, for whatever reason, people are usually drawn to those who speak a different love language than their own.
Of the countless ways we can show love to one another, five key categories, or five love languages, proved to be universal and comprehensive. Everyone has a love language and we all identify primarily with one of the five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
Chapman's Five Emotional Love Languages:
Words of Affirmation: This is when you say how nice your spouse looks, or how great the dinner tasted. These words will also build your mate's self image and confidence.
Quality Time: Some spouses believe that being together, doing things together and focusing in on one another is the best way to show love. If this is your partner's love language, turn off the TV now and then and give one another some undivided attention.
Gifts: It is universal in human cultures to give gifts. They don't have to be expensive to send a powerful message of love. Spouses who forget a birthday or anniversary or who never give gifts to someone who truly enjoys gift giving will find themselves with a spouse who feels neglected and unloved.
Acts of Service: Discovering how you can best do something for your spouse will require time and creativity. These acts of service like vacuuming, hanging a bird feeder, planting a garden, etc., need to be done with joy in order to be perceived as a gift of love.
Physical Touch: Sometimes just stroking your spouse's back, holding hands, or a peck on the cheek will fulfill this need.
This is where I found the book most fascinating. The book points out that ironically most couples do not have the same love language. Opposites attract at its finest right? If you express love in a way that your significant doesn’t understand, they won’t realize you’ve expressed love at all. If your spouse needs quality time and you're off buying them gifts thinking he'll love them, you're going to continue to have issues until you make a conscious choice to speak THEIR language and meet their emotional needs. Speaking in your spouse's love language probably won't be natural for you. Dr. Chapman says - "We're not talking comfort. We're talking love. Love is something we do for someone else. So often couples love one another but they aren't connecting. They are sincere, but sincerity isn't enough." If you choose to do this for their benefit, their emotional love tank will be filled and chances are they will reciprocate and speak your language back to you. This creates a cycle of unconditional, never failing love.
The idea seems simple, we all feel loved in different ways. If we don’t take the time to understand how another feels loved, we do things with good intention, but which don’t have the desired effect. I think many people, women and men alike, believe that love is something that just occurs from a feeling that suddenly comes over them. For anyone who has been married or in a serious relationship, we know love is both a noun - the feeling - and a verb - the actions you take because you feel that way. The noun part is the feeling you have when you are in the same room with that person, when you touch or think about them. The verb part is actually work. Successful love is only possible when both partners know that love as a verb is very action oriented. This is true in the beginning of a relationship or after many years together. If you aren't consistently action oriented with your love for someone, it will not be there.
When you love someone, you should be aware that you are making a choice to take action with your love in the best interest of your partner. Love is not self-serving; it is a shared experience so both need to be fully committed to maintaining that love indefinitely. Unfortunately, in most cases we let our egos, and sometimes just laziness, complicate things and we choose to stop acting on our love, even when one person has maintained their commitment to love. If more people understood that love is a choice, we'd have fewer divorces and more happy couples. If everyone would choose to invest in love, they could have it and keep it.
If you feel like your relationship has lost that spark or you’re going through the motions and nothing is getting better, I encourage you to read the book and learn how to speak your significant other’s love language before giving up. Put your ego aside, take action and make a choice to reignite the passion. After reading this book I personally felt inspired to be a better wife for Dave. Although he hasn't read the book, he feels compelled more than ever to do the same for me. I feel loved both verbally, through words of affirmation and through physical touch. Dave is Acts of Service. How do you feel loved? What does your significant need to feel loved?
If you don’t know immediately what your love language is, take this quick quiz to figure out: http://edified.org/myspace/lovelanguage