“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way . . .” (1 Peter 3:7 NASB)
I often joke that it’s easy to see that Peter was married and Paul was not. In his instructions to husbands, Paul spent a great deal of time talking about sacrificially loving our wives and the theology behind marriage. Peter’s advice (according to my personal paraphrase of 1 Peter 3:7) was simply, “Guys, just try to keep up.”
My wife and I speak different love languages. Even after thirty-eight years of marriage things sometimes get lost in translation. However, early on it was like she spoke Chinese, I spoke French, and we had no interpreter. This was at no time more evident than on her twenty-eighth birthday.
For weeks leading up to her birthday, Danni had been dropping hints about how much she liked the birthday cakes from this one particular bakery in town. First rule in keeping up, guys: Learn to get the hints! Sidebar, ladies: Guys don’t get hints!
One reason I missed the hints was because over the same amount of time I had been racking my brain as to how to make Danni’s birthday special. I finally zeroed in on a plan and got to work.
I cut heart shapes out of construction paper and made a little coupon book out of them. The idea was that throughout the year she could redeem each heart shaped coupon and I would do for her whatever I had written on the coupon: Back rub, clean the kitchen, fold the clothes, dinner and movie, etc. I also knew that Danni loved double fudge brownies. So, I made her a double fudge brownie sheet cake. Brilliant!
Danni was very quiet the day after her birthday. I figured it was because she was having a hard time with being a year older. Second rule in keeping up, guys: Don’t figure you know what the problem is. Ask! Sidebar, ladies: Don’t expect your guy to figure out what the problem is. Tell him!
Finally, Danni exploded. “I can’t believe you are so cheap that you wouldn’t even buy me a birthday cake from Brahms’! It was the only thing I really wanted. They’re not all that expensive. You could’ve at least gotten me a REAL birthday cake!”
The ensuing argument still stands as the loudest and longest in the history of our marriage. But speaking louder doesn’t help someone understand you when they don’t speak your language.
The next day I went to my pastor. After explaining the entire ordeal I exclaimed, “Can you believe she reacted like that over a birthday cake?” To which he calmly replied, “Did you ask her why having a birthday cake from Brahms’ Bakery was so important to her?”
“Umm, was I supposed to?”
Danni had a chaotic home life growing up. Her mother was an alcoholic and prescription pill abuser. Money was always tight. Home was very often unsafe. But, the one safe time each year for her was on her birthday. It was always special because no matter how tight money was, no matter how chaotic things had been, there would be a big, bright, birthday cake from Brahms’ bakery waiting for her when she got home. Now, I was beginning to understand her love language.
Third rule of keeping up, guys: You learn your wife’s love language by asking questions and truly listening to her answers. Sidebar, ladies: The same rule applies to you.
One of the beauties of marriage is that it gives us an opportunity to become bi-lingual in the language of love. We just have to work at it. We may never fully understand our spouse’s love language. But, we can always learn enough to keep up.
© Paul R Downing