Speaking a New Language

There are nights when I work late, sometimes not touching the cold January door knob of my home until 8:45 PM. Meanwhile one of my daughters fights off sleep to wait up for me. She listens for my whisper as I walk in the house, “Are the girls asleep yet?” The next thing my wife and I hear is a call from upstairs, “Daddy?”

Late one evening recently, I walked into this story. My wife, with twisty-ties and clips strewn about her hair from 4 year-old hands, looked up from the recliner, TV controller in hand and said, “I literally just sat down. The girls would not stay in their beds. Summer just fell asleep. Maren has been waiting for you.”

I went to give the princess her long-awaited goodnight kiss. Upon my return downstairs, I determined to love my wife well. I could see the strain of the day in her eyes. I could hear the whining voices she listened to all day as I stepped over coloring books and abandoned markers in their search for the shelter of their marker tops. I threw a bowl of chicken and broccoli casserole into the microwave for my late night dinner.

Shannon sat reclined in her chair with a plush red blanket. I gently ran my fingers through her hair and walked across the room to sit down and hear about her day. This is good, I thought. This communication will refill her love tank which has obviously been sucked dry by our twin terrors. We talked for an hour. I heard about her day, and she listened to mine.

Satisfied and sufficiently replenished from our connection, I announced I was going to bed.

I don’t feel loved.”

Like a thief caught in the act, I froze. The dots between confident, mystified, and thwarted began to connect in my head. Hadn’t I just deposited a good hour of emotional currency?

My love language is touch. Yours is words. You get energy from our discussions. I need touch.”

She was right. I had really thought I was loving her well. The only problem was I loved her the way I need to be loved, not the way she needed it.

I mustered up some pathetic defense, “But remember when I ran my hands through your hair before I sat down?”

In preparation for writing on this topic, I took the five minute love languages assessment at 5lovelanguages.com. Of the five choices (Touch, Words, Service, Quality Time, and Gifts), my top needs are acts of service and words of affirmation. You know where physical touch fell? Dead last. I don’t even know if you can score a 0 on the scoring system. I scored a 1. My wife is doomed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our first inclination was to love our spouse in the way he or she needed to be loved?

I see husbands and wives make the mistake of loving their spouses by way of their own love language. It is an easy mistake. Naturally the thought process goes something like this: “I see my spouse. I want to love him well. I know what makes me feel loved. I will do that really well for him.”

But then despite well-meaning effort, connection breaks down.

All of this reminds me of a time when Shannon and I were at a train station in Prague. We needed to board a Russia-bound train that would take us into Poland. The Russian conductor may have spoken other languages, but English was not one of them. I showed him my ticket, and he simply shook his head. To no avail, I mouthed the words over and over again, “This is our train.” Ironically, we both wanted the same thing. I wanted to get to Poland, and he wanted to take travelers with tickets there. Our struggle came in that we spoke two different languages.

Rarely do I meet a couple who shares the same needs when it comes how they best give and receive love. Maybe the whole opposites attract thing goes much deeper than the extroverted jock marrying the introverted nerd. If only your spouse wanted to be loved in the ways you wanted to offer it. God seems to have a funny sense of humor in that regard. Or maybe He is less humorous and actually more intentional. The goal of marriage after all is not happiness, but sanctification that leads to joy.

Love is about giving. When your heart is to love and you still do not seem to be connecting, ask yourself first, “Am I speaking the language that she needs to hear right now?”

  • If her love language is physical touch, offer a back massage.
  • If he receives love through words of affirmation, try writing him a note.
  • If she loves acts of service, empty the overflowing hamper to clean and fold some laundry.
  • If he loves quality time, initiate an afternoon walk with him.
  • If her love language is gifts, invest in wrapping paper and bows.

In the end, the most magical idea may just be laying down your agenda with this question, “What do you need tonight?”


Luke Brasel writes about relationships, intimacy, parenting, and Christian spirituality. He is passionate about the intersection of theology and the human heart. He has a counseling practice in Nashville, TN where he helps people follow their pain to understand their story and recover their heart. When he is not counseling, teaching, or writing, he is learning more about life and love from his wife and twin daughters. You can read his blog at lukebrasel.com/blog and follow him on Twitter.

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