(Reprinted from St. Remy Bulletin, Feast of the Holy Family)
I have been reading a book Father Amberger had provided to couples during his time here; so I imagine some reading this are familiar with it. It’s called The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. I am very impressed with the common-sense observations and suggestions he offers for couples who may have found that “the thrill is gone.”
Obviously a priest doesn’t marry; but he learns a lot about marriage from what married couples tell him. And I know that there are lots of marriages that lack joy and encouragement; and it’s a trial for many. Many spouses wonder what to do.
Although Dr. Chapman is not Catholic, I am very comfortable recommending this book. You can also visit the website and get a flavor of what the author has to offer.
The basic insight is this: all of us need to be loved; and he describes spouses as each having a “love tank” that needs to be filled. Spouses do this for each other. The way they do it is in the “love language” they speak to each other – that is, the manner in which they express their love.
Further, people don’t always speak the same “love language.” So you may think you’re telling or showing your spouse you love her or him; but it’s not getting through. So Dr. Chapman explains how to learn the language your spouse speaks – and how to speak it yourself.
How do we enliven our marriage? Dr. Chapman reminds us of some basics: couples need to spend real time—alone-time—with each other. Spouses must talk to each other and help each other. Don’t assume “she knows what I want” or “he knows how I feel”—tell each other. The world has never had a surplus of kind words and kind gestures. Do things for each other. Give each other gifts—they don’t have to cost money. Never stop “courting” your spouse.
But don’t rely on my summary. Read the book.
What do I do if my spouse won’t cooperate? One of the last chapters is particularly powerful. It deals with a scenario I have found is all too common. One spouse in a troubled marriage is ready to do something, but the other won’t cooperate. Dr. Chapman described how application of his “love language” approach can help turn things around. While his information is hopeful, that doesn’t change the basic fact that both spouses must work together.
Making a successful marriage and family is one of the hardest things we do in life; and the success of our families is important to all of us.