In THE FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, the beleaguered family patriarch Tevye finds his thinking on marriage to be challenged in different ways by each of his daughters. While the usual way of marriage for the villagers is an arranged marriage by the parents of the bride and the groom, Tevye is confronted with a new idea: people choosing to be married based on their love for one another. Tevye asks his wife if she loves him. She is struck by the question: after 25 years of her raising their children, washing his clothes, cooking his meals, why would he even ask, isn’t it obvious? An issue is raised, do we by our behavior speak love to our spouses in a way that they can understand and feel loved?
I read Gary Chapman”s book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, and found it an interesting read and a potential tool to help couples strengthen their marriages. The book and the tools it offers help people gain self knowledge and also to gain understanding of others. This can help people overcome stumbling blocks in their relationships. Here are a few quotes from the book:
Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving. (Kindle Location 310-312)
Chapman argues that love is a form of language. Humans have different love languages – some behaviors from family and friend make us feel more loved than other behaviors even if all the behaviors are shown to us in love. If I am feeling like a failure, offering me cookies might be comforting, but praising me for deeds I’ve done might be the thing that makes me feel loved.
Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy, not to hold the offense up against the offender. Forgiveness is an expression of love. “I love you. I care about you, and I choose to forgive you. Even though my feelings of hurt may linger, I will not allow what has happened to come between us. I hope that we can learn from this experience. You are not a failure because you have failed. You are my spouse, and together we will go on from here.” Those are the words of affirmation expressed in the dialect of kind words. (Kindle Location 463-467)
Forgiveness is central to our Christian lives. Chapman reminds us that forgiving a loved one who has hurt or offended you is an act of love. It is one way we do show love to another.
We forget that marriage is a relationship, not a project to be completed or a problem to solve. A relationship calls for sympathetic listening with a view to understanding the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and desires. (Kindle Location 686-688)
A good reminder for any couples who are struggling – your marriage is not a problem to be solved, but a relationship which requires us to listen and to speak.
But I vacuum our house now, and I vacuum it regularly. There is only one reason I vacuum our house. Love. You couldn’t pay me enough to vacuum a house, but I do it for love. You see, when an action doesn’t come naturally to you, it is a greater expression of love. My wife knows that when I vacuum the house, it’s nothing but 100 percent pure, unadulterated love, and I get credit for the whole thing! (Kindle Location 1613-1616)
We show love in many ways. The issue is that not everyone sees our behavior in the same way. Doing acts of kindness are a form of love, but some people need to be held and touched gently before they feel loved. We can learn the love language of those around us. We can learn the love language we like to speak. We can learn how to love people so that they feel loved.
We both knew it was the choice to love. We had realized that if we continued our pattern of demanding and condemning, we would destroy our marriage. Fortunately over a period of about a year, we had learned how to discuss our differences without condemning each other, how to make decisions without destroying our unity, how to give constructive suggestions without being demanding, and eventually how to speak each other’s primary love language. (Kindle Location 1731-1734)
There is hope. We are able to learn and change and improve our relationships!