I’ve mentioned previously how much I enjoy publicly displaying affection (PDA) for my wife, Clara, citing the nature of its public claim. I enjoy showing the world that this beautiful woman is my wife in blatant ways. However, I’d be remiss to fail to address a much deeper, more vital reality at work in these actions.
What Are Love Languages?
This won’t come as any surprise to those who’ve read Gary Chapman’s now-classic bestseller The Five Love Languages, but each of us communicates love in a distinct way; it’s our “love language”. It’s how we naturally express our love, but more than that, it’s how we best interpret love expressed to us.
Our Love Languages
For example, my wife’s primary love language (many people have multiple, but they usually have a primary one that stands out) is quality time — she naturally expresses love to me by spending time with me, and she feels the most love from me when I’m intentionally investing quality time in her.
On the other hand, my love language is physical touch. This is far beyond sexual touch; this is physical contact of any sort. Hence my proclivity for PDA — it’s how I naturally express love for my wife (or my children, for that matter, or close friends with hugs, pats on the back, and the like).
But while I enjoy spending time with my wife, and while she enjoys my touch, the natural messages sent aren’t received at the same level. If I rest my hand on my life’s thigh at a restaurant, she might not even notice it. If she does, most likely it’ll be received as a merely comforting or sweet gesture — good things, certainly, but not nearly as intense as the love I’m putting into it. It’s just not her love language.
The Need for Communication
My duty as a loving husband is to go beyond my touchy-feely natural expressions and speak a language she does understand, even if I don’t speak it well. When I spend time with her, focused on her (her love language is quality time, not just spending time in the same room), she feels cherished and nourished (see Ephesians 5:29). It takes effort on my part unlike my expressions of physical touch which come instinctively as often as not, but it’s a thousand times more potent to her. You might think of it like nerve receptors; she just has more quality time receptors than physical touch receptors.
Likewise, I never feel more loved than when she runs fingers through my hair, kisses my cheek, or pulls me in close to hold her. I feel like a hero when she leans her head on my shoulder. I feel like a lover when she traces lines with fingertips across my chest. I feel like a stud when she kisses my arms, shoulders, or neck. Her touch is what touches me, and there is no substitute.
If you haven’t read The Five Love Languages with your spouse, you really should. It’s powerful in what it can reveal to you about each other and yourselves. It helped both of us realize how little we were really meeting each other’s emotional needs, though we might have felt we were emotionally pouring our hearts out for each other.
In speech, there’s a difference between expressing an idea and communicating an idea. Love is no different. It’s not enough for me to touch my wife; I must touch her. Likewise, if she wants to really touch me, she must touch me.
Originally posted 2015-11-16 08:00:45.