There is so much marriage advice out there, but this is one of the few things that will truly transform your marriage if you let it. Start where you are and start learning this today.
It’s easy to do. There’s stuff… SO MUCH stuff. It’s so easy to go into autopilot and put your marriage on the back burner because usually, it doesn’t need your immediate attention quite like the kid that just dunked their arm in the toilet, the baby who needs a bottle, the dog that needs to go out, or the deadline you have to meet.
I get it. I’ve done it. But I’ve learned that when a husband, or a wife, feels appreciated and is well-loved, they’re more likely to go above and beyond and reciprocate that love back.
Love multiplies. Love begets love. And love is a big ham; when you give it attention, it flourishes.
Love is like anything else; it can’t grow in the dark. It can’t grow without being watered. If you throw it in a closet somewhere and ignore it, eventually, it’ll dry up. It won’t be what it once was.
Everyone talks about the “honeymoon phase” or the “cupcake phase”. This is that mushy part at the beginning of a relationship, that always, inevitably, shrinks. Maybe not away, all the way, but it always shrinks. Maybe it’s because you feel more comfortable with them now, maybe it’s out of trust because you know they’ll always be there, maybe they start to feel like a habit.
The honeymoon phase may fade, but it’s a choice if the love does.
Love is a choice to stay in and remain in. Corinthians talks about what love is… Love is patient, love is kind, it doesn’t envy, it isn’t proud; just to skim the surface. You have to actively, constantly choose love if you’re going to remain in it.
Choose love… When he didn’t take the trash out after you’ve asked him 7 times.
Choose love… When he snapped at you because he’s tired.
Choose love… When he needs to say he’s sorry, but he hasn’t.
Choose love… When you feel like biting his head off.
Choose love… When he’s being a stick in the mud.
Choose love… When he made a choice that you wouldn’t have made.
Choose love… When it doesn’t feel reciprocated.
Since Jesus is love, we can replace the word “love” in all of these phrases and make it, “Jesus” instead.
This is what the NLT says about love in 1 Corinthians 13:
Is not jealous, boastful, proud, or rude.
Does not demand its own way.
Is not irritable. (Helllllo, Hannah)
Keeps no record of being wronged.
Does not rejoice about injustice.
Never gives up.
Never loses faith.
Is always hopeful.
Endures through every circumstance.
When we choose love, we choose Jesus.
But here’s the kicker… How we feel and express love is not cut and dry. It doesn’t fit a cookie cutter mold, and the changes are incredibly low that it’s what you think it is.
How he feels love is not how you feel love.
We read The Five Love Languages book a few years ago, but kind of forgot about the concept over time.
Recently we delved back into it, and it has been a game changer to our marriage to learn each other’s love languages, each other’s dialects, and how our love languages have changed or fluctuated in different life seasons.
For example, I am touched almost nonstop by the kids. I love them and I’m not upset about it, but Joey thinks this overstimulation overflows after they go to bed because usually, I just want some space and to not be touched for a while, and it makes sense.
I listened to The Rise Together Podcast with Dave and Rachel Hollis where they interviewed Dr. Gary Chapman, and it was an amazing refresher.
Joey and I retook the love languages test (several times). And we learned several things:
1) We learned that we each have a main one, and a close tie for second, then two that are less important, but that doesn’t mean dismiss them entirely.
2) We learned that his main love language is words of affirmation. His second is physical touch.
Words of encouragement, support, acknowledgment, and compliments communicate love to him, as well as small touches throughout the day.
I have thought his love language was physical touch this whole time. Physical touch was a close second for him, while it has been my last every single time I took the test. I like touch, but it isn’t most important to me, so I have to work at this sometimes to make sure he feels loved.
3) We learned that my main love language is acts of service, and my second tied between words of affirmations and gift giving (gift giving really surprised me!).
My dialects (for acts of service) are him taking anything that I don’t have to do and helping me with it. Anything that relieves stress on me or anything that I would do if he didn’t, really speaks to me. Usually, that manifests in folding laundry, helping give the kids a bath, or putting away the dishes, but not always.
My second dialect is food! It sounds hilarious, but I can’t count the time I’ve baked something as a gift or made someone a meal. My love language is food; what can I say?
4) We learned that misinterpretation of love languages was the root of a lot of arguments we’d had that didn’t make sense before.
I used to get so upset with him for leaving bottles with milk in the sink. He didn’t get it because to him, it was a small thing. But it made me so angry, not because of the ACT of not cleaning out the bottles, but because it left more work for me to do. A lot of the time, the root of the argument can tell you a lot about the person’s love language.
5) We learned that how we express is most often a reflection of what makes us feel most loved.
So while he appreciates the cute little things I’ve made for him, or the gifts I’ve brought him and the thoughtfulness behind them (my second language), or elaborate birthday or anniversary surprises, they didn’t mean as much to him as they did to me.
So in short, we are working on making the love we express less selfish. What I mean by that is, we are working on loving each other how it makes the other feel loved; not what we would like to receive.
This is the very best marriage advice I can offer: Learn each other’s love languages, dialects, and become experts at speaking it.
It will literally change your marriage and your life.
Here are some easy, tangible ways to choose love, choose Jesus, and remind your husband that he is loved in every love language.
Words of Affirmation
Choose a soft answer.
Choose patience. Be slow in your words and choose them carefully. Just as words build him up, they tear him down quickly. Just as this is his main way of feeling love; it’s also the quickest way to hurt him.
Leave him a sweet note somewhere where he’ll find it.
Let him know you see his efforts. If he’s working on a hard project, remind him this is the hard part and it won’t be this way forever.
Tell him you’re proud of him.
Say, “I love you.”
Thank him for doing something mundane or doing something you were going to do.
Pray for him.
Both with him and privately.
Ask him, “How can I help you today”?
And really hear his answer. If you can help him, help him. God made you his help mate!
Write him a heartfelt love letter and read it to him out loud.
Thank him for all he does for you and your family.
Tell him specifically what you love about the way he shows up for you and your kids.
Focus on his good qualities instead of what you wish he would improve on.
For example, if you wish he was more patient, catch him in an incredibly patient moment, and tell him how much you love how patience he was with the kids.
Say hard things gingerly.
If you have to bring up a hard topic, do it as gently as you can.
Hold his hand.
Give a loving little scratch on the back of his neck while he’s driving.
Rub his leg or knee and smile at him.
Hug him for no reason.
And let the kids see.
Give him a good kiss.
… And let the kids see.
Spend time just cuddling.
Reciprocate his touch.
Stop what you’re doing and greet him with a good hug when he comes home from work.
Acts of Service
Fill up his gas tank when you take his car.
Take out the trash so he doesn’t have to.
Make him a cup of coffee.
Finish a project he’s working on for him or something he’s been meaning to do.
Pick up something you know he needs while you’re out.
Do something he was going to do on the car while he’s at work (have a part fixed, take it to be washed, etc.)
Make his favorite dinner.
Let him get in the door.
Before you bombarde him. Give him a minute. Don’t throw a baby or life stuff you’ve been saving up all day at him all at once.
Make his lunch for work.
If you travel, pick him something up before you come home.
Bring him something small when you go out with your friends.
If you go out for a coffee, bring him one as a surprise.
Put a lot of thought into gifts for holidays.
Make him a list of 10 things you love about him and give it to him, just because.
Surprise him with his favorite drink or candy.
Get him a card of encouragement or appreciation, just because.
Read a chapter of a book or the Bible out loud together, then talk about it.
Do a favorite hobby of his with him (and don’t complain).
Put on your wedding song and dance in the kitchen.
Sit down on the couch, phones off, and spend time together; just the two of you.
Surprise him with 2 tickets to something to make a memory together.
Arrange a babysitter and go out on a date.
An actual date. With people around you.
Drop a comment with how long you’ve been married and your favorite piece of marriage advice! I’d love to learn from you!
What are your favorite ways to speak your husband’s love language and actively remind him he is loved?
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Photo by Lindsay Hagins Photography.