I was away on a three-day conference recently. By myself; no husband, no kids. Now before I go on, I should probably confess that I’m a neat-freak. Everything has to be clean and in its place. As in, I walk into an untidy room and it’s as if my brain goes into meltdown – I can’t think straight until I put every tiny piece back in its place. So imagine how nervous I was to leave my husband and two kids to their own devices for three whole days! Ah, it was not a small matter o. I was expecting to return to a bomb site, that’s for sure.
As I approached the front door to excited screams of “she’s back, she’s back!”, I offered one last plea to God for strength to endure hardship as a good soldier. LOL! And then the unthinkable happened. I walked into a perfectly clean and tidy house! My kitchen! Wow, it was spotless. And they were cooking all sorts of meals knowing I’d be tired from the long drive. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I felt so special, I couldn’t stop smiling. I don’t think I had ever felt more loved in my entire life.
You may wonder: “You felt that special just because the house was cleaned?” Yes! Absolutely. You know why? That’s my love language. The best way I receive love is through acts of service. My husband’s love language, on the other hand, is mainly “words of affirmation” (which is quite interesting because God gave him a wife that doesn’t talk that much or like mushy words 😂) So early on, it was a struggle. I kept doing all sorts of activities to show him how much I love him and he would every now and then jokingly say something like, “hmm, you’re not even showing your husband some love.” And I’d be really confused, what about all these things I’m doing? But I soon realised that by “giving” activities and not words, I was speaking my language, not his.
Here’s what I have observed: human beings are naturally inclined to give what they need. That is, if your love language is “gifts”, you tend to shower gifts; if it is “quality time”, you tend to give your time etc. Whilst that may be the best way you receive love, it doesn’t necessarily mean that is how your spouse (or child) best receives love. For example, my husband can write the most beautiful words to express his love and appreciation (and he does) and I read it and respond “aww, that’s so sweet honey, thank you. I love you too.” But somewhere at the back of my mind, I’m thinking “now please will you show me you really love me by cleaning the bathroom without me asking?” That may sound ungrateful but the truth is, even though I really appreciate the words, the service is what really touches my heart.
We invite frustration into the home when we pay little attention to what our spouse and children really need and instead focus on what we think they need. Even Jesus had to tell Peter how to express his love for him: “Simon, do you love me?… Then feed my sheep.” Little wonder, there are so many tales of adults who feel they were never loved as children despite their parents’ best efforts (in most cases). My father never told me he loved me! My mother never approved of me!! I was never hugged as a child!!! Could it be that their parents never discovered or spoke their love language?
I highly recommend reading these books by Gary Chapman: “The Five Love Languages” and “The Five Love Languages of Children”. I believe they will save you all sorts of headaches in your relationship with your spouse and your children.
FYI – according to the books, the five love languages are:
- Words of affirmation – thoughtful, loving and encouraging words are precious to them, while harsh words are not easily shrugged off and can cause deep wounds.
- Quality time – giving undivided attention and taking time to do things together.
- Receiving gifts – investing thought, time and effort into researching and picking out a gift that has an emotional value to them.
- Acts of service – doing things that help relieve and ease the burden of responsibility.
- Physical touch – being physically near (holding hands, hugging, etc.) makes them feel validated, safe and emotionally connected.