In our last chapter I focused on the idea that in order for marriages to last a lifetime they need to be based on the kind of love where each partner has a disciplined commitment to seek the well-being of their spouse to an equal or greater level than they have for themselves.
"I want and work to give you the same or better life than I want for myself."
In this chapter we'll look at the "currency of love." So far I have explained what marriages ought to be and what you need to work on in order to improve them. In this lesson we are going to look at a specific tool or method to help us have that successful relationship that all of us want in marriage, no matter how long we have been together.
The key, of course, is love. I have already mentioned that but the way to nurture and transfer that love from one to the other is through communication.
The currency of love is communication.
In other words, the substance of love, the way you move it around, the way you transfer it from one person to another is through communication.
In my counseling as a minister I have seen people who have the capacity to love, who want to love, who need to love, but they do not communicate it well and for that reason they have problems.
Almost everything you do within marriage is done within the context of communication, so let's look at communication within marriage and see if we can find ways to increase this "currency of love."
Knowledge through communication
Marriages are held together by love and love is built through communication.
Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.
- Proverbs 27:15
Better arguing and disagreement than no communication at all, at least there is a sign of life. Un-communicated love is like no love.
THE BIG "HOWEVER."
There is an idea that saying "I love you" is the only way, even the best way of communicating love. In our audio-visual world of TV, movies, and now the internet, we place a great emphasis on oral communication. We think if it is not communicated verbally (we can hear it) then, for some reason, it has not really been communicated.
We need to understand that the language of love can be communicated in many different ways, not just by words.
The 5 love languages – Gary Chapman
Love can be communicated in different ways:
- Words – expressions of appreciation, loyalty, affection, love, admiration, attraction, etc. (use words of love).
- Gifts – tokens of love and appreciation (things you buy, things you make). A card my wife makes is precious to me.
- Actions, service – actions to please and comfort the other, the home, the family, care of the other's possessions, etc.
- Time – giving attention, quantity time, listening, watching, etc.
- Physical affection – touching, holding, sexual intimacy.
Now, psychologists tell us that one of these is our "primary language" for love. One of these is our hot button that satisfies our need to know we are loved. Usually when love "dies" it is because we are no longer sure we love or are loved because it is not being communicated to us in a way we can feel it.
We can express or receive all of these things but usually one of these is the one that convinces us that we are loved and if it is not pressed, we will not feel loved, no matter what else the other person does, or says. In other words, if you talk to me in my language of love, then I will feel loved.
Some examples of the language of love in action:
The wife's "hot" button for knowing she is loved is words. Poems, love notes, saying sweet things, compliments on her looks, confessions of desire, the repeated words of love.
The husband grew up in a house where his dad was the strong and silent type. No fancy words.
The husband has grown up like his dad in this way but has learned to say I love you through generous service: he fixes her car, he takes care of the house, he does a lot of repair work for her elderly parents.
What tends to happen is that she will not feel loved because he is not expressing it in the way she needs it expressed (she needs words, not new tires on her car).
She will question his love and he will point out all the things he does for her, but she will not be satisfied because he is not speaking in her language of love.
This is how affairs begin… Someone else discovers your hot button and starts pressing it, and you let them because it feels so good!
Now an interesting feature about this language of love business: people tend to receive their love messages in the same way they give their love messages.
So let's go back to our couple and see how this works. Remember she receives love through words, so this is usually the way she gives it; and he gives through action and service, so this is usually how he receives or recognizes love as well.
In a situation like this, she tells him she loves him and gives him mushy birthday cards and wants to talk about their relationship, but she is not interested in hanging out in the garage with him or working on projects together. He needs to hear "I love you" by her involvement with him in his interests and things. In the end, he feels smothered by her words and she feels rejected by his silence. Both are trying to love but each is missing the point, and the sad thing is that they do not realize it.
Now I have told you that some people want love, need love, desire to give love but fail in love because they cannot seem to communicate it well.
The answer for them is not to "start loving," they are already trying to do that; nor is the answer to love differently. I do not think people can change their basic personality in order to accomplish this. i.e. touchy, feely people cannot just change the way they are, it is not a superficial thing, it is who they are.
The answer, I believe, is to find ways to communicate about loving each other so we will understand, and hopefully, better receive and give the love we have to give and need for ourselves. The way to this is to make the communication you do have more effective and more productive in the sense that you are consciously improving the communication bridge between you.
There are ways to improve the communication between you and your spouse. Here are three basic elements that will make you connect more efficiently and effectively at every level:
1. Be totally honest.
…speaking the truth in love.
- Ephesians 4:15
For communication to be productive, you need to be honest, even if it is risky sometimes. Many times we say what the other person wants to hear so we can get what we want. This works in the short term but is disastrous for long-term relationships.
The best example of this is when we compare the hierarchy of needs that men and women say that they need from each other. This survey shows what men and women acknowledge "privately" as their top 5 needs but rarely acknowledge to each other for fear of ridicule or rejection.
Hierarchy of Needs
Here are what men and women said were the top 5 things they needed from their partners in marriage.
It is #1 because that is the way God created them. The natural production of seminal fluid in a man causes the constant need for gratification. It is the greatest single struggle each man must deal with in order to mature emotionally, socially & spiritually
Not necessarily sex.
Romance, cuddling, holding
He wants his wife to be his buddy, his friend.
The sharing of
A wife's looks and demeanor either build up a man's pride or bring it down.
He supports her world, especially when there are children. She has to have confidence in him.
A quiet, clean, accepting home.
Enough to live on and provide for the family as well as enough to give the children an advantage.
Respect and encouragement
Getting involved in the home and family matters. Truly providing leadership.
What the survey showed were things we kind of knew from experience and observation:
Men are generally immature and more self-centered. They want attention and gratification and are not always willing to give in exchange for these. They need coaching!
Women are more high-minded and are usually willing to invest more to make the marriage work. However, they tend to ask for conflicting things:
- They want security and advantages for their children. These things place a greater burden on the husband if he is the primary earner.
- At the same time they want him to be involved at home more. This is a good thing but a demand that requires time, time that may be needed at work!
- Sometimes women need to understand that they cannot have it both ways.
Couples need to understand that compromise is necessary if they are to have productive communication.
2. We also need to be clear.
For communication to be productive it also needs to be clear. More arguments, divisions and hurt feelings come from communication that is simply unclear than from intended insults. Those who speak need to make sure that the hearer has indeed understood what was said and the meaning of what was said. Hearers need to reassure the speaker that they have truly been understood. Our words and actions need to convey what we mean. If what you are doing means, "I am truly sorry" and not just "I am tired of arguing," make sure the other person knows about it.
Practice good "feedback" methods. Say or do what you will but always make sure (through feedback) that the other person has understood your words and intentions. ("Tell me what I have just said.")
3. For communication to be productive, it also needs to be complete.
We must tell the truth, express it clearly and tell it all. Some do not agree on this point but when one area is "taboo" or one of the partners declares a problem or discussion "off limits," this creates frustration, resentment and a gradual closing down of the communication network between people. Nothing kills love more than secrecy because love cannot grow in the shadows. Secrecy breeds mistrust.
There is no greater joy or protection than a loving partner with whom we can share all of our hearts.
In closing I want to remind you that one of the best witnesses of your Christian faith is a loving marriage, and good communication is the key to building that love.