Except from Where God puts two hearts in a home.
There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. —1 Corinthians 14:10-11, NASB
John walked in the door with a bouquet of flowers hidden behind his back. His wife, Sarah, was washing dishes, her shoulders slumped. He heard her heave a big sigh. He looked around, sadly shaking his head. The house was a mess, but he knew she was exhausted because the baby had been sick for three days, and she had not been sleeping much. Of course she hadn‘t had time yet for cleaning. The quiet house meant that the baby must finally be asleep. He was glad that she was having a break from caring for John Jr. Even though John, who was very sensitive to beauty, was disgusted by the untidy condition of the house, he knew it wasn‘t really her fault for letting it get so ugly.
He had been thinking all day about how he could help her. He had purchased flowers on his way home from work. His beautiful gift would certainly cheer her up. He wanted her to know that he loved her no matter how messy the house got, or how plain she looked in her faded dress and frowning face. Maybe now that the baby was getting well they could take him to her sister‘s house next door for a few hours, and they could finally have sex together. Maybe that would help her get over the crabby mood she had been in and take an interest in her appearance and surroundings again. He started humming the song they had played the night he had asked her to marry him five years earlier, and he waited for her to turn around. But she didn‘t seem to hear.
Was she trying to ignore him? He tapped her on the shoulder and she finally turned around. Sarah smiled slightly, but her eyes did not meet his as she took the flowers and got a vase off the shelf to put them in, and handed the flowers back to him. She kept looking at the floor. Thank you, she said as she returned to the dishes. John‘s sunny smile faded. As her eyes finally met his, they were dull, not shiny like they had been when they had listened to this music on the night that they had promised to love each other forever. She really does not love me anymore, he thought with dejection. He turned and walked away, devastated by her reaction. She didn‘t kiss me or hug me, and she was really quite unmoved by my surprise. As he walked upstairs into John Jr.‘s room, his head drooped. Maybe keeping love alive is a hopeless dream, he thought. I wanted Johnnie to have a happier home life than I had. But I guess this is what happens naturally. After a while, love just dies.
Sarah‘s tears dripped down her cheeks and mingled with the dishwater as she washed. She had felt like throwing the flowers in his face. What was John thinking? Get her into bed to make love while the baby slept? Here she was barely able to stand upright from exhaustion, and he wanted her to work even harder by having sex too. He didn‘t even seem to see the mess in the house, or offer to take over while she put her feet up. He never did. Couldn‘t he see how tired she was? Didn‘t he care that she was working like a slave? How could he think that flowers would make up for the fact that he had slept right through her getting up over and over with Johnnie to give him medicine and walk with him, never once offering to take a turn. She had given her heart to John, but she saw clearly now that he no longer loved her. She had never felt so lonely and so unloved.
In Genesis 11, God caused people to speak different languages to prevent them from building a blasphemous tower. It was a certain way to cause misunderstanding and confusion and an inability to work together. In marriage, miscommunication of our most tender feelings can cause similar alienation.
What was wrong with John and Sarah‘s communication? They were each trying to show love in the way they would like to receive it, but not giving love in the way their mate could receive it. The result was a sense of feeling unloved and lost.
Understanding Heart Languages
God commands love in marriage. Furthermore, He commands that love is to be the primary way in which believers should relate to each other and the world. But what happens when two people do not perceive love in the same way? In 1 Corinthians 14:10-17 we see a person worshiping God in one language, while someone who does not understand that language is unable to enter into the worship. How does the one who cannot understand feel? Mystified, alienated, insulted, confused? Rather than inspiring the second person to join in the worship, the language barrier may cause him to just walk away.
Je t‟aime (French)
Te dua (Albanian)
Each of these phrases expresses the same thought. But, if you cannot speak the same language as the speaker, you may not recognize that someone is saying to you, ―I love you.
Not Just Words
Just as we may recognize many different words that communicate a similar thought, we each perceive love itself in many different ways. The things that communicate love, however, are not just words. For your spouse to believe your love is genuine, and for it to feel satisfying and nourishing, it must be communicated in the ways of expression that your spouse‘s heart recognizes. We will call all the ways that we each perceive love, our heart languages. In marriage, we each instinctively look for love to be expressed to us in our own heart languages.
What causes confusion is that, in most cases, your partner‘s heart language is different from yours. You keep on speaking love in the way you most easily understand it yourself, not realizing your message is not getting through. Your spouse may not understand your language. To add to the miscommunication, your spouse also communicates love in the heart language that is meaningful to him/her. If the languages are very different, such as in the story you just read about John and Sarah, the result is that both parties feel unloved and lonely, even though they are each trying hard to express love. What seems an obvious expression of love to one makes little sense to the other.
Imagine if John had led Sarah to a chair and put her feet up before handing her the flowers, and then had begun to wash the dishes in her place. Imagine if Sarah had turned with a smile to hug and kiss John warmly when he came home (before asking for some help with the dishes). By recognizing and using each other‘s heart language, John and Sarah could have prevented the breakdown in communication that caused them both to feel such despair.
Can you learn to communicate love clearly in a way your spouse understands?