From the Family Foundations archives
Learning to speak each other’s love language has been crucial for our marriage and it fits remarkably well with our practice of NFP!
When Maria and I were engaged, I learned early on that she loved to read self-improvement books — books on relationships, on faith, and when we were expecting our first child, she started reading parenting books. Me, I like to read theology books. Occasionally, she would hand me one of the books she was reading on relationships or such and I would roll my eyes at her…lovingly, of course. Eventually, we learned to compromise. She would read the books and share with me some important things she learned, and occasionally she would highlight sections for me to read. I would listen (most of the time) and diligently read the passages she’d selected for me.
One of the most memorable books we (OK, she) read was The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. IN his book he delineates the ways people give and receive love into five categories or languages. Of course, at first I rolled my eyes at this premise; after all, who needs a book on how to love? I love you. I hold you, and tell you I love you, and do loving things for you. Bada boom, bada bing, done. Or so I thought.
Over time, though, the concepts of the book began actualizing in our relationship. I started noticing that I’m constantly holding her hand, caressing her, hugging her. And when I want to express my love to her I fold the laundry, do the dishes, vacuum or fix something. It’s not that she doesn’t appreciate those things, because she does, but when Maria expresses love she really wants nothing more than to sit and talk and spend quality time together, or she seeks out ways to serve our family. You see, I give and receive love through physical touch and acts of service while Maria needs quality time and service. For both of us words of affirmation fall somewhere in the middle, and fortunately for our budget, neither of us express love though gift-giving or receiving.
My point is this: learning to speak each other’s love language has been crucial for our marriage and it fits so remarkably well with our practice of NFP! In those times of abstinence, I know how to go out of my way to spend quality time with Maria, as this is crucial for her to still experience love from me. So I do this even though my introverted nature ardently rebels against it. On her part, she strives to be more aware of holding my hand and giving the small caresses of physical touch that I crave, and I know that her doing this does not come easily for her. On the assessment scale of 1 to 20, she scored a 0 on the need for physical touch…ouch! Literally.
Whether you read this book or not isn’t important. What is important is that you communicate with your spouse. The fact that you’re reading this article in this magazine means you want a good marriage (if not a great one). And as NFP helps us realize, the best marriages have a foundation of self-gift and communication. While I’m still not the best at it, I know that talking with y wife and seeking to love her as she needs is of the utmost importance.
Many guys I know are like me and would scoff at reading a self-improvement book or attending a marriage enrichment class, much less seek counseling just for the sake of improving their marriage. But I’ve come to learn guys like this (including me!) do so to their own detriment and to the detriment of their marriage. This doesn’t mean I jump at every chance to do all of these things, but I am getting better at putting aside my own desires to better love my wife, to speak her language of love. And isn’t that part of what NFP is all about: learning to give yourself wholeheartedly, even when you don’t feel like it?
— Michael Gagnon is a father of three, a Catholic youth minister from Georgia, and a columnist for CCL’s Family Foundations magazine. He blogs at AwkardCatholic.com.
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