There was a litany of things that needed to be done before our wedding– everything from seating arrangements to floral arrangements. We poured over menu options with the caterer and we tasted cake. We met with DJs and photographers, and then we met with Pastor Wally.
Funny and laid-back, we both liked Pastor Wally despite that we weren’t regulars at his church. When we met with him to discuss our upcoming nuptials though, we were too young and too unmarried to absorb much of his advice. Still, Pastor Wally gave us our first wedding gift that night. It was a book called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
We left the church that evening holding hands, our future before us. Upon returning home, I was thrilled to learn that the book contained his and her quizzes, so we quickly set to work figuring out what our love languages were, and then we set the book down. With our wedding only weeks away, we had more pressing matters to attend to.
Years later, we were reminded of The Five Love Languages yet again. This time, it was our counselor who mentioned it as we sat in therapy together. My husband and I marched back home, found the book, blew the dust off it, and took our quizzes again. Surprisingly, our answers hadn’t really changed all that much, but this time, after tallying our scores, I read the damn book.
I’ve picked up plenty of self-help books over the years. I’ve read tons of parenting books, everything from How to Speak So Your Kids Will Listen to The White-Trash Mom Handbook. I’ve tackled books that told me You Are a Badass and books that encouraged me to begin my own Happiness Project. Yet for all my reading, I hadn’t had another book on marriage in my hands until recently when, whilst scrolling through Facebook, something caught my eye.
100 Ways to Love Your Husband and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife are two companion texts for couples written by a husband and wife team. Believing that the books would be some type of 100-day challenge, I clicked on the link and read through the comments.
While reviewers praised the books, it appeared they were also faith-based, and I wasn’t sure exactly how faith-based they would be. Several weeks later though, when I came across the online advertisement again, I decided that there was only one way to find out. I ordered the books, and once I had, I was excited for us to both begin reading them.
Unfortunately, my book did not start off on the right foot.
“Always choose love.” Ummm, okay. Given that there are more words in this blog post than in the entire book, I wasn’t holding out hope that I’d be provided suggestions on how to do that. But then there was that biblical reference. Maybe I was supposed to read I Corinthians 13 for the answer. Where was my bible? Wait…Do I even own a bible? I could probably just Google it. I’d try that later, for now, I kept reading. Surely the book would improve.
Sadly, it did not.
By number 6, I was told to pray for him. I tried to imagine what that might sound like.
Dear God. Please watch over my husband as he does the laundry. Help him see the lights, and separate them from the darks. Amen.
Number 20 told me that I should care about my appearance and “freshen up a bit” before my man came home. The first thing I do when I get home is take off my bra and put on my pajamas, but apparently, the key to a successful marriage is to “pretty-up a bit.”
Annoyed, I put the book down.
Later that night, I picked up my husband’s book to see what kind of hogwash they were selling him. Skimming through its pages, it seemed better than mine, and I was a little miffed at this. Because it was written with a woman in mind, perhaps it just made more sense to me.
Run her a hot bath. Buy her expensive chocolate. Kiss her often.
Unlike praying or brushing my hair, these were things that he could do for me that I would notice. Maybe all was not lost.
In the end, I forced myself to read the damn book—all of it, which to be honest, didn’t take that long seeing as how it is primarily composed of one-liners. At times, I felt like I was getting antiquated advice from June Cleaver, but then I would wonder if that wasn’t sometimes what a marriage did, in fact, need. To write a love letter rather than sending a text. To walk and hold hands rather than to Netflix and chill. To cook dinner together, and afterwards, to wash the dishes alongside one another.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t suggest you buy these books. Truthfully, I was disappointed in them, but strangely enough, my marriage benefitted from reading them. I noticed that my husband was being more attentive, more affectionate. I was trying to do a better job of listening when he talked and stopping what I was doing to give him a kiss and a smile when he came home…even if I hadn’t just applied fresh lipstick.
Despite what the books said, by reading them, we took time to think about our relationship and to remind ourselves that marriages require work. We started putting in a little more effort, and without consciously realizing it, we started speaking each other’s love languages once again.