***This is the second post in a series of 6 about the Five Love Languages in marriage. I suggest reading them in order. Part 1
If your husband seems to respond especially well to your compliments, verbal encouragement, or little love notes, Words of Affirmation just might be his love language. When we talk about “speaking” love languages, this is the one where that is literally the main form of expression.
Do you need to hear “I love you” in order to feel that your spouse really loves you? If words mean a lot to you and you can specifically remember compliments your husband gave you a long time ago, or sweet things he said, this might be your love language.
What are the different dialects?
Within the love language of Words of Affirmation are several different dialects, or forms of expression.
1. Verbal Compliments
Do you ever offer your spouse Verbal Compliments? Such as, “Hey, thanks for being such a hard worker, it makes me so proud to be your wife.” Or, “You look hot in that suit!” Sometimes, if it is truly sincere, a compliment can light up your entire day. Usually we’re full of compliments when we’re in the “in-love” stage. When we’re dating, we’re quick to point out how good he looks or how hard he works. Somewhere along the line of marriage and falling out of the “in-love” feeling, our compliments often slow down or come to a halt. Bring them back and see how it affects your spouse.
2. Encouraging Words
Another form of this love language is Encouraging Words. Sometimes we just need a pick-me-up when we’re frustrated. A simple, “You’re doing an amazing job, you’ve got this honey!” can sometimes be enough steam to get us to the finish line on a big project. Or maybe your spouse has always wanted to start his own business but has lacked the confidence for a long time. Your encouraging words of, “You would be an incredible business owner, you have the knack for it and you’re determined.” might encourage him to go for it. The trick here is to not encourage your spouse to do something just because you want him to. Thou shalt not use this as a tool of manipulation. Encourage him in his own dreams and you’ll see his attitude change drastically.
3. Kind Words
Kind Words are hard to come by when you’re fighting regularly with your spouse. However, a kind word can be the difference between a total blow-up fight and a calm discussion on a heated topic. Kind words have just as much to do with what you say as how you say it. We all know that tone we get when we’re mad. Mine is sarcastic and condescending. I may not say anything really mean, but the way I say it stings. Such as, after bathing and putting the kids to bed all on my own I might say to my husband, “Thanks for all your help with the kids tonight.” Said in my sarcastic tone is anything but kind and really isn’t going to motivate my husband to help me with the kids. If we choose to use kind words, that means instead of a screaming match, we must choose to keep our voice down, squelch the sarcasm, and seek to understand instead of being understood.
4. Humble Words
My mother made a comment that has stuck with me throughout my marriage. That is because it explained a deep rooted belief I have about partnership that I didn’t even realize I had. She said, “I never minded being a housewife and doing all the wifey things like cooking, cleaning, and serving your father dinner. It was when it became a demand and simply expected that I stopped wanting to do it.” This explains the dialect Humble Words to a T. As Dr. Chapman says, “Love makes requests, not demands.” We need to learn to humbly request of our spouse instead of demanding. Sometimes demands can come in the form of outright orders or other times they can be implied or sarcastic. We must consciously form our desires into humble requests. Instead of, “Are you ever going to take the garbage out?” or “Seriously, take the garbage out!” We can try, “Do you think you could take the garbage out on your way to work? I would really appreciate it.” I know which form of the request I would be more inclined to carry out.
How can I know if this is my or my spouse’s love language?
Dr. Chapman offers a few different ways to check if this is either your or your spouse’s love language.
1. Do either of you express love in this love language? Is your spouse often offering you compliments or does he seem to have a way with kind words? Do you often try to encourage your spouse through uplifting words? Or do you like to write him love letters? We often express love in our own primary love language. Observe how you each seem to express love and if words seem to be a big part of that.
2. What are your complaints like? Does he often say you are critical or nagging? Do you feel like your husband rarely thanks you verbally for all you do? These are key indicators for which love language you speak that isn’t being spoken.
3. What kinds of requests do you make? Does he ever say, “Every once in a while I would just like to hear the words, thank you.” Or do you tell him, “Remember when we were dating and you used to tell me how beautiful I was? I wish you would tell me that sometimes.”
How can I express it?
So let’s say you have discovered that your spouse’s love language might be Words of Affirmation. How do you speak it then?
Here are a few ideas:
• Try saying positive things about your spouse to other people, both when he is there and when he is not. This not only helps to remind you why you love your spouse but it will boost his love tank knowing that you are confident verbalizing why you love him to more than just him.
• Try your hand at writing him a note or a love letter. I love to write letters! I feel like it helps me express myself better than just speaking because it provides extra time to transform my thoughts and emotions into words. A love letter can be read over and over and over again. If you don’t feel like you can write an entire letter, try a small note. Even a post it on the bathroom mirror that says, “Have a great day! I love you!” can help your spouse feel loved and give his attitude a boost that day.
• Work on reining in your nagging or critical comments. These are especially hurtful to a spouse whose love language is Words of Affirmation. Try replacing them with positive, encouraging comments and I guarantee you will see a shift in your spouse’s attitude and perception.
• If Words of Affirmation do not come naturally to you, try Dr. Chapman’s suggestion of keeping a little list of ideas that you hear from other people or in the media. The more you hear the better you will be at forming your own version of these expressions and relaying them to your spouse. There are lots of things in life that don’t come naturally to us, that doesn’t mean we need to resign ourselves to never being able to do them. Just practice and it will come, I promise.
So what if you feel like your spouse isn’t really responding to your loving words? The most likely answer is that it isn’t his primary love language. If this is the case, stay tuned to the following weeks as we will be studying the other 4 love languages.
If you’re sure it is his primary love language but he still isn’t responding, there may be more going on. If you have struggled in your marriage for a while, it is possible he is interpreting your kind words as manipulation. He may believe the marriage is over and it’s too late. Either of these options doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. Stay consistent in expressing love in the language that means the most to him, without expectation of receiving anything in return. Do this for an extended period of time, Dr. Chapman suggests at least six months. It is hard to maintain a cold heart when a person is loving you, in the way you understand and appreciate, without conditions.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not Words of Affirmation is your husband’s primary love language, try an experiment. For an entire week (or more if needed), try some of the above mentioned ideas for ways to express love to your spouse through words. Do at least one every single day. Do it with the desire to make him feel your love, without expecting anything in return. Make a note on your phone to write down your observations. If there is a drastic shift in his attitude, you’ve probably found a winner. If not, stay tuned and learn about the other 4 love languages to see if there is one better fitted to your spouse.
* * * * *
Is Words of Affirmation your love language? Or your spouse’s? I want to hear about it! How do you feel loved? How do you express love with words?