What is Your Primary Love Language?

Couple under umbrella

Love is a verb, not a feeling

As a marriage coach and mentor, couples ask me what one book I would recommend that would help them have a strong and lasting marriage.  Without a doubt, my answer is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. From my perspective, this book is a must-read for any couple who is seriously dating, engaged, or even married.  People who are single and will begin dating or are dating can also greatly benefit by investing the time to understand the key principles that satisfy their needs and build love in connection.

The concept of the love languages is incredibly powerful in its simplicity. What are these 5 love languages? Chapman (2015) lists them as (1) quality time, (2) acts of service, (3) words of affirmation, (4) gifts, and (5) physical touch.  He proposes that everyone needs to receive a least a little of each language but that one has at least one or two primary languages.  When people do not receive the bulk of their love through their primary love languages, they will not feel truly loved or connected with their partner.

Without understanding the concept of these five love languages, people love others in the languages that predominately speak to them.  For example, if a man has the primary love languages of quality time and physical touch, he will feel love and connection by holding hands, hugging, and kissing while enjoying a festival without the distraction of phones and social media.  If his partner feels love primarily through gifts and acts of service, she will likely enjoy spending time with him but will feel more loved by receiving a bouquet of flowers while he offers to take out her trash before they head out on their date.

There is no better or worse love language, and none of the love languages have a gender bias. Communicating your primary languages and purposefully acting in ways that align with his or hers will grow and deepen the relationship. Love is not necessarily a feeling but a verb, the act of loving your partner in the ways that speak love to him or her.

Some couples ask me whether you should partner with someone who has the same primary love languages.  The truth?  Plenty of people, who do not have the same primary love languages, have wildly successful marriages.  For those who overlap in their top languages, loving each other is easy as love is given and received in the same way.  Naturally effortless!  If your primary love languages are different, it will likely take more conscious thought, energy, and effort, but hopefully after practice, it becomes second nature.  I encourage you to buy the book, take the quiz at the end, tell your partner of your primary languages, and start loving your partner in their desired love languages.

Reference

Chapman, G. (2015). The five love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

Planning for a Successful Marriage?

Husband and wife on bedMost couples plan for their perfect wedding but often overlook planning for a successful marriage.  It is not uncommon for a bride and groom to spend more on their wedding day than purposefully investing in their marriage over its lifetime.  Parrott and Parrott (2015) found that less than 20% of all American couples had any type of formal marriage preparation, and research showed that about half of newlyweds reported serious marital problems and had doubts whether their marriages would last.  Husbands and wives enter marriage with a set of personal needs and expectations in how they will be fulfilled by their spouse.  In many cases, these needs and expectations are unspoken, result from life experiences and family dynamics, and are biologically driven.  Some couples are not in tune with their needs; whereas, others are apprehensive in asking for fear of rejection.  A few husbands and wives have the unrealistic expectation that if their spouse really loved them, they would know what their needs were and act upon them.  Since it is unlikely that most spouses read minds, I would suggest that it is never too late to schedule a quiet date, where a couple can ask powerful questions about needs and expectations.

If you are considering that date, it might be helpful to understand some typical gender differences in marital needs.    These insights may help you better understand your spouse and why sometimes s/he acts in ways that confuse or frustrate you.  With awareness, empathy, and sharing, I pray you can get more of your needs met in marriage.  Love is the willingness to hear and try to meet your partner’s needs.  As my husband says to me, “Let me know what you need. If it’s not illegal or immoral, I’m on it!”

What does a wife need?

Many men confusingly ask, “What do women really want?”  Research conducted by Markman and Kraft (1989) found that a wife’s most basic needs in marriage are to be cherished, be understood, and be respected.  In my coaching experience, I often hear women say they need to feel safe in their marriages.  I would suggest that their concept of “safety” is weaved into their needs of being understood and respected.

A woman typically feels cherished, when she knows a husband puts her first among family, friends, and interests.  She believes when push comes to shove her husband will choose her.  The research also shows that when a wife believes she is cherished, she encourages her husband to pursue the things he enjoys (Parrott & Parrott, 2015).  Men who cherish their wives not only show their wives but tell them they love them, especially when “words of affirmation” is a primary love language.

A woman feels understood when her feelings are validated and accepted (Parrott & Parrott, 2015).  Men are biologically predisposed to speak less words and focus on solving problems.  Husbands validate their wives by just listening to them share their feelings and struggles without solving their problems.

Wives need to feel as if they are equal partners in their marriages.  Husbands can respect their wives by supporting their dreams and goals.  When women do not feel respected by their husbands, they tend to feel insecure, unworthy, and may suffer depression.

Without awareness of female-driven needs, husbands will try to love their wives in the ways that they feel loved.  The same is true of wives’ approach in loving their husbands.  Wives also need to understand their husbands’ basic needs, so they can love their husbands in ways that uplift their marriages.

What does a husband need?

God has a sense of humor.  What was He thinking when he designed Adam and Eve, man and women, or he and she.  Obviously, humans with enough similarities to be attracted to each other and enough differences to keep the relationship interesting.  Men are not only physically and mentally different in their hard-wiring than women, their basic marriage needs are as well.  The research by Parrott and Parrott (2015) suggest that wives should focus their efforts on satisfying their husbands’ needs to be admired, to have autonomy, and of enjoyment in shared activity with their spouses.

Men need words of encouragement from their wives in how they are meeting their needs.  Contrary to women who will try harder to get admiration, men tend to lose motivation to try and choose to focus on something else that brings them that positive reinforcement.  A wife should never resort to false praise but verbalizing specific behaviors to her husband that would please her and intentionally recognizing her pleasure when he acts will help to bridge the gap.

Wives tend to use words to draw closer, but sometimes husbands need autonomy to regroup before they can engage in marital conversation.  I learned this the hard way in my first marriage, when I would immediately start to vent the details of my work day to my husband upon walking into our home.  My husband, wHis vs Her Needsho had an equally stressful day, needed to go to his “man cave” for half an hour, before he could have conversation.

A common compliant I hear men express during marital coaching is their deep desire to have their wives join them or share in a hobby together. Men typically comment, “I wish my wife would (1) join me fishing, (2) travel with me on business, or (3) come to one of my softball games….”   Men connect with their wives by doing things together, even if it is just sitting on the coach together watching a movie.  Men bond to their wives through recreation; whereas, women feel intimacy by talking, sharing vulnerable moments, and cuddling.

What’s next?

Neither set of gender needs is right or wrong.  Instead, understanding the differences will hopefully make you realize that your spouse is not intentionally ignoring your needs. They are just focused on loving you in the way they feel loved.  You may already be aware of these differences.  If not, hopefully you have more insight.  Awareness is measured on a continuum, and wherever you are on that line, consider setting up a date to explore these gender differences.  Review the sets of basic needs and share your answers to the following questions:

  1. For each of the gender needs discussed, how much does this basic need hold true for you?
  2. For each need, on a scale of 1-10 (10=highest), how well is your spouse satisfying that need? Provide examples that support your score?
  3. Give examples of how your spouse could strengthen that need for you?
  4. Pick at least one of your spouse’s needs that you will commit to focus on and describe how you will do it.

References

Markman, H. & Kraft, S. (1989). Men and women in marriage: Dealing with gender differences in marital therapy. The Behavior Therapist, 12, p. 51-56.

Parrott, L. & Parrott, L. (2015). Saving your marriage before it starts. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  You can contact her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to determine whether an investment in coaching might be right for you.

How to Create a Passionate and Purposeful Marriage?

Marriage on MissionWhen I ask couples why they are getting married or why they chose their partner, they typically reply with phrases such as “because I love her,” “he’s my best friend,” “she’ll make a great wife and mother,” and “he has a great sense of humor.”  These personal attributes and feelings are all wonderful ingredients for a happy marriage.  When I ask the next question, “What is the purpose of your marriage?” the answer comes in a quizzical look.  Many couples have not answered this second question for themselves, having been captivated by their “in love” feelings for each other.  Helmenstine (2017) claims that oxytocin and endorphins fuel feelings of love for 18 months to 4 years.  When the love chemicals dissipate, what will excite and sustain your marriage?

Keeping the marriage alive!

Those who enter marriage blindly typically do not fare as well as couples who seek premarital coaching.  Parrott and Parrott (2016) share that ~ 40% of divorced couples claim that lack of pre-marriage preparation contributed to their divorce.  The unfortunate statistics are that 20% of first marriages end in divorce within 5 years and 32% by 10 years (Avvo, 2010).  The statistics are even higher for couples who marry more than once.  For the average couple the love chemicals are replaced with feelings of attachment and comfort.  Couples who thrive typically do so by adopting behaviors that love their spouse and reflect their marriage purpose.  Chapman (2015) asserts that love is not a feeling but a verb in which spouses should intentionally love their partners in ways that speak to them.  I propose that intentional love can be taken to a higher level by co-creating a marriage mission statement.

What is a marriage mission statement?

God has designed you for a purpose, and He has also called our marriages into a purpose?  If you are married, are you living out your mission?  Companies, ministries, and even individuals have mission statements, so why should your marriage be any different? The purpose of a marriage mission statement is to get clarity on what is important to you, help set a direction for your marriage, and provide grounding and guiding boundaries by which to live.

Now if you are saying, “It’s too late for us, because we’ve been married over 20 years,” I would respond that it is never too late to invest in your marriage.  Why?  Because a marriage mission is not about the past or present but entirely on a future vision.  What do you want your marriage to become?  Creating a marriage mission statement together is fun!  Plan for a series of dates where the two of you spend quality time asking each other questions and sharing your deepest desires.

How do we write a marriage mission statement?

Your mission statement is as uniquely created as you are with the freedom to design its content, length, and style.  The only criteria are it should excite you, align you as a couple, and give you sufficient clarity to know that you are living it.  A recommended approach to build the content is to answer and discuss a series of questions intended to help you define a vision and explore values.  If your marriage mission does not reflect your core values, the statement will likely be empty words on a piece of paper.  Common elements in a mission statement may include a vision, values, dreams, goals, and actions that support its purpose.  When you discuss your marriage vision and values, your mission and goals will tend to fill in the gaps to bring your statement to life.

Below is a sampling of questions to stimulate your thinking and conversation.  Do not let this list inhibit you from exploring other questions.  Your answers should reflect your passions and feelings involving God, family, community, and others.

Vision

  • Describe your ideal marriage. What elements, conditions, activities, and behaviors would describe it?
  • What do you dream of accomplishing? How would a marriage union help achieve that?
  • How has God spoken into the future for your life and marriage?
  • If your children were asked to describe your marriage, how would you want them to be able to answer?

Values

  • What causes are you willing to fight for?
  • What are some of your core values?
  • What are your non-negotiable behaviors?
  • Where do you invest the best of your time, energy, and money?

Mission

  • What Scriptures speak to your heart? How does God fit into your marriage mission?
  • What are you excited and passionate to share alongside your spouse?
  • What activities and accomplishments would describe your ideal marriage?
  • What do you want to teach your children through your marriage relationship?

Living out your marriage mission!

Once you have a mission statement that reflects and excites you as a couple, think of short- and long-term goals that reflect that mission.  What actionable steps can you take to move into your mission?  Take time to pray to God to ask Him what he would like you to do.  Ideally, you may want to select a Scripture that speaks to your marriage!

How will you share your marriage mission?

Dillon Marriage MissionI pray that you have fun creating a marriage mission statement, but I would suggest you do not stop there.  Your statement is a living and breathing manifestation of your future dreams.  Could you use an accountability partner?  I suggest you share your mission statement with other couples.  Find those who are equally passionate about their marriage to join you, or perhaps be a mentor to a couple who wants to take the same journey.  Get together twice a year, review your mission statements, and share how you are or are not realizing your goals.  Make it a double or triple date, share your successes and challenges, and be sure to ask for support.

When should we refresh our marriage mission statement?

Life and marriage are a journey of unexplored roads.  Your marriage mission statement may need to be tweaked when you reach major life milestones such as having a child, changes in career paths, and empty-nesting.  With many couples spending more on their wedding ceremony than they do investing in their marriage, I pray you will take the time to plan for the glorious purpose of your marriage.  What do you want to accomplish with your soulmate?  What do you want your marriage to reflect back into the world?  Your choices will decide!

References

Avvo. (2010). Marriage and divorce statistics. Retrieved from https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/marriage-divorce-statistics

Chapman, G. (2015). The five love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Chicago, IL; Northfield Publishing.

Helmenstine, A. (2017). The chemicals of love: Love chemicals and chemistry of love. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-chemistry-of-love-609354

Parrott, L. & Parrott, L. (2016). Saving your marriage before it starts assessment: Facilitator training manual.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and pre-marital/marriage.  Contact: sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com