Time, affirmation, touch, service—all gifts

by | Nov 16, 2020 | Faith, Family, Writing and Reading | 4 comments |

Ordinarily, I ignore online quizzes. You know, the ones claiming insight into your unique personality based on birth date, favorite color, zodiac sign, or the like. But last week, after reading a faith reflection blog about love relationships, I couldn’t resist clicking the survey link, though I would have bailed if required to enter personal information or email address.

The quizzes, linked here, were devised by Christian psychologist Dr. Gary Chapman, who has written that love is best expressed in five ways: giving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, or acts of service. Chapman’s quiz—I took the couples quiz—offers a series of paired examples of given love, such as time verses affirmation, and asks the quiz-taker to select which is more important to her. That is, how the quiz-taker prefers to receive love. 

Here are my results:

  • 3% receiving gifts
  • 19% quality time
  • 29% words of affirmation
  • 23% physical touch
  • 26% acts of service

I sent my numbers and the link to Keith. No surprise to either of us, he ranked physical touch and quality time higher, compared to my words of affirmation and acts of service. We both ranked receiving gifts rather low, perhaps because in our time of life we don’t need more stuff.

In reality, all five expressions are gifts we should give to loved ones. But I suspect we default to giving more of what we wish to receive—I know I do. Knowing my preferences, I’m more likely to ask for what I want; knowing Keith’s, I’m more likely to give him more of what he wants.


Our pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church speaks about spiritual plateaus and dry times—we all have them. The same can be said of growth if we make our relationships a priority. Recently, Keith and I have been experiencing a marital growth spurt. 

“What differentiates a loving, joyful, intimate marriage from a disappointing, frustrating one is the willingness and commitment to be changed, to say yes to God’s transforming work, and to become increasingly holy with each passing year,” writes Dorothy Littell Greco in Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start With You. This book is the prequel to Marriage in the Middle, which I wrote about last month.

Growth in marriage goes hand-in-hand with spiritual growth, because both require telling the truth about things we’d rather hide from ourselves and others, and forgiving. Mining those truths takes a lifetime, and sometimes forgiveness does, too. Both involve trust in our horizontal and vertical relationships.

Greco: “As we become like Jesus, we willingly and continuously sacrifice for our spouse rather than protect our self-interests. We extend grace and mercy rather than judgment and retribution. We love lavishly rather than withhold in self-protection and fear.”


Keith and I weren’t novices when we married fourteen years ago. From the beginning of our relationship, we recognized that our differences balance us. We complete one another, as Adam said of Eve in Genesis 2:23a: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…”

But as fallen people, we complete one another imperfectly. Especially in those “fight and flight” moments, we need grace, mercy, patience, humor, our shared mission, and intimacy—and to know we are not alone. In faith, we have been given the greatest gift of Christ’s sacrificial love. And we have our church community, supporting our marriage as we support others through tangible gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch (virtually these days), and acts of service.

In truth, all are gifts.


  1. barefootlilylady

    I’m not into those tests either, but took this one. I’m definitely an “acts of service” kind of gal. I’d rather have my hubby pick up a bucket and work in the garden next to me pulling weeds than have him give me a piece of fine jewelry. Now, I do like a thoughtfully chosen gift. Wayne knows I would be delighted if he would bring me a flower to plant, rather than cut flowers…and if he digs the planting hole, that’s even more wonderful.

    One of these days I’m going to take the time to read the books you’ve been recommending, Carole. They all sound so well worth the read.

    I appreciated your blog post so very much. This sentence stood out as I read (and it is so very true): “But as fallen people, we complete one another imperfectly.” That describes my marriage with Wayne…perfectly imperfect.

    Take care, and keeping writing!

    • Carole Duff

      Thank you so much for your comment, Cindie, truly a gift! -C.D.

  2. bigskybuckeye

    Carole, your post shares a life journey with similar steps to the one Colleen and I have made. We have been blessed with 13 years of marriage, and we can remember using Gary Chapman’s materials and study about the “five love languages.” These past months under the insecurity of Covid has drawn us even closer together. May God’s grace and peace continue to look over both you and and Keith.

    • Carole Duff

      Thank you for sharing your marriage journey, Richard. God bless you and Colleen. -C.D.


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