Have you ever found something so revolutionary that it changed the way you did things? In my life I have found a number of things that made my head spin, my world clearer, or my world bigger. In the late 90’s one such idea came from a book that really got me churning that was called “The Five Love Languages.” It seemed to make relationships between a husband and wife simpler and easier to grasp than the odd complexity I had developed prior to reading it. It made me want to explore love with my bride-to-be. The problem with such concepts as the five love languages is that people hear them, learn them, or come into contact with them and them get set off in the wrong direction because they don’t understand them as merely principles.
If you’re not familiar with the five love languages let me give you this simple list of the five:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
The gist of the book is that each person has a primary way that they perceive and express love with their spouse. Furthermore each spouse is strongly encouraged to explore their partner’s love language and keep that in mind when expressing love for him or her. I spent quite a bit of time liking the idea of focusing on exploring my bride’s love language and even figured out that this could be used, in a modified way, with my friends to express care for them. Ta-da! So did the book’s authors and other books in the series of love languages and their application were born and money was had through conferences, tests, merchandising and copyright infringement lawsuits from unlicensed tattoos [I made that last one up]. This is psychology stuff, so I’m sure that someone also discovered a sixth, seventh and eighth love language and has been trying to write papers proving the adequacy of those numbers of love languages for thesis papers and making a good practice out of helping marriages and relationships discover their tertiary love language.
Here’s the rub: this is overly complex despite the simplicity and it gets used as a poor excuse for husbands and wives to not love one another. At least not to their fullest. I want to explain that moving forward from here I’m going to be focused on a few Bible verses that I think make the five love languages childs play, and probably unnecessary. The first place we should take a look is Ephesians 5:22-27:
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
What I see as I meditate on the above passage is something beyond the five love languages and something that should drive a wife absolutely coo-coo-bananas in love with her husband. A self-sacrificing husband. A guy who takes the five love languages in, sees their inadequacy, and says, “I’m going to love you in a million ways, and these five are merely a tiny, tiny tip of the iceberg.” I recently saw on Twitter a guy who said that he was sorry to his wife (publicly on Twitter?) that his primary love language was acts of service. Lameness. If her love language is knitting pot holders it doesn’t matter. If his language was bringing stray cats home to be fed, bathed, and neutered it doesn’t matter. Sacrificial love trumps all of the given concepts of love languages because it looks for opportunities to love in every aspect, every place, and it is not strapped to a single, primary concept of perceived or expressed love.
As a secondary point against not stopping with this love language concept is that one of the joys of my marriage with my wife has been exploring each of the facets of expression of love and trying to see how they can be expressed in deeper, more meaningful ways. Just as humans mature (or at least should mature) we look for ways to express love in a sacrificial, yet exploratory way. To make a food analogy just because I like vanilla ice cream doesn’t mean I don’t explore toppings, other flavors and other combinations within the world of ice cream (or frozen desserts). The same analogy applied to music means I don’t stop at the Beatles just because I like rock and roll quartets. Bring on trios [Cream], duos [Simon & Garfunkel], classical, dance, beat boxing, and opera*.
I’ve discovered that my wife pretty much likes all five love languages [in different quantities at different times] because she knows that they’re expressing love to her. I would probably not be wrong in saying that 99.999% of guys love physical touch [which often gets interpreted as physical intimacy, and for the sake of argument I'm going there now], but if let us face the facts: not all gals are wired for 24/7 physical touching and there may come a time when they’re bleeding, PMS-ing, medically unavailable, or holding a kitchen knife. It might be a good time, Mr. physical touch, to explore the finer nuances of quality time, words of affirmation, gifts [read: chocolate], or acupressure to relieve headaches. Sacrificially speaking get a grip, turn off your hormones for a moment and love your wife some other way so she doesn’t feel the need to lock herself in the bathroom, wear chain armor, or buy a slice-wire-bikini from Victoria’s Secret Weapon.
I want to close by saying I don’t hate the general principles behind the five love languages. They were a good starting point for me and helped me grasp why I might be miss-communicating with my bride-to-be. They’re not an excuse to be short sighted, justify weaknesses, or get in a rut. Make it a point to look for ways to create a richer, more complex relationship with your spouse by abandoning your love language and loving with your exploratory, revolutionary hats on.
*Stay away from country music which is an infectious disease [Just kidding (Not really)]