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.

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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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How To Maintain A High-Maintenance Marriage

Is your marriage high-maintenance?

My initial reaction to that question was an indignant, “of course not!”.

I definitely have Miss Piggy qualities, but Tim’s Kermit temperament keeps our relationship fairly even keel.  To me, high-maintenance is demanding, troublesome, and exhausting. I certainly wouldn’t describe my marriage with those words.

But, what if high-maintenance is more universal than personalities?

Marriage is a rich and rewarding relationship, but developing a healthy marriage takes effort.  Growth is not passive. I’m discovering just how important it is for both Tim and I to take an active role in making our marriage thrive. Carrying on in marriage maintenance mode will barely scratch the surface of God’s purpose for our lives together.

Developing a thriving marriage requires our attention. It takes work to keep a marriage in good condition. Isn’t that what being high-maintenance is really about?

If a high-maintenance marriage is about working hard, being intentional, and having a grace-filled attitude, then I want a high-maintenance marriage.

Please join me and a few friends as we look at a few aspects of marriage that really need to be high-maintenance. Every Monday in the month of February we will take on one of these topics.

Kayse Pratt, the brain child of this collaborative series, Monica Steely, Kelly, and I are looking forward to this marriage conversation, starting with communication on February 4th!

 

Listen up, it’s Luke!

service&prayer

I like Luke.

He’s a doctor – always a plus.

He’s a details guy – and isn’t ashamed of his knack for keeping facts straight.

He’s confident – not ashamed to share his gifts.

In a letter to Theophilus, he makes a bold statement:

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very frist, to write to you an orderly account…that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. {Luke 1:3-4}

I don’t know about Theophilus, but I’m paying attention!

With that type of introduction, you better believe I’m going to note every detail Luke records.

Luke1-3-4Luke doesn’t begin his Gospel account with Jesus, but with the birth narrative of John the Baptist. I picture John’s soon-to-be parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth, as the older couple at church who immediately give you grandparent vibes.  Their faith was time tested and earnest, their hearts full of a genuine love for God.

But, they didn’t have kids.  Children seemed like a dream of the past since they were both pretty old.  God performs a miracle in Elizabeth’s barren womb and she gives birth to the man who would “go before [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

In just a few paragraphs, Luke shares these happenings and I’m struck by the details he deems important enough to include. Luke pays attention to the circumstances surrounding Gabriel, an angel of the the Lord, appearing to Zacharias to tell him the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy- therefore, so do I.

  • “So it was, that while he was serving…” (1:8) – Zacharias was fulfilling his priestly duties.  He was actively doing what God had called him to do – serve in the temple.  I may not be a priest, but I am certainly called to serve God, serve the body of Christ, and serve my family. Am I doing that actively, regardless of my current circumstances?
  • “And the whole multitude of people was praying outside…” (1:10) – Last time I checked, a multitude was a whole ton of people.  This large group of people weren’t chatting or sitting idly, they were praying.  God is visible through prayer.  I need to pray.  We need to pray.  Do I live a lifestyle of prayer?  Am I encouraging my community to pray?

Luke used 15 percent of this story to communicate these actions.  He could have focused on Elizabeth’s feelings or the town’s reaction.  Instead, he devotes space in his narrative to emphasize the power of service and prayer.

Waiting Q & A

As part of my 31 Days of Letter series last month, I wrote a letter to high school ladies about being patient while God orchestrates their love life.

However, the encouragement to wait for God’s timing isn’t limited to highschoolers and waiting doesn’t only apply to romantic relationships.

My romantic history taught me the importance of giving God control of my desires.  I’m still learning. I seek to be open-handed with my plans so that God can change them, replace them, or completely erase them at His will not mine.

I got an email from one of my favorite high school ladies with a great question that I wanted to answer here in case others had similar ponderings.

She wrote:

I was wondering – you said  “Waiting is hard, but don’t let the difficulty of waiting distract you from pursuing God whole heartedly.”

Sometimes when I am waiting for something I do get distracted on the thing I want.

Any sugestions as to how I might try to be more focused on God??

I definitely failed more than I succeeded in this department.  In hindsight, I do know what I wish I would have done more often to combat that antsy, agitated state of waiting.

Disclaimer: I have been the recipient of all of this advice.  I did my fair share of eye rolling because it seemed like I was getting a lecture straight out of Sunday School 101.  Sometimes I followed it; sometimes I poo-poo’d it.  If only I could take back every time I poo-poo’d it… 

The key is to distract yourself from being distracted.  Confusing?  Aren’t you trying to avoid distraction? Well, yes.  But, the effectiveness of this strategy is WHAT you distract yourself with.

Distract yourself with God and you’ll be well on your way to being more focused on Him.

Pray – Cry to God.  Yell at God.  Confess to God.  Ask questions of God.  Thank God.  Submit to God.  I found it very therapeutic to be honest with the One who knows my heart more intimately than I do.  Praying may not yield a change in your circumstances, but growing intimacy with God changes your attitude about your circumstances.  The best way to foster intimacy is to communicate.

If words escape you, start praying the Psalms.  David and the other Psalmists struggled with the same anxieties we face.  Let their words spark some dialogue between you and God. (Try these: Psalm 27, 37, 39, 130)

Listen – I always rebelled against this step in the process.  I listened – I just listened to the wrong voices.  My heart and mind were rowdy with hurt and frustration. Those voices weren’t helpful, but they were a way to justify my feelings.

Listening to God required silence, which is the antithesis of what I wanted to accompany my waiting.  Silence made the wait seem stark and never-ending. Learn to be still in order to hear the still small voice of God.  Quieting my heart and mind made space for me to accept God’s comfort and peace.

Serve – Pour into others.  Waiting can become really internally focused. Selfishness is one of the most destructive qualities in relationships.  It’s best to start weeding that out of your life ASAP.  Being active for God’s glory is a great way to start making selflessness a habit.

No matter how much you want to be in a relationship, the “single season” should not be wished away.  I missed out on deepening friendships and creating richer community because I was focused on what I didn’t have instead of the gifts God had already provided.

I also let my single status slip away without maximizing the time I had, for lack of a less cliche phrase, to better myself.  I could have given Tim the gift of a more patient, kind, selfless wife.

Bottom line: Get distracted by God, not the difficulty of waiting.  Enjoy the single season – you most likely won’t get it back.

How do you stay focused on God in the midst of waiting?