Week 5: GIFTS (Foreign Languages)

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Here we are, the final installment of the Foreign Languages series. I do hope this has helped you define your relationships better, and helped equip you to speak love in the way that your loved one — spouse, friend, parent, sibling — will hear and receive. (In case you’ve missed the previous five weeks, you can read them all here.)

So gifts.

As best I can tell, the only person close to me that speaks love through gifts is my daughter. (And if I’ve misread you, GOOD HEAVENS I’M SORRY.) While it comes as no surprise that a child has a love language of giving and receiving gifts, I think now that she’s nine, we’ve narrowed hers down to gifts first, and words of affirmation second.

Lord, help me. Because I suck at speaking both.

I remember the first inklings that helped me figure out this was her: I’d bring her home a 99-cent Silly Putty from the grocery store and she treated it like gold. She refuses to ever throw away any toy because of who gave it to her and for what occasion. She wants to buy things for other people all the time and gets immense joy out of picking out gifts. Small things, like flowers picked from the meadow or a handmade card make her day — and make mine, too, because I get them when I’ve filled her little love tank.

Giving and receiving gifts is something many people enjoy, for sure. But for the person whose primary love language is gifts, it goes beyond the “Aw, thank you, I love it” and turns into “You actually thought about me and what I’d like and took time to get this JUST. FOR. ME. Yippeeeeeee!”

See the difference?

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is a gifted one? Here are two ways to tell (really, this is just about the easiest love language to discern):

  1. They get you gifts. Wow. So insightful  right? But gift speakers love to give gifts as much as receive them. Maybe they pick up a magazine for you regularly while they’re at the store. Or they remember that a few months ago you admired a particular candle and buy it for you. In other words, they give you a tangible representation of their love for you. Often.
  2. Their face lights up when you get something for them. Maybe it’s 99-cent Silly Putty. Maybe it’s a bag of their favorite candy or a bunch of flowers for no reason. Regardless of what it is, their faces light up and  you can visibly see their joy in receiving the gift. It’s not just an appreciation they show on their faces — it’s a look of feeling treasured. Big difference.

KEY PHRASES

Giving gifts is all about showing you are thinking about the other person thoroughly. Here are some ways to speak gifts to your loved one:

  1. Forget about holidays and birthdays. These are standard gift-giving times and absolutely do not count. (Unless you’ve put a ton of time in selecting the perfect gift that will knock their socks off. Like a diamond Tiffany band. Or whatever.) Instead, set aside a small amount of money that can go toward picking up little gifts throughout the year.
  2. Consider gifts that keep on giving. If gifts is really hard for you to speak, consider something that they’ll continue receiving after you purchase it once — a magazine subscription, a something-0f-the-month club. Auto schedule something they enjoy — like a Stitch Fix or Birch Box — something that comes monthly and is full of fun little surprises they’ll enjoy. And each time they receive the magazine or box or book, they’ll remember your thoughtfulness and feel incredibly loved.

CLOSED ROADS

It would really easy to think that a gift person would be materialistic, high-maintenance or high-budget. But that is simply not the case at all. The cost of the gift has nothing to do with the love attached to it — whether they are giving or receiving. It’s purely the thought of it. A hand-picked card from the store, a hydrangea from the yard, or something you made yourself all have as much an impact as a diamond Tiffany band. Or whatever.

Also, while you should not focus all your gift-giving on holidays and birthdays, it is important to stress to NOT forget about them altogether!! Just as a harsh word is toxic to a words of affirmation person, a belated or missed anniversary gift, or a thoughtless one is disastrous to your gift person. Because remember, for them, gifts means you were carefully thinking about them — to miss an important occasion means you weren’t thinking at all.

CHALLENGE

This week, find one small gift you can get for your loved one, and leave it for them either in their car, at their desk at work, or another unexpected place for them to find. Also, start a gift idea list in a notebook or in Evernote! This is the best thing to do with a gifts person. Each time you hear them mention something they like — from a commercial, a magazine, a store — write it down. When you’re ready to give a gift, you can just choose from the list based on what fits your budget.

What about you? Do you speak gifts, or does your spouse? What types of gift-giving have meant the most to you or them?

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Week 4: Acts of Service (Foreign Languages)

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I have a friend whose love language used to be physical touch. And then she had three kids.

One day, she threatened her husband within an inch of his life if he tried to show love by grabbing her hand or pulling her into a hug.

Now, he shows her he loves her by cleaning up the kitchen or vacuuming the living room.

And she feels loved, and their marriage is thriving.

Acts of service is alive and well, serving marriages and relationships of all kinds. You might be thinking that you don’t speak acts of service, or anyone you know…but you might be wrong.

  • Wives show love by ironing perfect creases into their husband’s shirts joyfully
  • Husbands show love by going to the grocery store and unloading and putting away all the groceries
  • Friends show love by creating the perfect birthday party complete with their loved one’s favorite foods — made from scratch, of course
  • Dads show sons love by offering to come help build retaining walls and do other projects around the house
  • Moms show daughters love by showing up when you’ve had a hard week to clean up around the house, fix meals and drive kids to school

Anything sound familiar and starting to ring some bells?

Acts of service is a hands-on, tangible way to show how much you love someone. And I haven’t read this or done any scientific documentation on this theory, but in my personal experience, those that speak acts of service have a harder time verbalizing their feelings. So when they’re not sure what to say, they at least know what to do — and when they do, they do better than anyone else, hands down.

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is acts of service? Here are a few ways to tell:

  1. They hint about tasks being completed. Your wife might mention, again, how the grass is overgrown. Or your husband might mention the dust collecting in the bedroom or under the bed. These hints might come in the form of a joke, or even a downright nag. Pay attention.
  2. Their face lights up when you say, “can I do that for you?” This is easy to overlook, because you might be spending the whole time mentally thinking, “please say no…please say no.” But if you think your loved one speaks acts of service, keep your eyes and ears open on purpose when you ask if you can do something for them. Their non-verbal reaction might tell you everything you need to know.
  3. They do little things that aren’t “theirs” to do. Your wife might consistently do “your” chores — maybe taking out the garbage, or changing the oil in the car (do people do that on their own anymore?). When your friend comes over, she might roll up her sleeves and just show up in the kitchen and start cleaning while you’re finishing getting dinner ready, or insist she doesn’t leave your house without helping clean up. Your husband might just walk into the laundry room and start folding laundry or getting another load going.

KEY PHRASES

Acts of service is all about selflessness. Here are some easy ways to speak acts of service to your loved one:

  1. Seek opportunities. Start small and do the unexpected random act of service. Grab your mans briefcase and coat when he gets in the door and put them away for him. Gather up all his shoes peppering the bedroom floor and put them all back in the closet. Show up at your friend’s house when you know she’s having a hard day with a dessert you made from Pinterest. Look for small ways to serve.
  2. Be appreciative. Pay attention. When you see your husband jumping in and putting away the kids clothes or cleaning up after dinner, say thank you. Or give her a quick squeeze when you see she’s fixed the buttons on your sport coat. When your loved one speaks service, they are pouring themselves out to serve you — it leaves them feeling vulnerable. Be appreciative.
  3. Respect their rules and boundaries. If your wife has rules about making sure your clothes are right-side-out before putting them in the hamper, then do it. When small boundaries or rules are violated, your loved one will feel taken advantage of, and completely unappreciated. After all, she’s going through the effort to actually wash, fold and put away all the clothes. The least you can do is keep your shirt from being inside-out when she’s doing it.

CLOSED ROADS

If service isn’t your thing, you are going to have to seriously stretch yourself to start speaking this. Maybe you grew up in a home where your mom literally did everything — you didn’t see this practiced at all. There’s no excuses though. If your spouse speaks service, you have to start speaking it, too.

It doesn’t matter how long a day you had, how tired you are, how mentally spent you feel. When you get home, you’re going to have to appreciate that your spouse had a long day too…so roll up your sleeves and do something.

Also…and this is ONLY from my personal experienceyour loved one who speaks service might be a little particular about how things are done. Some might call them control freaks, but I’m not going to. They just spend their time speaking DO, and so they know exactly how they like things DONE. Don’t fight it or argue it or tell them to let it go — simply remember number 3 above and respect their rules and boundaries. And reserve the commentary for your prayer time.

CHALLENGE

This week, when you see your spouse frantically running around trying to do it all, gently walk up and ask, “can I do that for you?” Even if they say no (because they might like it done their way and don’t trust you’ll do that), sometimes the asking speaks volumes.

The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.

What about you? Do you speak acts of service, or does your spouse? What has and hasn’t worked for you?

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Week 3: Words of Affirmation (Foreign Languages)

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I was going to wait and save Words of Affirmation for last. After all, it’s the one I’m the WORST at, which obviously means (you guess it), it’s my husband’s primary love language. And I was hoping that by the end of this series I’d have some more encouraging illustrations to report on how much I’ve grown in this area.

But then a gentle voice whispered to me, “who are you kidding?” and I sucked in a deep breath and decided to just go for it.

Because, y’all, I’m the WORST at words of affirmation. And I personally need some serious help in this area.

What’s interesting to me is that I’m great at telling people I’m not as invested in how awesome and wonderful they are. Friends, acquaintances, even my kids are a piece of cake (okay, totally invested there). But when it comes to my husband, I suddenly clam up and throw a loose jab onto his shoulder and mumble under my breath.

It’s as if I suddenly feel like I’m 14 years old telling a teen boy how much I like him and I feel all goobery.

“Oh you, you’re such a great provider and you work so hard for our family.” (arm jab)

“You’re like, really cute, and I’m so proud to have such a good looking husband.” (mumble mumble)

See? I’m awful. I feel those things and more, and I could write them all day long, but to verbally speak them to Greg is so very, very hard for me.

And that’s the whole point for a words of affirmation person — they need to hear it verbally.

Words of affirmation is all about encouragement and verbal appreciation for your loved one. It’s acknowledging their importance and value they bring to your life. It’s giving them uplifting words and not devaluing ones; giving words of appreciation and not nagging; speaking truth in love, not lies.

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is a one of words of affirmation? Here are a few ways to tell:

  1. They speak words of affirmation to you. Greg speaks things to me all. the. time. He encourages me, tells me he thinks I’m beautiful, tells me what a great mom I am, etc. He speaks encouragement to every single person he knows — telling them they’re doing a great job, he appreciates their service — all day long he speaks words of affirmation.
  2. They ask you questions to get words of affirmation out of you. This is SO easy to overlook. Your friend might ask you what you thought about her writing piece or painting. Your husband will ask how he did leading the small group. Your mom will ask how she looks and do you like her shirt. It might seem frustrating at times…like you can’t tell them enough…but that’s exactly what they’re trying to tell you: you’re not telling me enough!
  3. They ask, not demand. Your husband might say, “If you get a chance, would you mind going to the cleaners for me today?” instead of “Go get my clothes, woman!” They’re courteous in their requests, because they want courtesy reciprocated.

KEY PHRASES

Here are some easy ways to literally speak love to your loved one:

  1. Say thank you. In and of itself, a simple ‘thank you’ for their help with the groceries, or cleaning, or meal will not fill their love tank. But verbally acknowledging them with gratitude is a start. When your husband gives the kids a bath and puts them to bed, make sure to clearly say, “thanks for your help with the kids tonight, honey. It helped me a lot.” Again, it’s not going to fill them up, but it’s a great first step.
  2. Compliment them. Tell your man the shirt he put on for work looks really good on him. If it feels awkward, say it in passing as you’re about to blow dry your hair. Walk past and say, “that shirt looks great, babe” and keep moving on so you don’t feel like a tongue-tied tween in front of Justin Beiber. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.)
  3. Be aware of your tone. You’ve experienced this — someone says one thing but their tone says something entirely opposite. Be aware of your presentation and tone of voice as you say “thank you” or “nice shirt.”
  4. Use humble words, not demands. Ask your spouse, “Think you’d be able to get the stuff down from the attic this weekend?” instead of “Geez, sure would be nice to have the boxes out of the attic.” Or if your friend calls but it’s a bad time to talk, say, “Oh my gosh, I so wish I could chat right now but I wouldn’t be able to give you the attention you deserve. Can I call you back tomorrow instead?” and don’t say, “Dude, there’s no way I can talk right now. I’ll call you back.” Soft and humble words are much smoother.

CLOSED ROADS

Words of criticism, discouragement and negativity are absolutely toxic to those who have words of affirmation as their love language. When words are the primary way they feel love, negative words absolutely crush them…especially if their tank is already low or on empty. That doesn’t mean you should never have honest conversation, but it means to be very aware of your presentation in sharing, and use a compliment sandwich: speak a compliment, say the truth, speak another compliment.

You are probably going to feel like it’s ridiculous that you should do that, after all, aren’t they grown ups and should be able to handle it? But just as neglect makes a quality timer wither inside, irresponsible harsh words will tear down your loved one.

CHALLENGE

In Psalm 81:10, God says, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” And honestly, that is exactly what the challenge is going to be — simply opening your mouth to speak affirming words. You can determine ahead of time that yes, that’s exactly what you’re going to do…and then when the moment comes, your lips are cemented together and you just cannot open them.

I know, I’ve been there.

But listen, it’s easy to brush it away as being “too hard for me,” and “they know I love them.” But that’s not fair to your loved one, especially if they’re making efforts to speak love to you. The devil will do anything and everything he can to create division in your marriage and relationships — do not let your awkwardness win when it comes to speaking love languages — it’s too important.

The hardest thing about words of affirmation is initiating it, especially if you grew up in a home that didn’t speak encouragement. Speaking another’s language is always uncomfortable. But to the recipient, it’s not so much about succeeding as it is making the effort. If words of affirmation isn’t native to you, but you simply say one day, “you’re so naturally gifted at math (or public speaking or whatever).” I guarantee: love tank fill up.

The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.

At least they’re trying.

What about you? Do you speak words of affirmation, or does your spouse? What has and hasn’t worked for you?

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Week 2: Physical Touch (Foreign Languages)

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He gets up from the couch to walk into the kitchen, and as he passes by her he places his hand on her shoulder, just for a brief second.

Love tank fill up.

She sees that her friend doesn’t have the usual smile on her face at church, and without asking a single question, she just embraces her into an enormous God-sized hug.

Love tank fill up.

They are on a date, early in the relationship. They haven’t said “I love you” or kissed or anything yet. As they watch the concert, he reaches over and quietly grabs her hand. For the first time.

Love tank fill up.

They’re at the movies, sharing a popcorn and anticipating the show. As the lights dim and the previews begin, she rests her head on his shoulder and puts her hand on his knee.

Love tank fill up.

While for some spouses physical touch equals s-e-x, more often than not, it’s a very non-sexual love language. Speaking physical touch is simply a physical expression of your affection and love for them, given in an adoring and tender way. And most of the time it’s small gestures given in high frequency.

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is a physical touch one? Here are a few ways to tell:

  1. They touch you. Sounds easy enough, right? But it’s easy to miss. If it’s a friend, it might be one who loves to hug you — for any reason, any time and every time. Maybe it’s your husband reaching out to put his hand on the small of your back as you walk together into the restaurant. Maybe it’s your parent or sibling brushing your hair away from your face while you talk, or giving you a foot rub. Maybe it’s your child who continually asks for her back to be scratched. The acts of touch themselves to not have to be long — they can be quick and brief moments — but they happen frequently.
  2. They ask for touch. Again, easy, right? But if physical touch is not on your radar, it’s easy for it to go unnoticed. Do they frequently ask for back rubs? Does your husband joke about the lack of intimacy in your relationship? Sometimes those are longings to be touched physically disguised as “help” or fun.
  3. It can be disguised as closeness. Often, someone who speaks physical touch will put themselves in physical proximity to you. If you’re working in the garden, they sit on the porch reading. If you’re in the kitchen cooking, they’re at the counter on a stool near you. If you’re on your computer, they’ll plant themselves in the same room. They just want to be as near to you as possible.

KEY PHRASES

Here are some easy ways to speak physical touch to your loved one:

  1. Touch them. I know — DUH. But sometimes we complicate uncomplicated things, right? When you walk by your spouse on your way to the kitchen, place your hand on their shoulder without a word and then keep moving on. When you’re meeting with a friend, reach out and grab her hand as she shares, or embrace her into a hug that’s just a little longer than you normally are comfortable with. With your kids, just scoop them into your lap for a snuggle, even just a couple of minutes several times throughout the day.
  2. Let them touch you. When your parent begins stroking your hair, resist the urge to shrink and hide. If you’re driving with your spouse somewhere and they reach out and grab your hand, give it a little squeeze and hold tighter than normal. If you’re watching a movie with a friend and they sit by you on the couch, don’t scoot over to the side as far as you can. Be an open touch canvas.
  3. Be near them. Bring your laptop into the living room if they’re watching TV and work in the same room as them if you can. If they’re working in the yard, go sit with a book on the porch. You don’t have to engage in conversation or quality time for closeness — simple physical proximity is more than enough.

CHALLENGE

Don’t not touch. For physical touch speakers, the avoidance of touch is a deafening silence. Even more so, don’t touch with any harmful intent — even if it doesn’t seem harmful to you. Don’t snatch papers away from them harshly; don’t shrug out of their hand-holding with disdain. Try not to do the “stiff as a board” hug where you stand there with a blank expression, arms dropped to your sides — or one-armed side-hug that communicates you think they might have cooties.

The hardest thing about physical touch is initiating it, particularly if you grew up in a non-affectionate household. Speaking another’s language is always uncomfortable. But to the recipient, it’s not so much about succeeding as it is making the effort. If you don’t speak physical touch, but allow a sibling or friend to snuggle into you while you watch a movie, love tank fill up.

The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.

At least they’re trying.

What about you? Are you a physical toucher, or is your spouse? What has and hasn’t worked for you?

(I can’t end this without saying…if you’ve experienced pain from physical touch previously in your life — through abuse of any kind — please seek professional help and understand this love language cannot be spoken or received without true healing in your life. Find a professional Christian counselor who, through prayer and training, can guide you toward restoring this expression of love in your life.) 

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Week 1: Quality Time (Foreign Languages)

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When Greg and I were dating, it took me a good while to realize we spoke different languages. We seemed so compatible and everything seemed to just flow. But as our dating continued and got more serious, it became evident he was speaking Swahili and I was more of the !Kung dialect.

The first time I realized quality time might be my love language was when Greg and I were dating. We had planned spending an entire Saturday together — we didn’t have anything specific in mind, just that we’d be together. I was overjoyed at the idea of an entire day with the man I adored.

We grabbed some lunch and when we were done, Greg mentioned that he told a friend of ours we’d stop by his baseball game.

I suddenly became very quiet and very grumpy and couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong with me. I think I chalked it up to PMS.

Fast forward to the first few months of marriage. Our ministry and marriage all happened simultaneously, and suddenly our calendar became not our own. Week after week was event after event, and nothing was left for just the two of us.

One morning at the breakfast table I had a semi-nervous breakdown, and couldn’t quite identify what the problem was. Again, I dismissed it as PMS.

And then started taking Black Cohosh to get my mood swings under control

Eventually, I remembered the book The Five Love Languages and started putting two and two together. And I actually got to four, believe it or not.

I sat down with Greg and explained to him what was going on, and it was right then we began our annual planning for our lives. We still do it. At the end of every year (well after church annual planning is done), we sit down and plan out everything for the year — date nights, family date days, vacations, conferences, Georgia football games — all of it. And unless it’s a wedding or funeral, we try very, very hard not to move those dates.

Because once I know quality time is coming, I can handle everything else that takes up our time. (tweet this) This past fall and winter, Greg handled (with incredible grace and determination) his full-time job, doctoral school work, and assistant-coaching high school basketball.

Had it not been for weekly breakfast dates and occasional date nights, I would have absolutely lost my mind. Quite literally.

For someone whose love language is quality time, I think it’s important to first identify what quality time is not:

  • It’s not a date with another couple or a night out with friends
  • It’s not simply being in proximity with each other
  • It’s not time together where you’re both on phones, tablets or watching TV

Simply put, for someone who speaks quality time as their love language, it’s one-on-one, undivided attention time. It can happen in a restaurant, a coffee shop, the couch or the bedroom. It’s knowing that at that moment, the other person is focused on nothing else but you.

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is a quality time one? Here are a few ways to tell:

  1. They might suggest “doing” things as a way to spend time together. A parent might suggest a day of shopping. A friend might want to meet for coffee. A spouse might ask to have dinner and take a walk after. When I want to spend quality time with my children, it almost always involves going for ice cream, or playing at the park. Quality time (at least for me) is more special when it’s outside of the house because there are too many distractions at home.
  2. They eliminate distractions when communicating with you. If you’re having a conversation, they turn the TV off or the volume really low, so they can focus and really hear what you’re saying and maintain eye contact. Doing this is a way to show that you are more important than what else is happening, and is an indicator they would like the same courtesy. If you’re on the phone together, they might get easily annoyed at outside distractions like you having conversations in the background, or loud noises interrupting.
  3. Their time with you is focused more on fun than work. If during your time together they make a point to say they don’t want to talk “shop,” they might be craving time to just be. Sharing laughter, stories, dreams, desires — those can be an indicator of a quality timer — so bringing up budgets or issues will lessen the impact of your time together.

KEY PHRASES

Here are some easy ways to speak quality time to your loved one:

  1. Turn off the distractions. When your loved one walks into the room to talk to you, turn off the TV and put down your smartphone or iPad. Maintain eye contact and don’t interrupt. Show them that they are the only thing you are focused on is them.
  2. Suggest a date. Whether it’s a spouse, friend or family member, suggest time together. Go out for coffee, lunch or a movie. Take them shopping or out for ice cream. It doesn’t have to happen all the time, but the fact you suggested it will mean a lot — the fact you actually do it will mean even more.
  3. Focus on fun. Effective quality time dates for me personally do not involve discussing budgets, work, schedules, or kids stuff (unless it’s to talk about how cute they are). Don’t bring up issues or problems — just laugh, learn and love.

CHALLENGE

The hardest thing about quality time is starting to speak it. If you’re not a quality timer, it will feel so awkward and uncomfortable to suggest time together — you might feel like a middle schooler asking, “do you wanna go out with me?” Not only that, it will be downright tempting to not scroll through Facebook on your phone or send off texts in between conversation. After all, you’ll think, “how much eye gazing can one person do?”

Speaking another’s language is always uncomfortable. But to the recipient, it’s not so much about succeeding as it is making the effort. Greg’s love language is not quality time at all. For him, driving in the car together used to count because we were in proximity to each other.

Now that we’re 10 years into this thing, he gets that quantity of time doesn’t matter…it’s the quality of quality time. And I love and appreciate every effort — so I don’t hold him to the fire if he checks his phone when I run to the bathroom or turns on sports radio in the car.

Listen, if you visit Paris, you slip into your native tongue when you don’t have to speak French. You just can’t help it. (tweet this)

The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.

At least they’re trying.

What about you? Are you a quality timer, or is your spouse? What has worked and hasn’t worked for you?

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