Do you have trouble understanding what your spouse needs to feel loved?
As soon as we were old enough to understand it, most of us were probably taught some version of “Do unto others as you’d have done to you.”
The Golden Rule, as we call it, is a wise biblical principle to keep in mind as we deal with other people. But believe it or not, it can actually cause trouble at times if we interpret it too literally. This is especially true in a marriage.
If we always treat our spouses as we hope to be treated, they may or may not receive it as we intend. They will feel more loved when we learn to love them in a way that meets their unique needs. If you’ve ever read The Five Love Languages, you’ll know what I mean.
Most married couples discover that they experience love differently. In other words, they each speak a different love language.
Let’s say you’re a wife whose primary love language is spending quality time together. Your husband, on the other hand, expresses love mainly through acts of service. He is constantly doing things like washing your car, trimming the hedges, or fixing the leaky faucet.
You’re grateful for his effort, but sometimes you feel a little more lonely than loved. Your heart yearns for time spent together. You would love it if he took 15 minutes each evening to walk with you and chat about the events of the day.
Or maybe the two of you have very different needs when you’re feeling upset. Let’s say a friend has really let you down in some way. You feel comforted by talking the situation through and expressing your emotions.
When your husband has a similar problem, it’s a different story. He would rather take his mind off of the situation by playing video games or going to see a movie. If you try to help him “talk it out,” he becomes annoyed. And when he tries to distract you by joking or changing the subject when you’re upset, you may wonder, What in the world is he thinking?
You and your spouse may both feel like you’re trying your hardest, yet it’s never enough to please the other person. This may be because you don’t yet understand what the other person needs to feel cared for.
In our United marriage course, we discuss this relationship principle:
It is the receiver of words or actions—NOT the sender—who determines whether those words or actions deliver the desired effects.
In other words, you may feel that you are acting in a loving way toward your spouse. But unless they perceive your efforts as loving, it simply isn’t effective.
If this sounds familiar, take some time to talk to each other about what makes each of you feel most loved. Ask your spouse for ideas of how you can express love so that it is meaningful to them. You can also find ideas online or in the book The Five Love Languages.
Don’t worry if it feels a little strange at first. When we study a new language, the words don’t feel natural to our tongues right away. In the same way, if you’re not used to “speaking” your spouse’s love language, it may initially feel fake or scripted to you.
Perhaps your husband loves acts of service and your love language is gifts. To you, it may not feel meaningful to show love by vacuuming his car. You’d rather surprise him with a new shirt in his favorite color.
Or maybe your wife’s love language is receiving words of affirmation, but you’re not naturally verbally expressive. When you make an effort to say loving things or compliment her more frequently, it may not always feel comfortable. And that’s okay.
It may take a little time, but if you’re willing to push through the awkwardness, you’ll see positive change in your relationship.
Granted, no married couple will ever meet all of each other’s needs—that’s not how we’re designed. And we should not expect ourselves or our spouses to always know how to speak each other’s love language perfectly. But when we do express love in ways that are meaningful to our spouse, we communicate directly to their heart.
If you’d like to learn a lot more about how to communicate, understand each other, and meet one another’s needs, consider taking one of our marriage courses. Thousands of couples have grown closer by taking a Marriage Dynamics course. You could be next!Click for our FREE guide, "7 Foolproof Ways to Build Exceptional Love"