When Gary Chapman released his book, The Five Love Languages, it revolutionized how we think and talk about relationships. The concept of a “love language” quickly resonated with couples, pastors, and counselors around the globe. Over nearly two decades since the release of that seminal book, discussing your own love language and your spouse’s language has become common place. Unfortunately, the discussion surrounding love languages has tended to veer toward selfish indulgence, rather than unconditional acceptance.
The Language of Love
What we learn through the lens of love languages is that we experience love differently. While working hard for the family might be an expression of love for one person (act of service), it may not resonate with a spouse that primarily experiences love verbally (words of affirmation). Thus, it is important I learn to speak love in a way that my wife understands. This is superb insight, but it has a tendency to put the emphasis upon adapting ourselves to meet each others needs. This misses the mark. As important as it is to express love in a way that your husband or wife can understand, it is more important that you practice the universal love language.
The Universal Love Language
We each speak love a bit differently. Love is experienced as a combination of the five languages, with a strong preference for one or two. But there is a universal language of love that transcends all five. Grace.
Throughout God’s love story with the nation of Israel, there is a consistent thread of love – His grace.
From the parables of Jesus to the conversion of Paul, a common chorus of love rings out – His grace.
Gracious love delivered Israel repeatedly from their enemies.
Gracious love forgave Peter when he denied Christ three times.
Gracious love led Jesus to the cross to buy your freedom.
You might lean toward the love language of affection or quality time. Your mate might fluently speak words of affirmation or effortlessly perform acts of service. But the universal love language that we all understand…is grace.
The concept of a love language isn’t just about learning to love each other better. It’s also about graciously accepting your mate when you don’t feel loved.
Affection is my primary love language. I am well-known for my bear hugs and I have raised my children to be very comfortable with giving and receiving affection. Tammy, on the other hand, is not nearly as fluent in the language of affection. During Marriage 1.0 (our relationship prior to The Fall), this language gap was a significant source of friction for us. While she was constantly demonstrating love through acts of service and quality time, none of that felt like love to me. As God has redeemed our relationship in Marriage 2.0, what has emerged from the ashes is a bond rooted in grace.
My wife diligently works to speak my language of affection, but she doesn’t always hit the mark. Likewise, I fall short in speaking her language of quality time and words of affirmation. What we have learned through the process of healing and marriage renewal is that the gap between my expression of love and her expression of love is filled by the universal language of grace.
- Your mate fails to affectionately love you – give grace.
- You are longing to hear words of affirmation from your spouse – give grace.
- Time pressures rob you two of quality time together – give grace.
- It’s been a while since you’ve received loving gifts – give grace.
- Your mate has fallen short in demonstrating love through acts of service – give grace.
Grace is a balm for the heart, purely expressing love when words and actions fail to suffice.
I’m not suggesting that you settle for a loveless relationship. Communicate openly with your spouse. Freely share with each other how you most clearly experience love and then work hard to meet each other’s needs. But realize that you each will short of demonstrating that love consistently. When that happens, avoid the temptation to feel bitterness or keep some sort of ridiculous ledger of loving deposits in your mind. Instead, fill the void you experience with the grace and love that you have so freely received from your Heavenly Father. Your mate deserves no less.