A lot of my writing here focuses on my life as a mother to precious little Jacob. And rightfully so. Caring for him is a big part of my life right now. But this blog is called young MARRIED mom for a reason. Being married is a pretty integral part of my life too.
I wrote a few months back about the Family Enrichment course on Matrimonial Love John and I participated in earlier this year. When we were introduced to it, I was confused and perhaps skeptical. There are a couple of things I had previously felt did not need to be taught—spirituality, how to love your spouse, and parenting. Things I had never done before, but I figured would just come naturally.
To some extent, they did, but I realize now that these areas of my life, probably the most important ones, are those in which I am constantly relying on other people’s guidance and past experiences. I read books and blogs; I talk to family and friends; I listen to homilies at Mass and get guidance through Confession. I am not going at these things as “alone” as I thought I was. And really, things like marriage and parenting deserve more attention than the more tangible fields of expertise I can learn about in a classroom.
Now I am much more open to taking a more professional, structured approach to these seemingly fluid areas of my life. I know that love is not just a feeling, it’s a choice, and one you make each day with your heart, your mind, and your body. My mind is doing more of the work now, and I can already see how it is going to make a difference.
During our course, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman often came up. I’d heard mention of this book before, but the title, at least, seemed a little self-helpy, and the topic, as I’ve said, was one of those that I didn’t think I needed any structured help with.
At the end of our course, John and I decided to read the book together. It’s not very long, and we each read a little bit here and there, when we can. I’m not sure he’s quite finished it yet, but I have, and I pretty much can’t wait to recommend it to everyone I know, married or not.
The premise of the book is that a person is likely to give love in the same way s/he prefers to receive it. If that method, or “love language” is not the way the recipient of love can understand it, the recipient is not going to feel loved. For example, my primary love language—surprise, surprise—is Words of Affirmation. When John tells me that my hair looks nice or that dinner was good, I know that he loves and appreciates me. If I do the same for John, he’ll think it’s nice, but won’t feel my love as strongly.
Chapman’s argument is that often, the problem in a struggling marriage is that the spouses are giving love the way they want to receive it, rather than in the way their spouses can receive it. He offers a couple of different ways to determine what your spouse’s love language is, and to learn how to speak it if it’s not your “native” language, so to speak.
While we haven’t quite figured out John’s language yet, I still think this book is genius. And it doesn’t just apply to married couples. There are editions of the book for singles, men, children, teenagers, business people, and even one to apply the love language theory to one’s relationship with God. Having read only the original book, I think it’s mostly clear how the languages can be used to improve just about any relationship.
The main idea of the book is that love requires sacrifice, the giving of oneself in thoughts and works. The feeling of love can come and go, but it can also be sustained and bolstered by actions. Chapman doesn’t explicitly say he is a Christian until very late in the book, and I am sure that was intentional. These are Christian ideals, sure, but they are also simply the way love works.
If you are married, about to get married, in a relationship, or single, read this book. As you read, think about the relationship you struggle with most. Then, if you are brave enough, make a change. Show someone important to you that you love them.
Because as the song says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Let’s change that.