Saturday, May 19, 2018



Love is not our only emotional need. Psychologists have observed that among our basic needs are the need for security, self-worth, and significance. Love, however, interfaces with all of those.

If I feel loved by my spouse, I can relax, knowing that my lover will do me no ill. I feel secure in his/her presence. I may face many uncertainties in my vocation. I may have enemies in other areas of
my life, but with my spouse I feel secure.

My sense of self-worth is fed by the fact that my spouse loves me. After all, if he/she loves me, I must be worth loving. My parents may have given me negative or mixed messages about my worth,
but my spouse knows me as an adult and loves me. Her love builds my self-esteem.

The need for significance is the emotional force behind much of our behaviour. Life is driven by the desire for success. We want our lives to count for something. We have our own idea of what it
means to be significant, and we work hard to reach our goals. Feeling loved by a spouse enhances our sense of significance. We reason, If someone loves me, I must have significance.

I am significant because I stand at the apex of the created order. I have the ability to think in abstract terms, communicate my thoughts via words, and make decisions. By means of printed or
recorded words, I can benefit from the thoughts of those who have preceded me. I can profit from others’ experience, though they lived in a different age and culture. I experience the death of family
and friends and sense that there is existence beyond the material. I discover that, in all cultures, people believe in a spiritual world. My heart tells me it is true even when my mind, trained in scientific observation, raises critical questions.

I am significant. Life has meaning. There is a higher purpose. I want to believe it, but I may not feel significant until someone expresses love to me. When my spouse lovingly invests time, energy, and effort in me, I believe that I am significant. Without love, I may spend a lifetime in search of significance, self-worth, and security. When I experience love, it impacts all of those needs
positively. I am now freed to develop my potential. I am more secure in my self-worth and can now turn my efforts outward instead of being obsessed with my own needs. True love always liberates.

In the context of marriage, if we do not feel loved, our differences are magnified. We come to view each other as a threat to our happiness. We fight for self-worth and significance, and marriage
becomes a battlefield rather than a haven.

Love is not the answer to everything, but it creates a climate of security in which we can seek answers to those things that bother us. In the security of love, a couple can discuss differences without
condemnation. Conflicts can be resolved. Two people who are different can learn to live together in harmony. We discover how to bring out the best in each other. Those are the rewards of love.

The decision to love your spouse holds tremendous potential. Learning his/her primary love language makes that potential a reality. Love really does “make the world go round.” At least it did
for Jean and Norm.

They had traveled for three hours to get to my office. It was obvious that Norm did not want to be there. Jean had twisted his arm by threats of leaving him. (I do not suggest this approach, but people do not always know my suggestions before they come to see me.) They had been married for thirty five years and had never gone to counselling before.

Jean began the conversation. “Dr. Chapman, I want you to know two things up front. First of all, we don’t have any money problems. I was reading in a magazine that money is the biggest problem in marriage. That’s not true for us. We both have worked through the years, the house is paid for, the cars are paid for. We don’t have any money problems. Second, I want you to know that we don’t argue. I hear my friends talking about the arguments they have all the time. We have never argued. I can’t remember the last time we ever had an argument. Both of us agree that arguing is fruitless, so we don’t argue.”

As a counsellor, I appreciated Jean’s clearing the path. I knew that she was going to get right to the point. It was obvious that she had thought through her opening statement. She wanted to make sure
we didn’t get bogged down in non-problems. She wanted to use the hour wisely.

She continued. “The problem is that I just don’t feel any love coming from my husband. Life is a routine for us. We get up in the morning and go off to work. In the afternoon, he does his thing and I do my thing. We generally have dinner together, but we don’t talk. He watches TV while we eat. After dinner, he piddles in the basement and then sleeps in front of the TV until I tell him it’s time to go to bed. That is our schedule five days a week. On Saturday, he plays golf in the morning, works in the yard in the afternoon, and we go out to dinner with another couple on Saturday night. He talks to them, but when we get into the car to go home, the conversation is over. Once we are at home, he sleeps in front of the TV until we go to bed. On Sunday morning, we go to church. We always go to church on Sunday morning, Dr. Chapman,” she emphasized.

“Then,” she said, “we go out to lunch with some friends. When we get home, he sleeps in front of the TV all Sunday afternoon. We usually go back to church on Sunday night, come home, eat
popcorn, and go to bed. That’s our schedule every week. That’s all there is to it. We are like two roommates living in the same house. There is nothing going on between us. I don’t feel any love
coming from him. There is no warmth, there’s no emotion. It’s empty, it’s dead. I don’t think I can go on much longer like this.”

By that time, Jean was crying. I handed her a tissue and looked at Norm. His first comment was, “I don’t understand her.” After a brief pause, he continued. “I have done everything I know to show
her that I love her, especially the last two or three years since she’s been complaining about it so much. Nothing seems to help. No matter what I do, she continues to complain that she doesn’t feel
loved. I don’t know what else to do.”

I could tell that Norm was frustrated and exasperated. I inquired, “What have you been doing to show your love for Jean?”

“Well, for one thing,” he said, “I get home from work before she does, so I get dinner started every night. In fact, if you want to know the truth, I have dinner almost ready when she gets home four nights a week. The other night, we go out to eat. After dinner, I wash dishes three nights a week. The other night I have a meeting, but three nights I wash the dishes after dinner is over. I do all the
vacuuming because her back is bad. I do all the yard work because she is allergic to pollen. I fold the clothes when they come out of the dryer.”

He went on telling me other things that he did for Jean. When he finished, I wondered, What does this woman do? There was almost nothing left for her.

Norm continued, “I do all those things to show her that I love her, yet she sits there and says to you what she has been saying to me for two or three years—that she doesn’t feel loved. I don’t know
what else to do for her.”

When I turned back to Jean she said, “Dr. Chapman, all of those things are fine, but I want him to sit on the couch and talk to me. We don’t ever talk. We haven’t talked in thirty years. He’s always
washing dishes, vacuuming the floor, mowing the grass. He’s always doing something. I want him to sit on the couch with me and give me some time, look at me, talk to me about us, about our lives.”

Jean was crying again. It was obvious to me that her primary love language was “Quality Time.” She was crying for attention. She wanted to be treated as a person, not an object. Norm’s busyness did not meet her emotional need. As I talked further with Norm, I discovered that he didn’t feel loved either, but he wasn’t talking about it. He reasoned, “If you have been married for thirty-five years and your bills are paid and you don’t argue, what more can you hope for?” That’s where he was. But when I said to him, “What would be an ideal wife to you? If you could have a perfect wife, what would she be like?” he looked me in the eye for the first time and asked, “Do you really want to

“Yes,” I said.

He sat up on the couch and folded his arms across his chest. A big smile broke on his face, and he said, “I’ve dreamed about this. A perfect wife would be a wife who would come home in the
afternoon and fix dinner for me. I would be working in the yard, and she would call me in to eat. After dinner, she would wash the dishes. I would probably help her some, but she would take the
responsibility. She would sew the buttons on my shirt when they fall off.”

Jean could contain herself no longer. She turned to him and said, “I’m not believing you. You told me that you liked to cook.”

“I don’t mind cooking,” Norm responded, “but the man asked me what would be ideal.”

I knew Norm’s primary love language without another word—“Acts of Service.” Why do you think Norm did all of those things for Jean? Because that was his love language. In his mind, that’s the way you show love: by doing things for people. The problem was that “doing things” was not Jean’s primary love language. It did not mean to her emotionally what it would have meant to him if she had been doing things for him.

When the light came on in Norm’s mind, the first thing he said was, “Why didn’t somebody tell me this thirty years ago? I could have been sitting on the couch talking to her fifteen minutes every
night instead of doing all this stuff.”

He turned to Jean and said, “For the first time in my life, I finally understand what you mean when you say ‘We don’t talk.’ I could never understand that. I thought we did talk. I always ask, ‘Did
you sleep well?’ I thought we were talking, but now I understand. You want to sit on the couch fifteen minutes every night and look at each other and talk. Now I understand what you mean, and now I know why it is so important to you. It is your emotional love language, and we’ll start tonight. I’ll give you fifteen minutes on the couch every night for the rest of my life. You can count on that.”

Jean turned to Norm and said, “That would be heavenly, and I don’t mind fixing dinner for you. It will have to be later than usual because I get off work later than you, but I don’t mind fixing dinner. And I would love to sew your buttons on. You never left them off long enough for me to get them. I’ll wash dishes the rest of my life if it will make you feel loved.”

Jean and Norm went home and started loving each other in the right love languages. In less than two months, they were on a second honeymoon. They called me from the Bahamas to tell me what a
radical change had taken place in their marriage.

Can emotional love be reborn in a marriage? You bet. The key is to learn the primary love language of your spouse and choose to speak it.

chapter twelve

LOVING THE UNLOVELY (click here to continue)

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