Everyone has a primary love language—a way of expressing devotion and affection that touches us deep inside, occasionally puts a goofy grin on our face, and leaves no doubt that we are truly and spectacularly loved. As you probably deduced from the title of this book, there are five basic love languages:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Gift Giving
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
One of them is an expressway to your wife’s heart. That’s not to say she won’t respond politely to one or more of the other languages, especially if she sees you making a real effort. Ultimately
On the other hand, when you express your love for your wife using her primary love language, it’s like hitting the sweet spot on a baseball bat or golf club. It just feels right—and the results are impressive.
How to Become Fluent in Words of Affirmation (Love Language #1)
Words can pack a punch. If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that the right words, spoken at the right time by the right person, can inspire people to do the unlikely, the improbable, and in some cases, the near impossible.
The real power of words lies in their ability to fill people’s love tanks. If your wife’s primary love language is words of affirmation, that power is at your fingertips—or, more specifically, at the tip of your tongue.
Want to set a powerful and lasting example for your kids? Tell them how great their mother is. Be specific, genuine, and generous with your praise. Leave no doubt as to how blessed you are to be her husband.
Done right, your words may inspire your sons to heap similar affirmation on their wives when they get married—and inspire your daughters to look for husbands who will do the same for them.
Speaking kindly to your wife means making sure your words and tone align. Seems like a simple thing, but it can be a challenge for a lot of guys. From an early age, we’re conditioned to wield words like weapons. Sarcasm comes easily to us. We use taunts to good-naturedly (and sometimes not-so-good-naturedly) give others the business. If we’re standing in a tee box with a friend/competitor who’s just sliced his drive two fairways over, it takes real restraint not to say something like, “Nicely played, Tiger.”
- Don’t just say, “You look good.” Say, “That’s a nice color on you” or “I like your hair that way.” Compliment a different physical feature each day this week.
- Make a habit of mentioning something specific you’ve observed that has to do with who she is. Examples: “I meant to tell you, I really loved how you talked with that elderly woman after church.” Or, “I enjoy taking walks with you. You always point out interesting things.”
- Add your own observations that might help your wife identify her skills and strengths. For example, “I’ve never heard you express an interest in teaching, but from the way you handle the kids, I think you would make a terrific teacher.”
How to Become Fluent in Quality Time (Love Language #2)
If you’re married to a native quality time speaker, you should feel at least a little flattered. Your wife isn’t looking for words of affirmation or gifts or acts of service. She just wants you. She will experience love and affection—she will feel genuinely cared for—simply by sharing some of your precious time. A half hour here, an hour there, or a weekend on occasion is enough to keep her love tank filled.
Provided it’s the right kind of time.
The key to becoming fluent in the quality time love language is establishing the right mindset. The key to establishing the right mindset is focused attention.
Some husbands and wives think they’re spending time together when, in reality, they’re only living in close proximity. They’re in the same house at the same time, but they’re not together. A husband who is texting while his wife tries to talk to him isn’t giving her quality time, because she doesn’t have his full attention.
- Maintain eye contact when your wife is talking. That keeps your mind from wandering and communicates that she has your full attention.
- Don’t listen to your wife and do something else at the same time. Remember, quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. If you’re doing something you can’t turn from immediately, tell your wife the truth. A positive approach might be, “I know you’re trying to talk to me, and I’m interested, but I want to give you my full attention. I can’t do that right now, but if you’ll give me ten minutes to finish this, I’ll sit down and listen to you.” Most wives will respect such a request.
- Listen for feelings. Ask yourself, “What emotion is my wife experiencing?” When you think you have the answer, confirm it. For example, “It sounds to me like you’re feeling disappointed because I forgot ￼.” That gives her the chance to clarify her feelings. It also communicates that you’re listening intently to what she’s saying.
- Observe body language. Clenched fists, trembling hands, tears, furrowed brows, and eye movement may give you clues as to what she’s feeling. Sometimes body language speaks one message while words speak another. Ask for clarification to make sure you know what she’s really thinking and feeling.
- Refuse to interrupt. If you give your undivided attention while your wife is talking, you will refrain from defending yourself, hurling accusations, or dogmatically stating your position. Your goal will be to discover your wife’s thoughts and feelings
How to Become Fluent in Gift Giving (Love Language #3)
A person whose primary love language is gift giving is not necessarily a materialistic person. Her aim is not to amass a collection of valuables but rather to surround herself with reminders of her loved one’s affection. The cost and worth of the presents are incidental to her. When it comes to the gift giving love language, it truly is the thought that counts.
A gift is something they can hold in their hands as they say, “Look, he was thinking of me.” Therein lies the appeal. You have to think of someone before you give her a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What’s important is that you thought of her—that you took the time to consider what would make her happy and then followed through.
Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give if your spouse’s primary love language is gift giving. Your body becomes the symbol of your love. Remove the symbol, and the sense of love evaporates.
- Keep an eye open for spontaneous, unexpected gifts—from street flower vendors, roadside fruit or crafts dealers, or a favorite ice-cream shop on a hot day. Make sure they’re all things she would appreciate.
- If she loves gift shops or housewares stores, let her browse without your grousing or getting restless.
- If she has a favorite game show or reality program, think of ways you might provide a personalized version just for her. If she loves home-design shows, for example, give her a budget and help from a friend, and let her redesign one of the rooms in your house.
- If you have an artistic bent, create a rendering of her in charcoal, watercolors, oils, clay, or some other medium
- Offer your “gift of presence” during an especially hard time in her life—perhaps when she’s visiting a very sick friend, caring for an elderly parent, or dealing with a job crisis.
How to Become Fluent in Acts of Service (Love Language #4)
When it comes to acts of service, you’re not judged by the amount of time you put in or even by how hard you work. You’re judged by your effectiveness—the impact you have.
For maximum impact, your acts of service should be done with eagerness, an excitement to do something meaningful for your wife. They should be done with good humor, even the ones that take you way, way, way out of your comfort zone. And they should be done with humility. Don’t call attention to yourself while you’re performing them. Don’t make a big deal about them afterward. Refuse to play the hero card or the martyr card. Remember who you’re doing them for and why
Of the five love languages, acts of service seems to have the most potential for abuse—or at least the perception of abuse. A wife with less-than-noble intentions could conceivably convince her husband to do just about anything for her, all in the name of love.
- Think of something she would never expect. Take the dog to the groomer, reorganize the basement to make room for her home business files, clean out the pantry and kitchen cabinets.
- Make dinner. Really cook it, and don’t forget the vegetables. Then clean up, and don’t forget to wipe the stove.
- Consider how you might serve someone (or something) your wife loves, whether it’s a friend, a family member, a fellow churchgoer, or a favorite cause.
How to Become Fluent in Physical Touch (Love Language #5)
For many guys, physical touch is a huge part of growing up. Left to their own devices, boys can make a contact sport out of any game, activity, or car ride.
If your wife’s primary love language is physical touch, think of her as a “supertoucher.” She can sense love and affection—among other things—in the slightest arm squeeze or back caress. Physical contact that wouldn’t even register with most people has the potential to thrill her, change her mood, brighten her day, and—most importantly—make her feel loved and cared for.
Of course, not all touches are created equal. Some will bring more pleasure to her than others. Your best instructor is the one being touched, of course—in this case, your wife. After all, she’s the one you’re seeking to love. She knows best what she perceives as a loving touch. Don’t insist on touching her in your way and in your time. Learn to speak her love dialect.
Like it or not, your wife may find some touches uncomfortable or irritating. To continue using those touches is to communicate the opposite of love—to suggest that you’re not sensitive to her needs and that you care little about her perceptions of what’s pleasant. The fact that a certain kind of touch brings pleasure to you doesn’t mean it will—or should—bring pleasure to your wife.
If a back massage communicates love loudly to your wife, then any time, money, and energy you spend in learning to be a good masseur will be well invested. If sexual intercourse is indeed your wife’s primary dialect, nothing should stop you from becoming the best lover you can possibly be for her.
- Make touching your wife a normal part of your routine. Run your fingers through her hair while she’s reading. Touch her shoulder as she works in the kitchen. Even the smallest acts can build intimacy over time.
- Make a point of hugging and kissing your wife when you say goodbye in the morning, when you come home in the evening, and before you go to bed at night. It’s easy to let these rituals slide, particularly when you’ve been married for a while.
- Set aside an evening for some touch experiments to determine where your wife most likes to be touched. As you move from spot to spot, ask her to give you a thumbs-up, a thumbs-down, or an indifferent thumb sideways to indicate her reaction. Make a mental note of the spots that get a thumbs-up.