From the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman
All five languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest. I heard the most graphic illustration of that truth in Chicago, where I met Jim and Janice.
They attended my marriage seminar and agreed to take me to O’Hare Airport after the seminar on Saturday afternoon. We had two or three hours before my flight, and they asked if I would like to stop at a restaurant. I was famished, so I readily agreed. That afternoon, however, I got much more than a free meal.
Jim and Janice both grew up on farms in central Illinois not more than a hundred miles from each other. They moved to Chicago shortly after their wedding. I was hearing their story fifteen years and three children later. Janice began talking almost immediately after we sat down. She said, “Dr. Chapman, the reason we wanted to take you to the airport is so that we could tell you about our miracle.” Something about the word miracle always causes me to brace myself, especially if I don’t know the person who is using it. What bizarre story am I about to hear? I wondered, but I kept my thoughts to myself and gave Janice my undivided attention. I was about to be shocked.
She said, “Dr. Chapman, God used you to perform a miracle in our marriage.” I felt guilty already. A moment ago, I was questioning her use of the term miracle, and now in her mind I was the vehicle of a miracle. Now I was listening even more intently. Janice continued, “Three years ago, we attended your marriage seminar here in Chicago for the first time. I was desperate, ” she said. “I was thinking seriously of leaving Jim and had told him so. Our marriage had been empty for a long time. I had given up. For years, I had complained to Jim that I needed his love, but he never responded. I loved the children, and I knew they loved me, but I felt nothing coming from Jim. In fact, by that time, I hated him. He was a methodical person. He did everything by routine. He was as predictable as a clock, and no one could break into his routine.
“For years, she continued, “I tried to be a good wife. I cooked, I washed, I ironed, I cooked, I washed, I ironed. I did all the things I thought a good wife should do. I had sex with him because I knew that was important to him, but I felt no love coming from him. I felt like he stopped dating me after we got married and simply took me for granted. I felt used and unappreciated.
“When I talked to Jim about my feelings, he’d laugh at me and say we had as good a marriage as anybody else in the community. He didn’t understand why I was so unhappy. He would remind me that the bills were paid, that we had a nice house and a new car, that I was free to work or not work outside the home, and that I should be happy instead of complaining all the time. He didn’t even try to understand my feelings. I felt totally rejected.
“Well, anyway,” she said as she moved her tea and leaned forward, “we came to your seminar three years ago. We had never been to a marriage seminar before. I did not know what to expect and frankly I didn’t expect much. I didn’t think anybody could change Jim. During and after the seminar, Jim didn’t say too much. He seemed to like it. He said that you were funny, but he didn’t talk with me about any of the ideas in the seminar. I didn’t expect him to. As I said, I had already given up by then.
“As you know,” she said, “the seminar ended on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night and Sunday were pretty much as usual, but Monday afternoon, he came home from work and gave me a rose. ‘Where did you get that?’ I asked. ‘I bought it from a street vendor,’ he said. ‘I thought you deserved a rose.’ I started crying. ‘Oh, Jim, that is so sweet of you.’
“In my mind,” she said, “I knew he bought the rose from a Moonie. I had seen the young man selling roses that afternoon, but it didn’t matter. The fact was, he had brought me a rose. On Tuesday, he called me from the office at about one-thirty and asked me what I thought about his buying a pizza and bringing it home for dinner. He said he thought I might enjoy a break from cooking dinner. I told him I thought the idea was wonderful, and so he brought home a pizza and we had a fun time together. The children loved the pizza and thanked their father for bringing it. I actually gave him a hug and told him how much I enjoyed it.
“When he came home on Wednesday, he brought each of the children a box of Cracker Jacks, and he had a small potted plant for me. He said he knew the rose would die, and he thought I might like something that would be around for a while. I was beginning to think I was hallucinating! I couldn’t believe what Jim was doing or why he was doing it. Thursday night after dinner, he handed me a card with a message about his not always being able to express his love to me but hoping that the card would communicate how much he cared. Again I cried, looked up at him, and could not resist hugging and kissing him. ‘Why don’t we get a baby-sitter on Saturday night and the two of us go out for dinner?’ he suggested. ‘That would be wonderful,’ I said. On Friday afternoon, he stopped by the cookie shop and bought each of us one of our favorite cookies. Again, he kept it as a surprise, telling us only that he had a treat for dessert.
“By Saturday night,” she said, “I was in orbit. I had no idea what had come over Jim, or if it would last, but I was enjoying every minute of it. After our dinner at the restaurant, I said to him, ‘Jim, you have to tell me what’s happening. I don’t understand.'”
She looked at me intently and said, “Dr. Chapman, you have to understand. This man had never given me a flower since the day we got married. He never gave me a card for any occasion. He always said, ‘It’s a waste of money; you look at the card and throw it away.’ We’d been out to dinner one time in five years. He never bought the children anything and expected me to buy only the essentials. H had never brought a pizza home for dinner. He expected me to have dinner ready every night. I mean, this was a radical change in his behavior.”
I turned to Jim and asked, “What did you say to her in the restaurant when she asked you what was going on?”
“I told her that I had listened to your lecture on love languages at the seminar and that I realized that her love language was gifts. I also realized that I had not given her a gift in years, maybe not since we had been married. I remembered that when we were dating I used to bring her flowers and other small gifts but after marriage I figured we couldn’t afford that. I told her that I had decided that I was going to try to get her a gift every day for one week and see if it made any difference to her. I had to admit that I had seen a pretty big difference in her attitude during the week.
“I told her that I realized that what you said was really true and that learning the right love language was the key to helping another person feel loved. I said I was sorry that I had been so dense for all those years and had failed to meet her need for love. I told her that I really loved her and that I appreciated all the things she did for me and the children. I told her that with God’s help, I was going to be a gift giver for the rest of my life.
“She said, ‘But, Jim, you can’t go on buying me gifts every day for the rest of your life. You can’t afford that.’ ‘Well, maybe not every day,’ I said, ‘but at least once a week. That would be fifty-two more gifts per year than what you have received in the past five years.’ I continued, ‘And who said I was going to buy all of them? I might even make some of them, or I’ll take Dr. Chapman’s idea and pick a free flower from the front yard in the spring.'”
Janice interrupted, “Dr. Chapman, I don’t think he has missed a single week in three years. He is like a new man. You wouldn’t believe how happy we have been. Our children call us lovebirds now. My tank is full and overflowing.”
I turned to Jim and asked, “But what about you, Jim? Do you feel loved by Janice?”
“Oh, I’ve always felt loved by her, Dr. Chapman. She is the best housekeeper in the world. She is an excellent cook. She keeps my clothes washed and ironed. She is wonderful about doing things for the children. I know she loves me. ” He smiled and said, “Now, you know what my love language is, don’t you?”
I did, and I also knew why Janice had used the word miracle.