When my husband and I were first dating, showing each other our feelings was easy. I knew just by the look in his eyes (long before he said the words) that he loved me. When he opened the truck door for me or put his coat around my shoulders in the rain, that said “love.” When I called him late at night or baked him cookies, that said “love.”
Then we got married and got used to life together… and some of those little things fell by the wayside.
A few years ago, I read Dr. Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, which has now become a classic. All of a sudden I understood why all those actions when we were dating meant so much—and why, now that we’d been married for a while, it was harder to feel the love.
When we were dating, we did all sorts of things we didn’t usually do because we were so excited about our new love. Then, as time passed, we stopped making so much of an effort to show our feelings and fell back into our usual love languages.
If you happened to marry a spouse who shares your love language, you may not have noticed this. If opposites attracted, however, as often happens, then you might both be feeling like the other person doesn’t show their love anymore. My husband and I have different love languages, so I found it very helpful to know both his love language (so I could show him love) and mine (so I could help him show me love).
“Seldom do a husband and wife have the same primary emotional love language. We tend to speak our primary love language, and we become confused when our spouse does not understand what we are communicating. We are expressing our love, but the message does not come through because we are speaking what, to them, is a foreign language.” ~ Dr. Chapman
Speaking His Love Language
My husband’s primary love language is physical touch. This was great when we were dating, and I’d ride right next to him in his truck or hold his hand when we were out walking. But it’s not my love language, particularly now that we have three little girls who love snuggles and need hugs to get to sleep or fix owies.
When he gets home at night, I’m often maxed out for physical touch, but he’s still craving it. So I work at reaching out to him, even if it ends up being a silly family hug with all the girls involved too.
His second love language is gifts. When we went back to Alberta this summer, he joked that we weren’t around for him to express his primary love language, so he’d defaulted to his secondary—and when we got home, the table was full of little things he’d bought us.
He’s the guy who comes home with flowers or chocolates for me from the grocery store. Knowing this, I make sure I come home from a conference with something in my suitcase for him or that I grab something for him when I do the grocery shopping—just to show him I was thinking about him.
“We must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.” ~ Dr. Chapman
How to Learn His Love Language
Of course, when I first read The 5 Love Languages, it was easier to figure out my own love language and then feel frustrated that he wasn’t loving me that way. I guessed his primary love language right away, but I didn’t really figure out his secondary love language until he read the book this year and made the above joke. Then a lot of things clicked—like why he still has that coffee cup I bought him way back when we were dating, even though the lid broke years ago and I keep telling him to get rid of it.
If you’ve read the book and he hasn’t, I recommend planning a lovely date night with him. Then find a good opportunity to tell him about a book you’ve been reading, and ask him if he’d be willing to do Dr. Chapman’s quiz so you can find out what his love language is and love him better. I’m sure he’d be happy to do that. You can casually mention you’ve also figured out your love language. Or you can find other ways to let him know about your love language. For example…
Sharing Your Love Language
My love language is acts of service. Back when my husband and I were dating, I drove an old ’88 Chevy truck. When I got into the truck and slammed the door, the windshield bounced. The first time my husband (then boyfriend) did that, he frowned and said, “Uh, that shouldn’t do that.” I said, “It’s okay—it always does that.” He really didn’t think it was okay, but I was working full-time and we were busy in the evenings, so I didn’t have a few hours to let my truck sit around the shop. He was in classes, and he did have a bit of extra time.
One afternoon, he swung past my work, swapped his truck for my truck, took mine to the shop, sat there studying while they worked, and then brought it back again. And guess what? I had a shiny new windshield without any cracks in it—and it didn’t bounce when I slammed the door! I felt so loved that day.
Now, that was a case where he noticed the problem and fixed it. There have been many other times when I think something is a problem, but it doesn’t bother him. Instead of fuming that he hasn’t fixed it yet, I can mention to him; e.g., “I’d really like it if you could take the truck for an oil change this weekend” or “Would tonight be a good night for you to help me hang that shelf?” To me, it means much more that he went to get the groceries for me than that he brought home flowers or chocolates when he did.
My other love language is quality time. When we get busy with work or school, I start to feel distant from him. That’s a signal to me that I need to make time for him.
Knowing my love languages also helps me recognize when I’m feeling unloved and what I need to do about it. (Actually, I think it might have been feeling unloved that helped me recognize what my love language was and then realize what I could do to change that feeling.) It also helps me express my love to him and see that light in his eyes again because I’m speaking his language.
You can find out more about love languages (and take the quiz) online as well. This post contains affiliate links.