On November 16, 2016 my husband and I flew into Kyiv, Ukraine on the first of three required trips in the process to adopt our sons. I was excited to experience a new part of the world, to meet new people and to see our boys. Of course, there were many things that brought anxiety too–not the least of which was the language barrier.
This barrier was enhanced by the fact that our two languages don’t even share the same alphabet. The Cyrillic “B,” for example, is pronounced as our w, E is pronounced as our j, H is pronounced as our n, and P is pronounced as our r. I couldn’t begin to try to sound out the words I saw on billboards or store fronts or official documents in order to infer meaning. My brain literally hurt. Although it all made sense to those whose native language was Ukrainian, it was completely foreign to me: fatiguing and frustrating.
In 1992, Dr. Gary Chapman released the classic book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” You may have heard of the concept of love languages before: People feel most loved when it is communicated to them in the way they best understand. Just like I couldn’t understand Сільпо was the name of a grocery store chain in Ukraine, a wife may not understand “love” when she receives a gift, if her native language understands “love” as spending quality time together. She may understand his good intent, but it won’t land on her heart with the full meaning her loving husband had hoped.
It is fatiguing and frustrating to try to express love to someone and have it not be well-received. It’s also fatiguing and frustrating to know someone is trying their best to show love but it’s just not making you feel truly known and cared for. This can become a really big challenge for married couples. But it’s easy to see how this could translate to all relationships.
Dr. Chapman later partnered with an associate clinical professor of pediatrics and psychiatry to apply the same concepts to parenting in the book “The Five Love Languages of Children.” It is a very helpful toolbox for families who want to love each other well. Like most new learning, this means hard work. Discovering how your child best understands love usually requires careful observation. It requires trial and error. It probably requires expressing love in a way that is not your native language. This requires others-first priority. Doing what is best for another, even at your own inconvenience. That’s real love.
If you are compiling a summer reading list, I highly recommend either of these two relationship classics. If your marriage could use a boost, start with that book. If you want some fresh encouragement for parenting, then tackle the one for parents. I borrowed the audiobook on Hoopla and cranked it out while doing housework. Multitasking to the max.
I continue to pray for your marriages and families to thrive in the light of Jesus’ redeeming love.
“None of you should look out just for your own good. Each of you should also look out for the good of others” (Phil 2:7 NIRV).
Enjoy this beautiful weekend!