Saturday, May 19, 2018


chapter ten


How can we speak each other’s love language when we are full of hurt, anger, and resentment over past failures? The answer to that question lies in the essential nature of our humanity. We are
creatures of choice. That means that we have the capacity to make poor choices, which all of us have done. We have spoken critical words, and we have done hurtful things. We are not proud of those
choices, although they may have seemed justified at the moment. Poor choices in the past don’t mean that we must make them in the future. Instead we can say, “I’m sorry. I know I have hurt you, but I
would like to make the future different. I would like to love you in your language. I would like to meet your needs.” I have seen marriages rescued from the brink of divorce when couples make the choice to love.

Love doesn’t erase the past, but it makes the future different. When we choose active expressions of love in the primary love language of our spouse, we create an emotional climate where we can deal with our past conflicts and failures.

Brent was in my office, stone-faced and unfeeling. He had come not by his own initiative, but at my request. A week earlier his wife, Becky, had been sitting in the same chair, weeping uncontrollably. Between her outbursts of tears, she managed to verbalize that Brent had told her that he no longer loved her and that he was leaving. She was devastated.

When she regained her composure she said, “We have both worked so hard the last two or three years. I knew that we were not spending as much time together as we used to, but I thought we were working for a common goal. I cannot believe what he is saying. He has always been such a kind and caring person. He is such a good father to our children.” She continued, “How could he do this to us?”

I listened as she described their twelve years of marriage. It was a story I had heard many times before. They had an exciting courtship, got married at the height of the “in love experience,” had the typical adjustments in the early days of marriage, and pursued the American dream. In due time, they came down off the emotional high of the “in love experience” but did not learn to speak each other’s love language sufficiently. She had lived with a love tank only half full for the last several years, but she had received enough expressions of love to make her think that everything was OK. However, his love tank was empty.

I told Becky that I would see if Brent would talk with me. I told Brent on the phone, “As you know, Becky came to see me and told me about her struggle with what is happening in the marriage. I
want to help her, but in order to do so, I need to know what you are thinking.”

He agreed without hesitation, and now he sat in my office. His outward appearance was in stark contrast to Becky’s. She had been weeping uncontrollably, but he was stoic. I had the impression,
however, that his weeping had taken place weeks or perhaps months ago and that it had been an inward weeping. The story Brent told confirmed my hunch.

“I just don’t love her anymore,” he said. “I haven’t loved her for a long time. I don’t want to hurt her, but we are not close. Our relationship has become empty. I don’t enjoy being with her anymore. I don’t know what happened. I wish it were different, but I don’t have any feelings for her.”

Brent was thinking and feeling what hundreds of thousands of husbands have thought and felt through the years. It’s the “I don’t love her anymore” mind-set that gives men the emotional freedom
to seek love with someone else. The same is true for wives who use the same excuse.

I sympathized with Brent, for I have been there. Thousands of husbands and wives have been there —emotionally empty, wanting to do the right thing, not wanting to hurt anyone, but being pushed by their emotional needs to seek love outside the marriage. Fortunately, I had discovered in the earlier years of my own marriage the difference between the “in love experience” and the “emotional need” to feel loved. Most in our society have not yet learned that difference. The movies, the “soaps,” and the romantic magazines have intertwined these two loves, thus adding to our confusion, but they are, in fact, quite distinct.

The “in love experience” that we discussed in chapter 3 is on the level of instinct. It is not premeditated; it simply happens in the normal context of male-female relationships. It can be fostered
or quenched, but it does not arise by conscious choice. It is short-lived (usually two years or less) and seems to serve for humankind the same function as the mating call of the Canada geese.

The “in love experience” temporarily meets one’s emotional need for love. It gives us the feeling that someone cares, that someone admires us and appreciates us. Our emotions soar with the
thought that another person sees us as number one, that he or she is willing to devote time and energies exclusively to our relationship. For a brief period, however long it lasts, our emotional need
for love is met. Our tank is full; we can conquer the world. Nothing is impossible. For many individuals, it is the first time they have ever lived with a full emotional tank, and it is euphoric.

Meeting my wife’s need for love is a choice I make each day. If I know her primary love language and choose to speak it, her deepest emotional need will be met and she will feel secure in my love.

In time, however, we come down from that natural high back to the real world. If our spouse has learned to speak our primary love language, our need for love will continue to be satisfied. If, on the
other hand, he or she does not speak our love language, our tank will slowly drain, and we will no longer feel loved. Meeting that need in one’s spouse is definitely a choice. If I learn the emotional
love language of my spouse and speak it frequently, she will continue to feel loved. When she comes down from the obsession of the “in love experience,” she will hardly even miss it because her
emotional love tank will continue to be filled. However, if I have not learned her primary love language or have chosen not to speak it, when she descends from the emotional high, she will have the
natural yearnings of unmet emotional need. After some years of living with an empty love tank, she will likely “fall in love” with someone else and the cycle will begin again.

Meeting my wife’s need for love is a choice I make each day. If I know her primary love language and choose to speak it, her deepest emotional need will be met and she will feel secure in my love. If she does the same for me, my emotional needs are met and both of us live with a full tank. In a state of emotional contentment, both of us will give our creative energies to many wholesome projects outside the marriage while we continue to keep our marriage exciting and growing.

With all of that in my mind, I looked back at the deadpan face of Brent and wondered if I could help him. I knew in my heart that he was probably already involved with another “in love experience.” I
wondered if it was in the beginning stages or at its height. Few men, suffering from an empty emotional love tank, leave their marriage until they have prospects of meeting that need somewhere

Brent was honest and revealed that he had been in love with someone else for several months. He had hoped that the feelings would go away and that he could work things out with his wife. But things at home had gotten worse, and his love for the other woman had increased. He could not imagine living without his new lover.

I sympathized with Brent in his dilemma. He sincerely did not want to hurt his wife or his children, but at the same time, he felt he deserved a life of happiness. I told him the statistics on second marriages (60 percent ending in divorce). He was surprised to hear that but was certain that he would beat the odds. I told him about the research on the effects of divorce on children, but he was
convinced that he would continue to be a good father to his children and that they would get over the trauma of the divorce. I talked to Brent about the issues in this book and explained the difference between the experience of falling in love and the deep emotional need to feel loved. I explained the five love languages and challenged him to give his marriage another chance. All the while, I knew that my intellectual and reasoned approach to marriage compared to the emotional high that he was
experiencing was like pitting a BB gun against an automatic weapon. He expressed appreciation for my concern and asked that I do everything possible to help Becky. But he assured me that he saw no hope for the marriage.

One month later, I received a call from Brent. He indicated that he would like to talk with me again. This time when he entered my office he was noticeably disturbed. He was not the calm, cool
man I had seen before. His lover had begun to come down off the emotional high, and she was observing things in Brent that she did not like. She was withdrawing from the relationship, and he
was crushed. Tears came to his eyes as he told me how much she meant to him and how unbearable it was to experience her rejection.

I listened sympathetically for an hour before Brent ever asked for my advice. I told him how sympathetic I was to his pain and indicated that what he was experiencing was the natural emotional
grief from a loss and that the grief would not go away overnight. I explained, however, that the experience was inevitable. I reminded him of the temporary nature of the “in love experience,” that
sooner or later, we always come down from the high to the real world. Some fall out of love before they get married; others, after they get married. He agreed that it was better now than later.

After some time, I suggested that perhaps the crisis was a good time for him and his wife to get some marriage counselling. I reminded him that true, long-lasting emotional love is a choice and that emotional love could be reborn in his marriage if he and his wife learned to love each other in the right love languages. He agreed to marriage counseling; and nine months later, Brent and Becky left my office with a reborn marriage. When I saw Brent three years later, he told me what a wonderful marriage he had and thanked me for helping him at a crucial time in his life. He told me that the grief over losing the other lover had been gone for more than two years. He smiled and said, “My tank has never been so full, and Becky is the happiest woman you are ever going to meet.”

Fortunately Brent was the benefactor of what I call the disequilibrium of the “in love experience.” That is, almost never do two people fall in love on the same day, and almost never do
they fall out of love on the same day. You don’t have to be a social scientist to discover that truth. Just listen to country and western songs. Brent’s lover happened to have fallen out of love at an opportune time.

When an action doesn’t come naturally to you, it is a greater expression of love.

In the nine months that I counseled Brent and Becky, we worked through numerous conflicts that they had never resolved before. But the key to the rebirth of their marriage was discovering each other’s primary love language and choosing to speak it frequently.

Let me return to the question I raised in chapter 9. “What if the love language of your spouse is something that doesn’t come naturally for you?” I am often asked this question at my marriage seminars, and my answer is, “So?”

My wife’s love language is “Acts of Service.” One of the things I do for her regularly as an act of love is to vacuum the floors. Do you think that vacuuming floors comes naturally for me? My mother used to make me vacuum. All through junior high and high school, I couldn’t go play ball on Saturday until I finished vacuuming the entire house. In those days, I said to myself, “When I get out of here, one thing I am not going to do: I am not going to vacuum houses. I’ll get myself a wife to do that.”

But I vacuum our house now, and I vacuum it regularly. And there is only one reason I vacuum our house. Love. You couldn’t pay me enough to vacuum a house, but I do it for love. You see, when
an action doesn’t come naturally to you, it is a greater expression of love. My wife knows that when I vacuum the house, it’s nothing but 100 percent pure, unadulterated love, and I get credit for the whole thing!

Someone says, “But, Dr. Chapman, that’s different. I know that my spouse’s love language is physical touch, and I am not a toucher. I never saw my mother and father hug each other. They never
hugged me, Dr. Chapman. I am just not a toucher. What am I going to do?” 

Do you have two hands? Can you put them together? Now, imagine that you have your spouse in the middle and pull him/her toward you. I’ll bet that if you hug your spouse three thousand times, it
will begin to feel more comfortable. But ultimately, comfort is not the issue. We are talking about love, and love is something you do for someone else, not something you do for yourself. Most of us do many things each day that do not come “naturally” for us. For some of us, that is getting out of bed in the morning. We go against our feelings and get out of bed. Why? Because we believe there is something worthwhile to do that day. And normally, before the day is over, we feel good about having gotten up. Our actions preceded our emotions.

The same is true with love. We discover the primary love language of our spouse, and we choose to speak it whether or not it is natural for us. We are not claiming to have warm, excited feelings. We are simply choosing to do it for his or her benefit. We want to meet our spouse’s emotional need, and we reach out to speak his love language. In so doing, his emotional love tank is filled and chances are he will reciprocate and speak our language. When he does, our emotions return, and our love tank begins to fill.

Love is a choice. And either partner can start the process today.

chapter eleven

LOVE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE (click here to continue)

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