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.
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