I am so please to welcome this awesome lady to my blog… REBECCA REILLY!! She is not only a super supportive member of Rave Reviews Book Club, but she is also a vital part of the Governing Board. SO, she is beyond deserving of this honor as “SPOTLIGHT” Author!!
I ask that you please help me support her during her special week! Let’s shower her with support and praise for being just so awesome!!
Rebecca Reilly is a retired pastor, a massage therapist, and the author of Christian Sex and Marriage—It’s Complicated.
Speaking and Hearing Love
I do know where I’m going and it’s just a matter of finding the language to get there.
No matter how proficient you are in bed, unless your spouse feels loved, respected, and safe, he or she will have difficulty opening up and responding in a manner that deepens your intimacy. You can obtain physical release in a variety of ways, but to experience the depth of emotion and passion that God desires for the two of you, you must communicate love, respect, and unwavering acceptance. And you must communicate those things in a way he or she understands.
For a long time, years and years, I didn’t think he cared. I could see him zone out when I talked about my feelings. His eyes would just drift away. When I told him I was leaving him, he just stood there. He didn’t say anything, so I thought he wanted me to go.
When we first got married, he’d bring me meaningless little gifts. He gave me dishtowels once. I remember thinking, “Gee, thanks! If you actually used these to help me they’d mean something!”
I could feel Grace, my wife, pulling away from me. I tried to talk to her, find out what I’d done to make her treat me like that. Finally, my mother-in-law told me Grace didn’t think I loved her. I TOLD her I loved her every stinking day! She had to have her mother tell me she felt unloved?
You might think the love you feel for your spouse is obvious to him or her. How could he not know how your world revolves around him? How could she not understand that she is your greatest blessing? But over and over again, it is not the case. Signals often cross somewhere in the process of feeling, thinking, and expressing love. When barriers block messages of love, marriages disintegrate. For many people, like Carl, they think they’ve done what is necessary to share their love. For others, like Grace, all they feel is a void.
Though you and your spouse have the same spoken language, your love languages might be poles apart. People express love in a variety of ways. People only feel loved when it is expressed in a language they understand.
In 1995, Dr. Gary Chapman published his book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.[ii] In it, he illustrates the five love languages and focuses on the importance of learning to communicate in the one your spouse hears. He identifies the five as Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts. Our past, our psychological make-up, and the culture in which we live all play a part in determining our love language.
It sounds simple, but even a rudimentary understanding of love languages can deepen emotional intimacy and broaden your trust in your spouse’s love. Right now, your mate may be screaming, “I love you” in his language, and you never hear him because he doesn’t tell you in your language. Learning his language, and finally hearing and believing when he communicates his love, gives you the strength to carry on. It changes and brightens the way you view your relationship and your life. You’ll have an epiphany, and you’ll wonder how you could have been so blind.
My love language is not words of affirmation. Though my husband consistently gives me the words, there were times I still felt unloved. When I felt unloved, I pulled away. When I pulled away, he responded in kind. I loved him, but I felt unloved. I hurt. Looking back, I know he felt the same. We got our signals crossed. That’s all it was.
My sister’s husband brings her flowers or other little gifts every week. I thought that was love. My husband never does that for me. He likes to snuggle on the sofa and watch a movie. He holds my hand when we grocery shop. He’s passionate and giving in bed. When I understood that’s how he tells me he loves me, that his love language is physical touch, I stopped caring about the lack of flowers. All I ever needed was to know he loved me.
Step One: Determine How Your Spouse Feels Love and Speak It Often
The easiest way to discover your spouse’s love language is to listen to his or her complaints.[iii] Complaints tell us where he or she feels a void, where something needed or desired is missing. A complaint can tell you that your mate’s emotional love tank is empty.
It’s natural for you to feel defensive and go on the attack when your spouse finds fault with you. But knee-jerk responses damage relationships. If your first response to your spouse’s complaints is to attack, it confirms and deepens his feelings that he is unloved or unlovable. God calls us to a higher and different standard.
When your wife complains, listen and decipher her words. If your husband criticizes you, take a breath before you react. Is his criticism really about you, or is he giving you a key to how empty his emotional love tank might be?
Here are some common complaints and what they can tell you about your spouse’s love language:
All you ever do is criticize me! According to you, I can’t do anything right.
Your spouse’s love language is Words of Affirmation. If you respond negatively, you dry up his or her emotional love tank. Give positive words of adoration—immediately if possible. You are my everything. I love you. You make me happy. You are why I can get up in the morning and face the day. I’m sorry I’ve made you feel like I don’t love and appreciate you. Write notes, texts, and emails that profess your love. Tell her your favorite things about her. Let him know why you respect and honor him. Communicate why you find her attractive. He hears your words; your silence devastates him. Give him words of love to fill your spouse’s tank.
Why don’t you ever help me? All you do is sit around while I do all the work. If you loved me, you’d help me more.
Your spouse’s love language is Acts of Service. It’s important to jump and help at the moment of complaint, but it is not enough to fill the love tank. The immediate response just keeps it from further draining that moment. He or she needs you to see and act over a long period of time—as in forever. You must train yourself to see what she believes needs to be done, and do it (even if you do not see the need–dust under the sofa if that’s what she thinks is needed). Make a list of the chores that keep her busy or tire her. Offer to take some of them off her plate. Call her before you come home, and ask her if you can complete any errands for her on your way. Get up early and make her breakfast. Stay up late to complete a project. A person who hears love through Acts of Service believes the love is there because service requires a measure of sacrifice. You need to sacrifice time, energy, money, or your agenda to help. That says, “I love you” to the person who hears love this way. Sacrificial Acts of Service fills her love tank.
We never do anything together anymore. You’d rather go to work than be with me. It’s like we’re living separate lives.
Your spouse’s love language is Quality Time. It is not enough to do chores together, or serve in the same ministry. A person who believes he is loved because his wife spends time with him needs concentrated, focused time with only his wife to feel loved. The shared activities help, but alone time is required to fill his love tank. Date nights are critically important to him. Weekends away matter. Snuggling after the kids go to bed, taking quiet walks, road trips to nowhere, and other couple events each tell him you love him. You must instigate alone time for it to have the most value. If he has to beg for it, the power of the time together diminishes. Respond positively when he asks, but better yet, you make the plans for significant quality time. Make it happen on a regular basis.
Why don’t you ever touch me? We’d never hug, much less have sex, if I didn’t initiate it.
Your spouse’s love language is Physical Touch. She knows you love her when you wrap your arms around her and hold her tight. Sexual intercourse is important, but holding hands, touching her face, rubbing her shoulders, and choosing to sit close enough to touch also fills her emotional love tank. Give her the gift of physical contact whenever you are together. You must initiate touch for it to have meaning. During intercourse, foreplay is important. Take time to stroke her entire body. For someone with this love language, looks of love from across the room have special meaning, too.
You didn’t bring me anything? All you gave me for my birthday was this??? You must not love me.
Your spouse’s love language is Gifts. Gifts can be the easiest love language to communicate and at the same time be the most difficult language to navigate. Our culture mocks the one who hears love through gifts. She is called materialistic, spoiled, or selfish. If you’ve grown up in a frugal household, expressing love through giving gifts feels wrong. It is not wrong. Receiving gifts from you is how your spouse knows you love her. Her love language does not lessen who she is. Because of cultural stereotypes, she might feel guilty over her need for gifts. Let her know you take joy in giving to her.
If money is an issue, budget for gifts. Plan ahead. Don’t make money an excuse not to show her love in the manner in which she hears it.
The price of the gift is not usually relevant. Thinking about her and choosing something to bless her counts the most. A wildflower, a candy bar, her favorite hot sauce, or a diamond bracelet—they all communicate love if there is meaning behind the gift. Be careful not to give her gifts that represent chores (a vacuum cleaner or blender). The fluffy, the silly, the momentous make her happy. “This made me think of you and how much I love you,” is a phrase you should say often. She knows you value her if you present her with gifts just because you love her. Surprise offerings fill her love tank.
Step Two: Tell Your Spouse You Love Them in Every Language
Once you decipher your spouse’s love language, do not neglect the other four ways to say, “I love you.” Your goal is to fill his or her emotional love tank to overflowing. Your mate should never doubt the depth of your affection, desire, commitment, and attachment. Focus on his or her love language; use it daily. Communicate in the other languages on a weekly basis.
You’ll be surprised at how your relationship changes and blossoms when your spouse has confidence in your love.
Assumptions are the termites of relationships.
Though natural to think your spouse communicates the same way you do, that assumption can undermine the foundation of your marriage. We each hear love communicated in a special way. If you do not know the love language of your mate, speak them all. Do not assume he or she hears you. Overwhelm your partner with words, with touch, with service, with time, with gifts. Leave no doubt of the depth of your love in his or her mind.
On Your Own
- How do you know God loves you? Do you focus more on His words or His actions?
- How full is your emotional love tank? Empty? Near empty? Half a tank? Full?
- How do you know your spouse loves you? What does he do or say that fills your emotional love tank?
- What are your love languages?
- How do you hear love?
- How do you show love?
- How do you give love?
- What are your spouse’s love languages?
- How does he or she hear love?
- How does he or she feel love?
- How does he or she give love?
- List specific acts or words you can give your spouse to fill his or her love tank.
Sometime this week, say these things to your spouse:
- I know you love me when you…
- When I do this,….I’m saying, “I love you!”
- You are worthy to be loved.
- I am worthy to be loved.
- Can I hold your hand?
- Can I help you?
- What gift can I give you that would say “I love you”?
- Can we spend an hour alone?
- I love you. I’m glad I married you. I’d marry you again tomorrow.
- What was your immediate thought the first time I told you I loved you?
- What do you think is the greatest act of love of all time?
- What do you think is the greatest act of love shown in movies?
- What unrealized dream do you have?
Just an Idea
- Spend ten minutes each day exploring one of the love languages. On Monday, speaks words of affirmation to each other. On Tuesday, simply hold each other for the time allotted. On Wednesday, complete an act of service for each other. On Thursday, bring your spouse a gift. On Friday, take a walk together.
[i] John Irving. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2015. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnirving457807.html, retrieved 1/5/2015.
[iv] Henry Winkler. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2014. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/henrywinkl320340.html, retrieved12/31/14.
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Christian Sex and Marriage—It’s Complicated
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