Since the dawn of time, I’ve been pestering my husband Bryan to be more affectionate. Nothing makes me feel more loved than when he stops whatever he is doing to give me a simple hug and kiss. Over our 13 years of marriage, my requests for affection have ranged from gentle reminders to frustrated pleas: “Why can’t you just hug me more?!”
Now, I do have to tell you that I have the most amazing husband imaginable. He is truly my best friend and soul mate. I thank God every day that somehow He chose me to marry this incredible man. He is just a little “affection challenged.”
At some point in the last couple of years, Bryan agreed to be open to a gentle reminder when he hasn’t been affectionate for a while. This worked quite well until I had particularly poor timing with one such reminder.
Bryan had been working all afternoon on various household tasks when he came downstairs for dinner. He hadn’t been very affectionate lately, and when he went straight to his chair without giving me a hug, I decided it was time to issue a “reminder.”
“Can I at least have a hug? You haven’t been very affectionate lately,” I said flatly.
Bryan looked at me, unmoved. “What do you want from me? I was just changing the air filters for us. If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t take the time to do this stuff.”
Air filters? Air filters.
I want a hug and get an air filter? At that moment, the utter futility of expressing my need for affection swallowed me whole.
It wasn’t long after that event that I came across the best-selling book “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. The insights I took from it were invaluable for understanding the role of air filters in our home.
The premise of the book is that there are five primary ways people feel loved. Most people can identify one of these ways as most important for them personally. Though the book obviously explains these “love languages” in more depth, it boils down to this:
Words of Affirmation: You feel most appreciated when someone verbally expresses his/her love.
Acts of Service: You feel most appreciated based on the loving things someone does for you.
Affection: You feel most appreciated when someone expresses his/her love physically.
Quality Time: You feel most appreciated based on the amount of quality time someone gives you.
Gifts: You feel most appreciated when someone shows love with gifts, no matter how small.
My big “aha!” moment came when Chapman described the best way to figure out your love language: just look at how you express love to others. We tend to assume others want to be treated the way we do, and love others accordingly.
That sparked a realization for me like one of those mystery movie moments where someone at the end recalls all the clues in rapid succession.
Bryan is doing things for me all the time – his language is “acts of service.” He takes my car to the car wash, fixes my computer problems, spends time editing family videos, takes on more household chores than any other man I know, and makes me lots of coffee.
He has lovingly poured his heart out to me for the last 13 years. I just didn’t understand what he was saying. He speaks air filters. I speak hugs.
This insight strengthened our marriage significantly. We realized we had to stop relying on our own preferred language as a means of expressing our love and start making the effort to speak the other’s language. An amazing thing happened. We finally started hearing each other. As I started doing more “acts of service,” Bryan started being more affectionate. And we both felt more loved.
To this day, when I do something I wouldn’t have done had I not been thinking of Bryan’s language, I announce, “act of service!” Likewise, he announces, “this is a hug!” It’s become a fun way of letting the other person know, “I’m thinking of you and care that you hear I love you.”
This Valentine’s Day, look at these “love languages” with your spouse. Talk about which language you each speak and how you can better express your love to one another!
Can you identify your language and your spouse’s language just by looking at the list? Which language(s) do you speak?