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Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
Feb19WedFebruary 19, 2014
Pastors end up doing a lot of marriage counseling, and I am no exception. I can’t count the number of couples I’ve met with over the years, some in crisis wanting a quick fix, and some just on their way to the altar, wanting to do a good job of preparing. I am a big believer in getting counsel from a qualified professional, if you need it (and if you can find it).
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But some couples, married or not, don’t need counseling. They just need some basic information that will help them develop the skills required for a successful relationship. Topping the list is effective communication.
A poll of married couples said 97% who rate their communication with their partner as excellent are happily married, as opposed to only 56% who rate their communication as poor.
One of the most important things you can do for your marriage is: learn to communicate on the same frequency, or as Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott say, “learn how to talk so that your mate will listen and how to listen so that your mate will talk.”
One of the best ways to do that is to learn his or her love language. That’s the term coined by Gary Chapman in his bestseller The 5 Love Languages. Everyone who is married or who wants to be married someday should read that book. It’s that good. Here’s a summary to whet your appetite.
Everyone has at least one, usually a couple, of “love languages.” Gary lists five:
Touch – NOT SEX, Touch. The human nervous system has literally millions of receptors / signal transmitters that communicate contact with other humans to the brain. For many people, (usually men in my experience) it’s the primary way they receive love. You can tell your mate that you love him all day long, cook his dinner, wash his clothes, and buy him gifts, but if you don’t touch him with warmth and affection he won’t believe that you love him.
Verbal Expressions of Love – Others don’t need touch as much. In fact, you can caress their heads, hold their hands, and hug them as they leave for work, but if you don’t stop and say, “I love you, you’re special to me, I appreciate you,” they can’t “hear” that you love them.
Gift Giving – For some you really can “say it with flowers,” but diamonds are usually better. Just kidding. What really matters, for someone whose love language is gifts, is the thought and care that went into the gift. Is it something that speaks to them on a deep level, something that lets them know that you understand them? Then you are speaking their language.
Acts of Service – Another language is service. You can give this person gifts all day long, but if you forget to pick up the milk on the way home, or never clean out her car for her, or never fix the door knob then she won’t really believe that you love her. She won’t feel it.
Spending Time Together – For some people, the only way that they really feel loved, is if you set aside time, uninterrupted blocks of time, just to spend it with them. Gifts won’t do it. Neither will an arm around the shoulder and a pat on the back. Fancy dinners or expensive gifts won’t speak to her, but taking her by the hand and going for a long walk in the park, leaving your cell phone in the car, will.
Here’s the thing: Your love language is probably different from your mate’s. If you’re giving gifts when she needs time, her “love tank” is going to run dry and your relationship is going to sputter to a halt. If you are cooking his dinner when he really wants encouraging words your communication is going to wilt on the vine.
So take a vacation, or at least a walk, and talk about the times in your life when you felt most loved and appreciated. Let your lover know what fills your tank and figure out what fills his or hers. Then look for ways to do that each week. And read Gary’s book. Read it together as a tune up for your relationship. You’ll be glad you did.