Saturday, May 19, 2018


Discovering the primary love language of your spouse is essential if you are to keep his/her
emotional love tank full. But first, let’s make sure you know your own love language. Having heard
the five emotional love languages,

Words of Affirmation

Quality Time

Receiving Gifts

Acts of Service

Physical Touch

some individuals will know instantaneously their own primary love language and that of their spouse. For others, it will not be that easy. Some are like Bob from Parma Heights, Ohio, who after hearing the five emotional love languages said to me, “I don’t know. It seems that two of those are just about equal for me.”

“Which two?” I inquired.

“‘Physical Touch’ and ‘Words of Affirmation,’” Bob responded.

“By ‘Physical Touch,’ what do you mean?”

“Well, mainly sex,” Bob replied.

I probed a little further, asking, “Do you enjoy your wife running her hands through your hair, or
giving you a back rub, or holding hands, or kissing and hugging you at times when you are not having
sexual intercourse?”

“Those things are fine,” said Bob. “I am not going to turn them down, but the main thing is sexual
intercourse. That’s when I know that she really loves me.”

Leaving the subject of physical touch for a moment, I turned to affirming words and asked,
“When you say that ‘Words of Affirmation’ are also important, what kinds of statements do you find most helpful?”

“Almost anything if it is positive,” Bob replied. “When she tells me how good I look, how smart
I am, what a hard worker I am, when she expresses appreciation for the things I do around the house, when she makes positive comments about my taking time with the children, when she tells me she loves me—all of those things really mean a lot to me.”

“Did you receive those kinds of comments from your parents when you were growing up?”

“Not very often,” Bob said. “Most of what I got from my parents were critical or demanding
words. I guess that’s why I appreciated Carol so much in the first place, because she gave me words of affirmation.”

“Let me ask you this. If Carol were meeting your sexual needs, that is, if you were having quality
sexual intercourse as often as you desire, but she was giving you negative words, making critical
remarks, sometimes putting you down in front of others, do you think you would feel loved by her?”

“I don’t think so,” he replied. “I think I would feel betrayed and deeply hurt. I think I would be

“Bob,” I said, “I think we have just discovered that your primary love language is ‘Words of
Affirmation.’ Sexual intercourse is extremely important to you and to your sense of intimacy with Carol, but her words of affirmation are more important to you emotionally. If she were, in fact,
verbally critical of you all the time and put you down in front of other people, the time may come
when you would no longer desire to have sexual intercourse with her because she would be a source of deep pain to you.”

Bob had made the mistake common to many men: assuming that “Physical Touch” is their primary
love language because they desire sexual intercourse so intensely. For the male, sexual desire is physically based. That is, the desire for sexual intercourse is stimulated by the buildup of sperm cells and seminal fluid in the seminal vesicles. When the seminal vesicles are full, there is a physical push for release. Thus, the male’s desire for sexual intercourse has a physical root.

Most sexual problems in marriage have little to do with physical technique but everything to do
with meeting emotional needs.

For the female, sexual desire is rooted in her emotions, not her physiology. There is nothing
physically that builds up and pushes her to have intercourse. Her desire is emotionally based. If she
feels loved and admired and appreciated by her husband, then she has a desire to be physically
intimate with him. But without the emotional closeness she may have little physical desire.

Because the male is physically pushed to have sexual release on a somewhat regular basis, he
may automatically assume that that is his primary love language. But if he does not enjoy physical
touch at other times and in nonsexual ways, it may not be his love language at all. Sexual desire is
quite different from his emotional need to feel loved. That doesn’t mean that sexual intercourse is
unimportant to him—it is extremely important—but sexual intercourse alone will not meet his need to feel loved. His wife must speak his primary emotional love language as well.

When, in fact, his wife speaks his primary love language and his emotional love tank is full, and
he speaks her primary love language and her emotional tank is full, the sexual aspect of their
relationship will take care of itself. Most sexual problems in marriage have little to do with physical technique but everything to do with meeting emotional needs.

After further conversation and reflection, Bob said, “You know, I think you are right. ‘Words of
Affirmation’ is definitely my primary love language. When she has been cutting and critical of me verbally, I tend to withdraw from her sexually and fantasize about other women. But when she tells me how much she appreciates me and admires me, my natural sexual desires are turned toward her.” Bob had made a significant discovery in our brief conversation.

What is your primary love language? What makes you feel most loved by your spouse? What do
you desire above all else? If the answer to those questions does not leap to your mind immediately,
perhaps it will help to look at the negative use of love languages. What does your spouse do or say or fail to do or say that hurts you deeply? If, for example, your deepest pain is the critical, judgmental words of your spouse, then perhaps your love language is “Words of Affirmation.” If your primary love language is used negatively by your spouse—that is, he does the opposite—it will hurt you more deeply than it would hurt someone else because not only is he neglecting to speak your primary love language, he is actually using that language as a knife to your heart.

I remember Mary in Kitchener, Ontario, who said, “Dr. Chapman, what hurts me most is that Ron
never lifts a hand to help me around the house. He watches television while I do all the work. I don’t
understand how he could do that if he really loved me.” Mary’s deepest hurt, mainly that Ron did not
help her do things around the house, was the clue to her primary love language—“Acts of Service.” If it grieves you deeply that your spouse seldom gives you a gift for any occasion, then perhaps your primary love language is “Receiving Gifts.” If your deepest hurt is that your spouse seldom gives you quality time, then that is your primary love language.

Another approach to discovering your primary love language is to look back over your marriage
and ask, “What have I most often requested of my spouse?” Whatever you have most requested is
probably in keeping with your primary love language. Those requests have probably been interpreted by your spouse as nagging. They have been, in fact, your efforts to secure emotional love from your spouse.

Elizabeth, who lived in Maryville, Indiana, used that approach in discovering her primary love
language. She said to me at the conclusion of a seminar session, “Whenever I look back over the last ten years of my marriage and ask myself what have I most requested of Peter, my love language
becomes obvious. I have requested ‘Quality Time’ most often. Over and over again, I have asked him
if we could go on a picnic, take a weekend together away, shut the TV off for just an hour and talk with each other, take a walk together, and on and on. I have felt neglected and unloved because
seldom did he ever respond to my request. He gave me nice gifts for my birthday and special
occasions and wondered why I was not excited about them.

“During your seminar,” she continued, “the lights came on for both of us. During the break, my
husband apologized for being so dense through the years and so resistant to my requests. He has
promised me that things will be different in the future, and I believe they will.”

Another way to discover your primary love language is to examine what you do or say to express love to your spouse. Chances are what you are doing for her is what you wish she would do for you. If you are constantly doing “Acts of Service” for your spouse, perhaps (although not always) that is your love language. If “Words of Affirmation” speak love to you, chances are you will use them in speaking love to your spouse. Thus, you may discover your own language by asking, “How do I consciously express my love to my spouse?”

But remember, that approach is only a possible clue to your love language; it is not an absolute
indicator. For example, the husband who learned from his father to express love to his wife by giving her nice gifts expresses his love to his wife by doing what his father did, yet “Receiving Gifts” is not his primary love language. He is simply doing what he was trained to do by his father.

Spend some time writing down what you think is your primary love language. Then list the other
four in order of importance.

I have suggested three ways to discover your own primary love language.

1. What does your spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply? The opposite of what hurts
you most is probably your love language.

2. What have you most often requested of your spouse? The thing you have most often requested
is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.

3. In what way do you regularly express love to your spouse? Your method of expressing love
may be an indication that that would also make you feel loved.

Using those three approaches will probably enable you to determine your primary love language.
If two languages seem to be equal for you, that is, both speak loudly to you, then perhaps you are
bilingual. If so, you make it easier on your spouse. Now he or she has two choices, either of which
will strongly communicate love to you.

Two kinds of people may have difficulty discovering their primary love language. The first is the individual whose emotional love tank has been full for a long time. Her spouse has expressed love in many ways, and she is not certain which of those ways makes her feel most loved. She simply knows that she is loved. The second is the individual whose love tank has been empty for so long that he doesn’t remember what makes him feel loved. In either case, go back to the experience of falling in love and ask yourself, “What did I like about my spouse in those days? What did he do or say that made me desire to be with him?” If you can conjure up those memories, it will give you some idea of your primary love language. Another approach would be to ask yourself, “What would be an ideal spouse to me? If I could have the perfect mate, what would she be like?” Your picture of a perfect mate should give you some idea of your primary love language.

Having said all of that, let me suggest that you spend some time writing down what you think is
your primary love language. Then list the other four in order of importance. Also write down what
you think is the primary love language of your spouse. You may also list the other four in order of
importance if you wish. Sit down with your spouse and discuss what you guessed to be his/her
primary love language. Then tell each other what you consider to be your own primary love language.

Once you have shared that information, I suggest that you play the following game three times a
week for three weeks. The game is called “Tank Check,” and it is played like this. When you come
home, one of you says to the other, “On a scale of zero to ten, how is your love tank tonight?” Zero
means empty, and 10 means “I am full of love and can’t handle any more.” You give a reading on your emotional love tank—10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, or 0, indicating how full it is. Your spouse says,
“What could I do to help fill it?”

Then you make a suggestion—something you would like your spouse to do or say that evening.
To the best of his ability, he will respond to your request. Then you repeat the process in the reverse
order so that both of you have the opportunity to do a reading on your love tank and to make a
suggestion toward filling it. If you play the game for three weeks, you will be hooked on it, and it can be a playful way of stimulating love expressions in your marriage.

One husband said to me, “I don’t like that love tank game. I played it with my wife. I came home
and said to her, ‘On a scale of zero to ten, how’s your love tank tonight?’ She said, ‘About seven.’ I
asked, ‘What could I do to help fill it?’ She said, ‘The greatest thing you could do for me tonight is to do the laundry.’ I said, ‘Love and laundry? I don’t get it.’”

I said, “That’s the problem. Perhaps you don’t understand your wife’s love language. What’s
your primary love language?”

Without hesitation he said, “Physical touch, and especially the sexual part of the marriage.”

“Listen to me carefully,” I said. “The love you feel when your wife expresses love by physical
touch is the same love your wife feels when you do the laundry.”

“Bring on the laundry,” he shouted. “I’ll wash the clothes every night if it makes her feel that

Incidentally, if you have still not discovered your primary love language, keep records on the tank
check game. When your spouse says, “What could I do to help fill your tank?” your suggestions will
likely cluster around your primary love language. You may request things from all five love
languages, but you will have more requests centering on your primary love language.

Perhaps some of you are saying in your minds what Raymond and Helen said to me in Zion,
Illinois. “Dr. Chapman, all that sounds fine and wonderful, but what if the love language of your
spouse is something that just doesn’t come naturally for you?”

I’ll discuss my answer in chapter 10. (Click Here to continue)

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