Thursday, October 21, 2010

Love Messages Gone Astray

My husband, Bev, and I celebrated our 30th anniversary this week. What a journey it has been! I think marriage is the wheel that God, the Master Potter, uses to build and shape us into the work of art He intends us to be. Merging two lives into one is never easy. We’ve had to learn a lot of lessons along the way, some of them more difficult than others.

We’d been married about 10 years and we were going through an unsettled time. We weren’t dealing with conflict but there was an ongoing sense of frustration, discontent and just plain unhappiness in our marriage. When we finally got around to talking about it we discovered that both of us were feeling like we were the only one putting any effort into the relationship. We felt unloved, unappreciated, and worst of all, that we were somehow a disappointment to one another. The initial conversation was extremely difficult. I am an emotional being and I reacted to the whole thing with a lot of fear, pain, and anger…not exactly productive. Bless Bev for being willing to try again after we’d had a chance to process things with God.

Someone loaned us a copy of “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and it was a revelation. The premise is that every person is unique in how they give and receive love. They speak their own love language and it may or may not be the same language that you speak. He talks about five different ways that people express and recognize love. They are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

A little self analysis began to bring some clarity into what we were experiencing. I was expressing love to my husband every day through acts of service and yet he was feeling unloved. The message was getting lost in translation. He was attempting to express love through physical touch and I was interpreting it as need. What I really wanted was for him to bring me a cup of coffee from time to time. We weren’t speaking the same language. We had to learn to recognize and value the expressions of love that we’d been completely overlooking up to that point. We also had to commit to learning to express ourselves in new ways, ways that would have maximum meaning to the one receiving.

We learned to see each other’s hearts in the everyday exchanges in our lives. We learned to deeply appreciate the many various ways our love reveals itself, both the natural and the learned. It’s made an unbelievable difference. The distance that had been developing between us through misunderstanding disappeared. It takes work to speak in a language that doesn’t come naturally but that’s what commitment is all about. It may not be easy or even comfortable but the results are truly worth the effort.

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