Words of Affirmation

This past fall I read The 5 Love Languages: The Military Edition. I typically don’t buy into relationship books like that because I’m a bit of a cynic and sometimes a snob. I work in a bookstore and often stock the shelves with the various editions of The 5 Love Languages franchise, and I’m always equally as intrigued by their claims to restore and save marriages as I am skeptical of those claims considering how broadly and generally those claims sweep. “Reading this one book will change your whole life,” and “Contained within these pages is the secret to relationship longevity.” These are the kind of statements that make me smirk, roll my eyes, and stuff the book back on the shelf.

I take issue with the idea that one book, one person’s words, contains all the truth I need to get through life and relationships successfully. I think it’s an arrogant assertion to suggest that in all the time of human history, this one man holds the secret to relationship success and happiness.

The fact that these are shelved in the Christian Living section didn’t make it any easier for me to spend the cash on it. (Not because I have a general distaste for Christian books; but rather because of my very specific history with Christianity.) Of course, I’m someone who believes in accepting truth wherever I might find it, even if it did manage to blunder its way through a religious patriarch.

But I’d been intrigued by this particular edition, the military edition, for so long–every time I’d shelve in that section, I’d pick it up and flip through and read a few lines–that I started reading it on my break one day. Without even realizing what I was doing, I started underlining parts that resonated with me and writing notes in the margins. Couldn’t very well put it back on the shelf after that, so it came home with me.

I have plenty of criticisms of the book–The 5 Love Languages in general, not just the military edition. There’s too much god-ness for me. It’s stiflingly heteronormative and traditional in approach to gender roles, and doesn’t use or seem to know language that encompasses a variety of long-term, committed relationships, not just Christian marriages between a man and a woman. That being said, if you’re willing to mentally edit the overly-religious parts and to interchange pronouns to suit your circumstances, it’s truly an insightful and useful little book.

There’s plenty of truth and sound advice and experiential wisdom in there. I learned that my love language is not what I thought it was; or maybe it’s more accurate to say, I learned that my love language is more than I thought it was. I’ve always known, even before the phrase “love language” existed, that I feel loved and secure and confident in a relationship–no matter what kind it is–through acts, demonstrations, cooperation in tasks/chores, teamwork. Doing. Being on the receiving end of Doing is what has always felt like love to me. The 5 Love Languages calls it Acts of Service.

As it turns out, while that’s still true, what’s more true is that even when someone is doing and is a person of action in the relationship, I can still feel a lack. A distance, an insecurity in whether or not they truly love me. I realized through reading this book that a possible reason I could feel that lack or insecurity is because my love needs were in fact not being fully met. Yes, acts of service are absolutely vital for me to be a partner in sustaining a healthy, loving relationship; but also, I need words. Words of Affirmation according to The 5 Love Languages. My Words of Affirmation score was even higher than my Acts of Service score. I found this fascinating because I’m a firm, lifelong believer in walking the walk. Anybody can say the right words, but those words need to be backed up by action. That’s always been my philosophy, and still is. But it’s also my philosophy that solid actions need to be supported and enhanced by the right words.