Speaking Love to Your Spouse: Affirmation or Gifts
About the Guest
Does it sometimes feel as if you and your spouse are speaking different languages? Well, perhaps that's exactly what is happening! Dr. Gary Chapman helps you come up to speed as he unpacks two of the five love languages.
Does it sometimes feel as if you and your spouse are speaking different languages? Dr. Gary Chapman brings you up to speed as he unpacks two of the five love languages.
Speaking Love to Your Spouse: Affirmation or Gifts
Bob: We talk a lot on FamilyLife Today about marriage, but what about talking about love? Here’s Dr. Gary Chapman.
Gary: I doubt that you’ve ever heard a sermon on falling in love. In our culture, if you want to learn about falling in love, you have to listen to country music [Laughter] because they are either falling in love or out of love every other song.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear a sermon on love today—a sermon about giving and receiving love—from a guy who knows something about it. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We’re going to hear a classic today.
Dennis: We are.
Bob: I mean, this is—and I—when I say this—even if you have heard Gary Chapman unpack the five love languages, it will not hurt you to hear it again.
Dennis: Oh, no it’s not because this message is a great message. I’ll bet you he has given this message a few hundred times. So, it is well-polished.
Bob: And I have to tell you—every time I have the opportunity and go out and speak at one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways—
—which I’ll be doing in Nashville this spring—
Dennis: And I’ll be doing it in Indianapolis.
Bob: —I always refer to these five love languages because this is one of those things that, in Mary Ann’s and my marriage, when we understood how I was trying to express love to her was not how she understood love / how she received it, it really made a difference.
Dennis: So, listen up, men! This is your chance to get it right. You’ve got to—you’re going to get some coaching from the winner of at least 50 national championships in love language across the country. [Laughter] I mean, this guy—who knows how many millions of books have sold. In fact, he told me at one point that it’s sold more each year than the previous year.
Bob: Still sells great—it’s a great book. It’s just a very practical way to help husbands and wives understand how to communicate better with one another. While we’re on the subject of practical ways for husbands and wives to communicate and to love one another, a weekend away at a Weekend to Remember is not a bad idea; right?
Dennis: It is, in fact, a mandatory idea. I just want to say a word to Legacy Partners: “Thank you, as a Legacy Partner, for making this ministry on the radio possible—keeping us on the air—because it’s through these broadcasts that we minister to people and that we tell them where to find help and hope at the Weekend to Remember. Thank you for standing with us because we’re going to impact somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 people at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. You, as a Legacy Partner through your donations, are making a difference.”
And we’ve got a special offer that we’ve got in place right now for those of you who want to go to the Weekend to Remember—and I’ve met some of you / I’ve run into you. You’ve admitted to my face that you listen to FamilyLife Today and that “No,” you haven’t been to the Weekend to Remember yet.
Bob: Some of our Legacy Partners haven’t been to a Weekend to Remember.
Dennis: That’s right. It’s time to go! You are not going to regret it. You’re not going to be asked to do anything up front in front of people.
It is going to be a great weekend / a fun weekend. You’re going to be entertained. It’s going to be practical; and you’re going to leave there—you are going to leave there with a lot of help, a lot of encouragement, and a lot of hope.
Bob: And if you sign up to attend the Weekend to Remember right now, you pay for yourself to come at the regular price and your spouse comes free. So, it’s the best offer we make all year. It’s for a limited time—we need to hear from you today. If you’d like to come to Indianapolis to hear Dennis, or to Nashville to hear me, or any of four or five dozen other locations where we are hosting Weekend to Remember getaways this spring, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and sign up today. Again, you pay the regular rate for yourself, and your spouse comes free. It’s a buy one / get one free offer, and we need for you to do that today. If you have any questions, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for information about the Weekend to Remember; or call: 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” We can answer any questions you have over the phone.
Now, let’s get to Gary Chapman coaching us on how we can do a better job of loving one another in our marriage relationship.
Gary: Tonight, I want to speak to you on what I believe to be the most important word in the English language and the most confusing word in the English language. I say that love is the most important word because Jesus once said, “This is the way that they can tell that you are my disciple by the way you love each other.” He gave the non-Christian world the right to judge whether or not we are his followers by the way we love each other. That makes it pretty important.
But I say that love is the most confusing word in the English language because we use the word love in a thousand ways. We say, for example, “I love hot dogs,” or in North Carolina, where I live, we say, “I love barbeque.” [Cheering]
Then, I hear people say, “I just love the mountains,” “Oh, I love the beach,” “Love my new car!” “Love my mom.” And then, we say to a special someone [whispering], ‘I love you.’” Hot dogs, and barbeque, and [whispering] “I love you.” [Laughter]
Now, I’m not going to speak on the thousand ways in which we use the word love. I’m going to speak only about three ways we use the word love. I’m going to focus on the third of those. I want to begin by talking about the experience of falling in love. Now, we don’t talk about this much in church. In our culture, if you want to learn about falling in love, you have to listen to country music [Laughter] because they are either falling in love or out of love every other song. So, I’m going to just focus a little bit on this topic tonight—
—this way that we use the word love.
This kind of love begins with a feeling. I call it “the tingles.” I like to think that all of us have inside a little love-alert system similar to a smoke alarm. [Laughter] When you see certain people, there is something about the way they look, about the way they talk, or about the way they emote that gives you a little tingle inside. In fact, it’s the tingles that motivate us to go out for dinner together.
You know, sometimes, you lose the tingles on the first date. You find out something about him that you can’t tolerate, and that relationship never gets off the ground; but there are other relationships that, every time you go out for a hamburger, it gets tinglier, and tinglier, and tinglier. One night, one of you will say something like this:
“You know, I think I could love you.” [Laughter] We’re testing the waters to see if they feel what we feel. If they give you a positive response, such as, “What would be so bad about that?”—oooooh—you have a tender evening. The next time the moon is right, you will likely say the words [whispering], “I love you,” and they say [whispering], “I love you too.” Wheeew! Now, you know you’ve got it because you said it out loud!
At that point, it becomes an emotional obsession. You can’t get them off your mind. You go to bed thinking about them, you wake up thinking about them, all day long you think about them. They are the most wonderful person you have ever met in your life! [Laughter]
Now, here’s the part of the problem with this experience—in our culture, we’ve been taught to believe that if you’ve got the real thing, it’s going to last forever.
But we’ve studied it—Dorothy Tennov, Bridgeport, Connecticut, long-term study—you know what she found out? The average life span of the obsession is two years—some a little longer / some a little less—average two years—and we come down off the high. Now, you know what happens at that stage—all your differences emerge. You start arguing about the differences. Before long, you’re saying nasty, cruel, hurtful things to each other. A few months later, you just feel like you are trapped, and you’re in a terrible relationship here and there is no good way out.
Then, you know what happens—one of you gets the tingles for somebody else. You start the whole process over with the lunches, and the dinners, and the rendezvous. Then, a few months down the road, you say to the person [your spouse], “I just don’t love you anymore.” Then, you pull out of the marriage, and you follow the tingles over here because now you think you have got the real thing.
The reality is—in two years, you come down off the high here. If you don’t learn how to keep love alive, you go through the same cycle again.
Now, the second way I want to address the word love is: “Love is an attitude.” Now, this doesn’t sound nearly as exciting; does it?—Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” You think he’s talking about the tingles?—“Husbands get the tingles for your wife like Christ has the tingles for the church,”—[Laughter]—no, no, no, no. He’s talking about something very, very different.
And we do a fair amount of teaching and preaching on this in the church; and that is: “Love is an attitude. Love is a way of thinking. It is the attitude that says, ‘I choose to look out for your interests. How can I help you?’” It’s the Greek word philía from which we get our word Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love—
—you might wonder that if you’ve ever been there, but that’s what it means. [Laughter]
Now, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but this is extremely important. The reason I’m not spending much time on it is because we preach about this a great deal in our churches. But every single day, every one of us chooses an attitude of love, or we choose not to love; we choose to look out for other people, or we choose to look out for ourselves. We are, by nature, self-centered; but as Christians, we are called to be loving people, not only to our spouse and children, but to everyone we encounter.
When they encounter us, Jesus said they are to encounter a lover—someone who is loving. And we choose every single day to have this attitude or not to have the attitude. Then, out of the attitude, grows behavior—we seek to do things or say things that will be beneficial to other people. When we do, we make an impact on their lives in a positive way.
Every single day, I choose to love my wife or not to love my wife. I have a loving attitude, or I have a selfish attitude. It makes all the difference in the world when I choose a loving attitude.
But the third way—the one I want to focus on when we use the word love—is love as an emotional need. Almost everyone agrees—Christians and non-Christians—that the most fundamental emotional need we have on the human level is the need to feel loved by the significant people in our lives. That’s true if you are a child, if you are a teenager, if you’re a single adult, or if you are a married adult—to feel loved by the significant people in our lives.
If a child grows up feeling loved by the parents, the child grows up normally; but the child that grows up with an empty love tank, feeling their parents don’t love them—they will grow up with many internal struggles.
In the teenager years, they will go looking for love, typically, in all the wrong places.
I also believe that adults have a love tank. If you are married, the person you would most like to love you is your spouse. In fact, if you feel loved by your spouse, life is beautiful; but if the love tank is empty and you feel like: “They don’t love me. They wish they weren’t married to me,” then, life can begin to look dark. Much of the misbehavior of adults grows out of an empty love tank. You see the person who is most attracted to a new set of tingles is the person who has an empty love tank.
What I want to talk about is: “How do we keep the love tank full after we come down off the high of the in-love experience?” Now, here is one of the major problems in doing that; and that is: “What makes one person feel loved doesn’t make another person feel loved.”
I’ll never forget the day I first encountered this.
A couple came into my office. I found out later they’d been married to each other for 30 years. The wife began the conversation by saying, “I want you to know, Dr. Chapman, right up front, that we don’t have any money problems.” She said, “I was reading an article in a magazine that said the number one problem in marriage is money.” She said: “But that’s never been true for us. We’ve never had any problem with money.” She said: “I also want you to know that we don’t argue. We don’t believe in arguing.” Then, she went on with two or three more positive things. I began to wonder, “Did they come in here to tell me what a good marriage they have?” [Laughter]
But then, she started crying. She said [imitating crying]: “But Dr. Chapman, the problem is I just don’t feel any love coming from him. It’s like we’re two roommates living in the same house.” She said, “It’s been going on for 20 years.” She said, “I don’t know how much longer I can handle this!”
And she went on, and on, and on.
Well, when she got through, I looked over at him. He said [slow drawl]: “I don’t understand her. I do everything I can to show her that I love her, and she sits there and tells you she doesn’t feel loved.” He said, “I don’t know what else to do.” I said, “Well, what do you do to show your love to her?” He said, “Well, I get home from work before she does, and I start the evening meal.” He said: “Some nights, I have it ready when she gets home. If not, she’ll help me; and we’ll finish it up, and we eat together.” He said, “After it’s over, I’ll wash the dishes if I don’t have to go to a meeting.” He said, “Every Thursday night, I vacuum the floors.” He said, “On Saturday, I’ll wash the car and I mow the grass.” He said, “Then, I help her with the clothes—the laundry—through the week.” And he went on.
I was beginning to wonder, “What does this woman do?!” [Laughter] It sounded to me like he was doing everything! [Laughter]
He said, “I do all these things to show her that I love her, and she sits there and says to you what she’s been telling me—she doesn’t feel loved.” He said, “Dr. Chapman, I don’t know what else to do.” Well, I look back at her; and she said [imitating crying]: “Dr. Chapman, he is right. He’s a hardworking man.” She said: “But we don’t ever talk. We haven’t talked in 20 years.” She said, “He’s always washing the dishes or mowing the grass.” [Laughter] Do you understand what’s going on?! A sincere husband, who loves his wife in the best way he knows how, and a wife who doesn’t get it.
Through the years, I’ve encountered hundreds of couples in my office, who were sincere, but they were missing each other emotionally.
I knew that I was hearing a pattern because I heard the same stories over, and over, and over again. I knew there was a pattern, but I didn’t know what it was. Eventually, I sat down and read 12 years of notes that I made when I was counseling people. I asked myself the question: “When someone said, ‘I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what did they want? What were they complaining about?” Their answers fell into five categories—I later called them the five love languages.
I began to use that in my counseling and shared the concept that people have different ways of expressing love. If you are going to be successful, you have to learn to speak the other person’s language. When I did, they would come back and say, “Oh, Dr. Chapman, I mean, things are changing in our relationship.” Then, I started sharing that in small groups; and the same thing happened.
Probably five years later, I said to myself, “You know, if I could put this concept in a book and write it in the language of the common person—leave out all the psychological jargon—maybe, I could help couples that I would never have time to see in my office.”
Love Language Number 1: Words of Affirmation—using words to affirm the other person. First Corinthians, Chapter 8, verse 1: “Love edifies; love builds up.” So, if you’re going to use words to build up, you would use compliments: “You look nice in that outfit,” “Really appreciate what you did.” You can focus on their personality / you can focus on their character; but you’re using words to affirm them. You see the Book of Proverbs says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” You can kill your spouse or you can give them life by the way you talk to them.
Now, one lady said to me, “Gary, I hear what you’re saying, and I understand—I understand what you mean.” She said, “I know it would be good if I give my husband some positive words.” She said, “But to be honest with you, I can’t think of anything good to say about the man.” [Laughter] I said, “Well, does he ever take a shower?” [Laughter] She said, “Well, yes.” I said, “Well, how often?” She said, “Well, every day.” I said, “Well, if I were you, I’d start there: ‘I appreciate your taking a shower. [Laughter] There are men who don’t!” I have never met a man / never met a woman you couldn’t find something good to say about them.
You see, ladies, when you give him a positive word, there is something inside of him that wants to be better. When you give him a critical word, there’s something inside of him that wants to shoot you! [Laughter]
Love Language Number 2 is Gifts. Ephesians 5:25, the verse I quoted earlier: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.”
In that illustration, Christ, Himself, is the gift. The Scriptures say in James that all good gifts come down from God—God is a gift-giver. It’s one of the ways He expresses His love to us.
My academic background is anthropology. I did an undergrad and graduate degree in anthropology before I started counseling and theology. We have never discovered a culture where gift-giving is not an expression of love. It’s universal to give gifts as an expression of love. You see, the gift says, “He was thinking about me,” “She was thinking about me,” “Look, what they got for me.” You have to think about somebody to get them a gift. Haven’t we always said, “It’s the thought that counts,”? But I remind you: “It’s not the thought left in your head that counts. It’s the gift that came out of the thought in your head.”
You know, guys, you can get flowers free a good bit of the year depending on where you live. Just go out in your backyard and pick one—that’s what your kids do. How many mothers have ever received a dandelion from your kids? Yes. Guys, I’m not suggesting dandelions; okay? [Laughter] You don’t have any flowers in your backyard?!—your neighbor’s yard—[Laughter] —ask them; they’ll give you a flower.
Or you could go to a funeral and ask the family to give you a flower. [Laughter] I did that not long ago. [Laughter] I went to a funeral. After the funeral, the church had a luncheon for the family. I went to the luncheon. I walked in, and I noticed they had these vases of red roses. When I got ready to leave, I just said to one of the ladies, “Do you mind if I take one of those roses to my wife?” She said: “Oh, Dr. Chapman! You can have this whole vase.” I went home with two dozen red roses! I told her where I got them—she still liked them. [Laughter]
Bob: So, what do you—makes you want to run right down to the funeral parlor; doesn’t it? [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m just telling you—if I get them from a funeral parlor, I’m not telling Barbara!
Dennis: It’s not a matter of deceiving her.
Bob: You lose all the points.
Dennis: I don’t think you get any points for roses from a funeral. [Laughter] Here’s the point—he’s talking about showing your love through words of affirmation / through gifts that communicate love to your spouse. Guys, just do it / ladies, step out—do something that would communicate to your husband that you respect him / that you are committed to him.
And you know what? This is what marriage is all about—you can’t stop courting one another.
Bob: I have to tell you—gifts are last on Mary Ann’s love language list. It’s the last thing that she wants.
Dennis: That’s not true. I’ve given her chocolate—chocolate ice cream. [Laughter]
Bob: If I came home with a gift of a Weekend to Remember and I said, “This is the gift,”—
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: —now, I’ve given her quality time.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: Now, I’ve given her phys—
Dennis: Words of affirmation.
Bob: Words of affirmation. I’ve given her—well, there’s probably no act of service in there. You can hope for some physical touch. You know, I’m just saying—
Dennis: You can hope! [Laughter]
Bob: —that’s the opportunity that you’ve got—
Dennis: In which direction? [Laughter]
Bob: —at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. And this is the perfect time to sign up for one of the upcoming Weekend to Remember getaways because, this week and next week, if you sign up, you pay the regular price for yourself and your spouse comes at no additional cost. It’s a buy one / get one free opportunity. It’s good this week and next week only.
All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get more information, or to register, or if you’d like to find out when an event is happening in a city near where you live or city you’d like to travel to. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us, toll-free, at:
1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Come on out and join us at a Weekend to Remember getaway.
Now, tomorrow, we’ll hear the other love languages. We only got two of them today. We’ll hear the other three tomorrow. So, I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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