Hug Me: Learning Your Husband’s Love Language

Tim and I had our first love language conversation on June 13th, 2012. I remember the date because it’s my brother’s birthday AND because it was the first time, 3 days after we started dating, that Tim and I held hands.

The glorious feeling of his warm, strong fingers circling my own, always cold, hand may have influenced my love language conclusions during that first discussion.

I readily stated that among words of affirmation and acts of service, one of my love languages was physical touch. I figured that heady feeling whenever Tim wrapped his arm around me or kissed my forehead was a sure sign I heard love through physical affection.

My conclusions were sorely misguided.

Tim, on the other hand, was completely accurate when he said his love language was physical touch. This discrepancy has been a source of struggle for me since we got married. I love Tim, but I like to love him the way I love in general – through words of affirmation and acts of service – not through physical touch.

I do my love for Tim a diservice by not speaking his love language. It’s also dangerous if Tim doesn’t hear my love. I’ve learned that one of the greatest acts of service you can give your husband is learning his love language and speaking it fluently.

Service takes sacrifice and it’s a sacrifice to put his love language above the one you naturally give. It’s so challenging, yet so worth it.

Hug Me!

Our Story: Hug Me!

As I shared above, I discovered the importance of learning Tim’s love language when I realized ours were so vastly different. I’m an internal processor, so when I’m upset or frustrated, I’d rather be alone. I’ll avoid physical contact or, if Tim captures me in a hug before I can cold shoulder my way out of it, I’ll stand there lifeless in his arms. (I’m cringing as I admit this.)

In those moments, when an intentional display of physical affection is intrusive to my processing, Tim needs that hug or hand on his back to know that we are alright. For Tim, physical touch is less about sexual intimacy and more about physical closeness. Hugs feel safe and reassuring.  Holding hands or rubbing his neck communicates the “good” status of our relationship. Without these, he feels isolated and unloved.

It was disheartening to realize that the way I deal with conflict and express my affection both communicated the exact opposite of love to Tim. Learning Tim’s love language has been difficult for me, and actually speaking it is a daily choice that I don’t always choose. Both Tim and I are just embarking on the journey of learning to speak each other’s love languages.

The Choice To Serve

Whether love languages is new to you or old news, serving your husband in this way is vitally important to maintaining a healthy marriage.

  • Have a candid conversation about love languages. Get the book if you need somewhere to start. Share how you give and receive love.
  • Be honest and specific about your love language. It’s important that you both recognize each others expressions of love. Finish sentences like: “Love is when I do…” and “Love is when I say…”.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate your husband’s love language. You can’t change the way your spouse is wired. God made him that way.
  • Accept love from his love language. I know I’m suggesting that spouses should learn and speak their partner’s love language, but your husband may not be there quite yet. If he isn’t speaking your love language, pray for receptivity towards the way he gives love. Grace is an important player as you learn to give and receive love.
  • Be intentional about learning his love language. It’s not something that will come naturally. For me, this looks like reaching out first, random acts of physical affection, and, in conflict, staying physically present.
  • Practice! When I studied abroad in Italy, I didn’t learn to speak Italian in the classroom.  I learned Italian by living with an Italian family, having conversation dates with an Italian friend, and forcing myself to use Italian while ordering my cappuccino. It was rough and embarrassing at first, but by the time I left Italy, I was conversationally fluent. The same goes for learning a love language. It takes time and practice in real life situations, but fluency is possible.

All of this is still difficult for me. I outlined this post on Sunday morning and then failed miserably at exactly what I was writing about almost immediately. Hence the need for grace in this whole process.

Apology and HUGS later, I was even more convinced that speaking Tim’s love language was one of the best ways to serve my husband.

~~~

Pop on over to these blogs to read what they have to say about service in marriage:

Check out the other posts in this series: CommunicationLaughter. Sex

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18 thoughts on “Hug Me: Learning Your Husband’s Love Language

  1. I love this! You and I are very similar in our reactions. I was thinking as I wrote my post that I wanted to talk about love languages. I couldn’t have done it as well as you did it though! I still don’t get it right when it comes to this after 9 years.

    BTW, I’m still doing the marriage series too! ;)

    1. I have a feeling I’ll be trying and trying again with the love languages for many years to come. Just within that last couple days, I’ve had ample opportunities to speak Tim’s love language and chose not to. Ugh. More prayer.

  2. Beautiful example of service. I love how you admitted that you stand there lifeless. I sometimes get in a similar mood. I am not interested in hugs when I’m angry but he is. And we wonder why marriage can be difficult!! Love this. Thanks for sharing and being transparent.

  3. Em, You are so right. This is such an important aspect of marriage. You have such wisdom considering the short amount of time you have been married. Keep up the good work. ~Sally

  4. Finally discovering the Love Language of your spouse can be one of those “DUH” moments! Learning how to speak it fluently takes lots and lots of practice. And, I too, can lifelessly stand there when I’m caught in a bear hug that I didn’t ask for. Words of Affirmation girls can get like that if we’re not careful.

  5. Yes! Thinking about my husband’s love language is so not second nature to me but so, so important to him. My love language is touch, so he’s learned that if we’re arguing and he doesn’t hug me once we’ve resolved it, I don’t feel like it’s really resolved. His primary love language is words of affirmation, which can be hard for me because I’m not a big talker. Remembering to praise him verbally isn’t easy but it’s such a big deal to him!

    1. Audrey, you and your hubs are the opposite of Tim and I. Thanks for weighing in because it helps to know what other touch people need. I think Tim would be shocked if I voluntarily hugged him after an argument. I NEED to do that more often! Praying for fluency :)

  6. Emily,

    I can totally relate to this post…J my husband, is like your Tim. Needs that hug or hand hold to know that “we’re ok” I would much rather not talk about it, walk away from it and not give in. It’s such a great reminder to know that doing those things for J is a service.

    Thank you for your honesty and heart!

    1. Are there any specific ways you and J work that difference out in your marriage? Inquiring minds need all the help they can get :)

  7. Oh em I’m so glad i read this! I forever felt like I was married to someone who was more like a friend or brother. I am like Tim. I view the physical as a way to show love and how I feel loved. A hand rubbing your knee, on the small of your back, holding hands, ect After reading the 5 love languahes we learned that dust shows his love by doing. He is a great helper. He shows his love by helping with the girls, taking care of stuff around the house, ect.

    I also think a lot of it is a learned behavior. My parents are very open with their intimacy, (they’ll hug and kiss frequently in front of us) where as his parents are very private. (This came from the suggestion of our pastor… But it makes sense!)

    Communication is soooo important. I love this book, it helped us so much. I’m glad it’s helped you and Tim as well :) I love reading your blogs I can relate to them on so many levels :)

    1. Yeah, the book is worth reading for every couple, I think! I still don’t succeed with speaking Tim’s love language fluently, but I try :)

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