When was the last time you read a book that changed your life? A book that, as you read through the pages, kept making you pause, look up and make that thoughtful “huh” noise?
I just finished reading such a book: The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. It’s not a new book, and I’ve occasionally heard people talking about it, but I’ll be honest: if I hadn’t received it as a gift, I probably never would have picked it up. I’ve never been much into, how shall we say, touchy-feely books. I guess I figured, I’m a runner and a writer – how much more introspection does one person need? Another way to phrase it: how much more introspection can one person take?
It turns out a lot.
The book, in case you aren’t familiar with it, was written by a guy who’s been a marriage counselor for years. Over that time period, he developed a theory that there are five “love languages”; that is, five primary ways in which people give and receive love. They are: words of affirmation; gifts; quality time; acts of service; and physical touch. The key to a great relationship, he says, is to figure out your partner’s love language and become fluent in it.
Reading the book was like being a new runner and picking up a copy of Runner’s World for the first time, or having someone with a few marathons under their belt hand me a really good book on running. Similar to those feelings of “Oh, THAT’S how I run faster??” or “Wow, I never thought of looking at my body that way,” The Five Love Languages opened my eyes.
In past relationships, I’ve banged my head against the proverbial wall so many times I’m surprised I never got a concussion, all in the name of trying to show my love. Why can’t they see it? I would wonder. Why don’t they love me back?
I never considered the idea that I was going about it all wrong. I never even considered the idea that it was possible to go about it all wrong. I thought “love is love,” and proceeded from there.
I was expressing love in ways that just didn’t register with the intended recipient. I may as well have been in Italy, speaking Spanish loudly and frequently, and getting frustrated as to why no one could understand me.
As for the “Why don’t they love me back?” question – well, maybe they were trying on their end, and were just as blind as I was. No one can unlock a door if they don’t have the key.
Talk about a change in perspective.
Love can be difficult, and messy, and it’s sooo easy to do a flat-out face-plant in the dirt. And then do it again. And again. But the cool thing is that it’s never too late to learn. And no matter how much experience, good or bad, that you’ve got under your belt, there is always room for improvement. The only perfect love is God’s. Working on love, though – the polishing, the improving, putting in the training, so to speak – therein lies the joy of it all.
Here’s to embracing love with all of its imperfections, and never giving up on it.