Speaking Love to Your Spouse: Service, Time, or Touch
About the Guest
Was that second language you studied when you were in school easy? For most folks, the answer is probably "no." Learning a second language is challenging, but when that language is the natural voice for your spouse, it is worth the effort. Dr. Gary Chapman unpacks three more love languages.
Gary ChapmanHe has degrees from some of the most respected colleges and seminaries. He's written some of the best-selling books of the past decade and appeared on numerous radio and television programs across the country. But Dr. Gary Chapman knows more than just a lot of scholarly theories and practical advice—he knows people. He knows how to relate to people, how to have fun and how to make people laugh, all the while giving practical tools to help improve relationships.
Learning a second language is challenging, but when that language is the natural voice for your spouse, it is worth the effort. Dr. Gary Chapman unpacks three more love languages.
Speaking Love to Your Spouse: Service, Time, or Touch
Bob: Dr. Gary Chapman is well-known for talking about love languages; but he also knows about the source of love from which the languages flow.
Gary: You see, in the early years of our marriage, when we were struggling, I didn’t have the attitude of Christ. My attitude was to my wife: “Listen, I know how to have a good marriage. If you’ll listen to me, we’ll have one!” She wouldn’t listen to me, and I blamed her. I’ll never forget the day that God said to me, “The problem in your marriage is that you don’t have the attitude of Christ,”—hit me like a ton of bricks.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Before you can ever learn how to speak your mate’s love language, you have to learn how to love differently. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Was there a time in your marriage when you were trying to express love to Barbara, and it just wasn’t getting there because you guys were speaking different languages?
Dennis: Oh, yes. I mean, early in our marriage, I loved her the way I wanted her to love me.
Dennis: And I think you’ve got to be weaned off of that to begin to think of your spouse. Frankly, that’s a part of what we teach at the Weekend to Remember®, Bob. We teach folks how to meet one another and speak their love language and do it in a practical way.
I can’t guarantee folks it is going to be an all-time best weekend, but I have had a lot of couples tell me that the Weekend to Remember was one of the best, if not the best, weekend of their marriage because we directed them spiritually.
We gave them time to write love letters to each other—didn’t ask them to do anything publicly—weren’t embarrassed in front of a group of people. It’s a time just for you two, where you can kind of set the agenda and the schedule.
And I’ll tell you—if you haven’t been to one, it’s time because we’ve got a great deal right now for you to attend.
Bob: We are encouraging listeners to attend by offering you a special offer—you sign up today, and you pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse attends free. It’s a buy one / get one free offer. It’s the best opportunity we have all year. We’re encouraging you to do this with this special offer because we believe that this weekend can be transformational in a marriage relationship. We think it can be the best weekend of your marriage.
So, get more information—go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, sign up today—
—you pay for yourself and your spouse comes for free. We hope to see you at an upcoming Weekend to Remember. I’m going to be speaking at the Weekend to Remember in Nashville.
Dennis: And I’m going to be in Indianapolis. By the way, my son and his wife are now going to be speaking in—I forget the third location—but they’re going to be in Boise, Idaho—I believe it’s in February—and later on, like in May, in Washington, D.C.
Bob: Yes. The truth is—anywhere you go, there is a great team of speakers who are involved in the Weekend. They will do a great job of guiding you through. So, wherever you live, just find a location near you and attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
Now, this week, we’ve been listening to a message from Dr. Gary Chapman, who is the author of the book, The 5 Love Languages, and dozens of other books. He has been talking about love languages and talking about how we can learn to speak one another’s love language.
He’s already talked, in this message, about words of affirmation and how that communicates love to a spouse / about how giving gifts can communicate love to a spouse. And he’s going to pick up the message with Love Language Number 3. Here’s Dr. Gary Chapman.
Gary: Love Language Number 3: Acts of Service. First John, Chapter 3, verse 18: “Love not only in word but in deed.” Do something to show your love. In a marriage, that might be such things as cooking a meal. Incidentally, anybody here still cook? [Laughter] Yes, a few of you. It’s a huge act of service.
My son didn’t get married until he was 34. People would ask him: “When are you going to get married?” “When are you going to get married?” He would say, “You know, when you grow up in the home of a marriage counselor, you’re very careful.” [Laughter] But once he got married, he came home six months later and said, “Dad, I got a bonus when I married Amy!” I said, “Really?!”
He said: “Yes, Dad. She likes to cook—never thought I’d meet a girl of my generation who likes to cook.” Then, my daughter married a man who likes to cook. My kids got it made! [Laughter]
Washing dishes is an act of service. Who does that at your house—washes the dishes, puts them in the dishwasher, and all that kind of good stuff? Yes. Vacuuming floors is an act of service. Who does that at your place? Yes. Getting the white spots off the mirror, mowing the grass, changing the baby’s diaper—Whew!—big act of service—anything you know the other person would like for you to do—a powerful communicator. Remember the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words”? That is true for these people if this is their language: “Actions will speak louder than words.”
Love Language Number4: Quality Time—quality time. Mark, Chapter 3, verse 14 says of Jesus: “He ordained twelve” / we call them the twelve disciples—
—now, listen—“that He might be with them.” Jesus communicated to the thousands / He taught the thousands, but He gave quality time to 12 men.
Now, in a marriage, I am talking about giving your spouse your undivided attention. I am not talking about sitting on the couch, watching television, [Laughter] because someone else has your attention. I’m talking about sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other, and talking.
Do you all have couches?
Gary: What do you do with those things? [Laughter] When I sit on the couch with my wife and give her 20 minutes—looking, listening, interacting—I have given her 20 minutes of my life; and she has done the same for me. It’s a powerful communicator when you give someone your undivided attention.
Number 5 is Physical Touch. We’ve long known the emotional power of physical touch.
In Mark, Chapter 10, they brought to Jesus the little children. The disciples said: “This is not a children’s meeting. Excuse me, this is not a children’s meeting.” Now, what did Jesus say? “Bring the little children to Me, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” And the next verse says, “He put His hands on them and blessed them,”—physical touch.
Now, in marriage, we’re talking about such things as holding hands, kissing, embracing, the whole sexual part of marriage—arm around the shoulder—driving down the road, you put your hand on their leg—sitting around the house and they walk by and you trip them. [Laughter] I’m kidding! I’m kidding!
I was sitting in an airport on a Saturday night. I was going home from a seminar. I was tired. I didn’t feel like reading, and I was just sitting there. A young couple came in several yards from me and sat down.
I just watched them. They hadn’t been seated 60 seconds before she reached over and started rubbing the back of his neck; and I thought, “Isn’t that sweet?”
Do you know that every one of you ladies used to do that when you were dating? Every one of you did that. I tell you, ladies, let’s just see if you can still do it. It might hurt your arthritis, but give it a try. [Laughter] Come on. Right now, just reach over—yes, just rub the back of his neck. Come on, ladies, you can do it! Come on! Yes! [Laughter]
Now, listen to me very carefully. Out of those five love languages—each of us has a primary love language. One of the five speaks more deeply to us emotionally than the other four. Now, we can receive love in all five languages; but if we had to give up one—we’d give up this one, or this one, or this one—but not this one because, “This is the one that really makes me feel loved.”
Now, once in a while, someone says to me: “I don’t know, Gary. I think two of those are just about equal for me.” And my response is: “Fine. We’ll give you two love languages. We’ll call you bilingual.” [Laughter] But most of us have a primary love language / a secondary love language, and then, the other three fall in line under that.
Now, in a marriage, almost never does a husband and wife have the same language. It happens but not very often. By nature, we speak our own language—whatever makes me feel loved is what I tend to do for my spouse. So, let’s say that words of affirmation is my language. What will I do when I get married? By nature, I’ll give my wife words of affirmation— I’ll tell her how nice she looks in that outfit.
I’ll tell her how much I appreciate what she did. I’ll probably tell her a dozen times a day I love her: “I love you, honey,” “I cannot tell you how much I love you,” “I am so glad I married you,” “I love you, honey.”
But let’s say her language is not words of affirmation—her language is acts of service. Let’s say I don’t ever do anything to help her. It’s just a matter of time she’s going to say to me one night: “You know, you keep on saying: ‘I love you,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘I love you.’ If you love me, why don’t you help me?” And I am blown out of” the saddle. Why? Because, in my mind, I’ve been loving her; but in her mind, if I love her, I’d be helping her. Do you understand how couples can miss each other?
So, the key is we must learn to speak the language of the other person. Now, I can hear someone say: “Yes, Gary, but wait a minute. Wait a minute. What if the love language of your spouse is something that just doesn’t come naturally for you?”
And my answer: “So—you learn it!”
My wife’s language is acts of service. So, one of the things I do for her is vacuum the floors. Now, you don’t know me well; but I want to ask you, “Do you think that vacuuming floors comes naturally for me?” My mother made me vacuum all through junior high and high school. I couldn’t go play ball on Saturday until I vacuumed the house.
In those days, I said to myself, “If I ever get out of here, one thing I’m not going to do—I’m not going to vacuum floors.” You could not pay me enough to vacuum floors. There is only one reason I vacuum floors—L-O-V-E. You see, when it doesn’t come naturally, it’s a greater expression of love. My wife knows every time I vacuum the floor, it’s nothing but 100 percent, pure, unadulterated love; and I get credit for the whole thing. [Laughter]
We were sitting around the other night. My wife said, “You know, honey, these blinds are getting dusty.” I looked over at the blinds; and I said, “They are; aren’t they, honey?” That’s all I said. [Laughter] But I heard the lady—I cataloged it. So, two mornings later—it was a Friday morning. I was getting ready to leave later that day to go do a marriage seminar. It was probably 6:30 Friday morning—I was in there, vacuuming those blinds. She stumbled in and said, “Honey, what are you doing?!” I said, “Honey, I’m making love!” [Laughter] Big smile broke on her face. She said, “You have got to be the greatest husband in the world.”
Now, my language is words of affirmation. So, I said to her, “Tell me one more time, babe, how great am I?” [Laughter] She told me again. I get on a plane with a full love tank. She goes back to finish her nap with a full love tank. Why?
I spoke her language, and she spoke my language.
Do you understand why I would say what I just shared with you could literally save thousands of marriages? In fact, every week, I have people say to me: “Gary, we were that close to divorce, and a friend gave us a copy of your book on the love languages. It turned our whole marriage around. It just changed the whole climate of our marriage.” You see, because we so desperately need love, when we start getting it in the right language, emotionally, we’re drawn to our spouse again.
Can emotional love be reborn? You bet it can when we learn how to speak each other’s language. The question, then, becomes: “How do you discover the other person’s language?” Well, a simple way is to go online at 5LoveLanguages.com and take the quiz—it’s free—but let me give you three other clues.
Number one: Observe their behavior. Observe how they respond to other people.
If your spouse—when they—in a social setting, when they meet somebody, they’re always giving them a hug or a pat on the back—you can assume that Physical Touch is probably their language. Or if you hear your spouse always giving encouraging words to other people—on the telephone, they are just encouraging people—you can assume that Words is their language. Or if your spouse is the person that is always taking someone out to lunch—a lady taking a friend out / a guy taking a guy out and having lunch—and they just—they love having lunch with people. Quality Time is probably their language. So, observe their behavior.
Second clue: What do they complain about most often? The complaint reveals the love language. If they are saying to you: “We just don’t ever have any time together. It’s like we’re two ships passing in the night! We’re just too busy,” they are telling you that Quality Time is their language. Or if you go on a business trip and come home and they say, “You didn’t bring me anything?!” they’re telling you that Gifts is their language.
Or if they say, “I don’t think you would ever touch me if I didn’t initiate it,” they’re telling you that Physical Touch is their language.
Now, you see, we tend to get defensive when our spouse complains. If a wife says to a husband: “We just don’t spend any time together. I just feel like you don’t ever have time for me.” What does the husband say? “What do you mean I don’t spend time with you? I took you out to dinner Thursday night. I mean, what are you talking about, woman?” Listen—get beyond the defensiveness because they’re telling you what their love language is. The complaint reveals the love language.
The third question is: “What do they request of you most often?” If they’re saying to you, periodically: “Honey, can we take a walk after dinner tonight?” or “Do you think we could get a weekend away soon?” they are asking for Quality Time. Or if you get ready to go on a business trip and they say, “Be sure and bring me a surprise!” they are telling you that Gifts is their language.
So, what do they request of you? If they say, “Honey, could you give me a back rub?” they are asking for physical touch. Put those three together, and you can pretty easily determine your spouse’s love language.
Now, I have given you information, but I can’t give you the motivation to do it. A man said to me some time ago—he said: “Gary, I understand what you are talking about. I get the love language thing.” He said, “My wife told me that her love language is Acts of Service.” He said: “But I’ll tell you right now. If it’s going to take my washing dishes, and my vacuuming floors, and my doing the laundry for her to feel loved, you can forget that.”
Do you understand what he’s saying? “I’ve got the information. I understand it, but I’m not going to do that.” Now, I don’t know where he was coming from. I don’t know if his father told him, “Men don’t wash dishes.” I don’t know where he’s coming from, but he’s making a conscious choice not to speak his wife’s love language.
So, where do you get the motivation? I believe it comes from our own relationship with God. You see, we love God because God first loved us. And Romans, Chapter 5, in verse 5, says, “The love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” God can give you the same attitude that Christ had when He gave His life for His disciples and for us. This is what radically changed my own marriage.
You see, in the early years of our marriage, when we were struggling, I didn’t have the attitude of Christ. My attitude was to my wife: “Listen, I know how to have a good marriage. If you’ll listen to me, we’ll have one!” And she wouldn’t listen to me, and I blamed her. I’ll never forget the day that God said to me: “The problem in your marriage is that you don’t have the attitude of Christ. He was on His knees, washing His disciples’ feet.
“You don’t have that attitude,”—hit me like a ton of bricks because I remember what Jesus said when He stood up—remember? He said, “I’m your leader, and in My Kingdom, this is the way you lead.” The leader serves. I said, “Oh, God”—I was in seminary—I said: “Oh, God, forgive me. With all my studying of Greek, and Hebrew, and theology, I have missed the whole point. Give me—please, give me the attitude of Christ. Radically change my heart and my attitude toward my wife.”
And I started asking her three simple questions that made it practical: “Honey, how can I help you?”—I knew nothing about the love languages at this juncture—“How can I help you? How can I make your life easier? How can I be a better husband to you?” When I asked those questions, my wife was willing to give me answers. Understand—she is teaching me how to love her. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew my heart was changed; and she was teaching me how to love her.
Within three months, my wife started asking me those three questions.
We’ve been walking this road a long time now, in which I’ve been reaching out to her and she’s been reaching out to me. I have an incredible wife. In fact, I said to her, not long ago, “Karolyn, if every woman in the world was like you, there would never be a divorce.” Why would a man leave a woman who is doing everything she can to help him? My goal, through these years, has been to so serve my wife that, when I’m gone, she’ll never find another man that will treat her the way I’ve treated her. The woman is going to miss me! [Applause] And you know what I believe? I believe this was God’s intention.
Listen, folks, God never ordained marriage to make people miserable. God ordained marriage because He knows that we’re made for each other. When we do marriage God’s way—and a husband reaches out and loves his wife and she reaches out and loves him—what happens—you both become winners. You see, in all the early years, we were both losers—I shot her / she shot me.
We stayed wounded most of the time and resented each other; but when you do it God’s way, you both become winners. Then, the two of you can turn and bless the world with the ability God has given you.
You know why I believe the Christian church today has made so little impact on the non-Christian world?—because our churches are filled with couples who’ve never gotten their marriage together. They don’t have any motivation to say to other people, “Wouldn’t you like to be a Christian and be as miserable as we are?” [Laughter]
But if you ever get your marriage going God’s way, non-Christians will ask you, “How do you all do that?” You’ll have a chance to tell them how God changed your heart and how He can change their hearts and make them lovers. When we’ve learned to love, marriage serves the purpose God intended it—we’re loving, and supportive, and caring, and helping each other reach our potential for God and good in the world. Amen?
Audience: Amen. [Applause]
Gary: Thank you.
Bob: Well, that is our friend, Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of the book, The 5 Love Languages, with just a classic reminder of how we can do a better job of loving and serving one another in our marriages.
Dennis: I had to laugh when he said, “I’m going to make it so good on her that, when I leave [die], she’s not going to be able to find another man to serve her like I serve her.” So, I was thinking about that, Bob—and I was going, “I do a pretty good job of that.” And the closest I’ve come is by making coffee that comes on the first day that I’m gone because I make it the day before.
Bob: Oh, yes?
Dennis: There you go—and set the alarm—
Dennis: —make it for her.
Bob: So that, even when you’re gone, the coffee is there.
Dennis: Oh, yes! And she misses me on the second day [Laughter] because she doesn’t know how to make the coffee like I make it. I don’t quite get that because it’s not—
Bob: —that hard?
Dennis: —it’s not that difficult.
Bob: But an act of service like that—
Bob: —is Barbara’s love language.
Is that her number one?
Dennis: Yes, I think it is. She also appreciates words of affirmation. Yes, she’s pretty easy to love, really.
Bob: Becoming a student of our spouse and learning how to communicate our love is one of the practical ways that we live out what we’re pledging ourselves to when we marry. And it’s one of the things we talk with couples about at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.
In fact, again, I want to encourage our listeners: “If you have never been to a getaway, or if it’s been more than five years and it’s time for a tune-up for your marriage, this spring would be a great time for the two of you to get away to a location near where you live—or maybe, you want to travel somewhere—but get away and enjoy a weekend together—where you can relax, and just be together, and focus on one another in marriage.”
We have getaways happening in about five dozen cities this spring.
If you sign up this week or next week to attend one of these upcoming getaways, when you pay the regular price for yourself, your spouse comes free. It’s the best offer we make all year long; and it’s available right now through next week. Get more information or register, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions, or if you’d like to register over the phone. Again, the website—FamilyLifeToday.com—or call: 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” And we can answer any questions you have or get you registered.
By the way, when you go to our website, you might want to get a copy of Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages. We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s a great tool for married couples to better understand how we can love one another in marriage. Again, you can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend.
And then join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk to a couple who will share with us candidly about an issue that a lot of couples are facing in marriage today—what happens when pornography makes its way into a marriage relationship and images that don’t belong are all of a sudden there. We’ll talk about that on Monday with Craig and Jen Ferguson. Hope you can be here.
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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