I’ve read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman enough times that I pretty have the entire book memorized. For a time, this book seemed like the savior for my relationship with my wife. The idea behind it so simple:
- I want a better marriage. a.k.a. I want my wife to do specific things for me (which Chapman would call “speak my love language”) –a raw and brutally honest way of saying this would be to call it selfishness. Or at the very least, self-seeking.
- If I can get my wife to do what I want, our marriage will certainly be better. This book is going to tell me how to solve the riddle of getting my wife to do what I want. I want to read this book!!!
- The riddle’s answer presented by The Five Love Languages is that I first figure out what she wants me to do (self-seeking on her part now), then when I do this for her, she will feel loved by me and will then reciprocate “love” back to me by doing what I want. Smiles all around.
- Jen and I read the book together, take the individual tests included, and now know each other’s love language. I know what Jen wants me to do for her and she knows what I want her to do for me.
Do you see anything wrong with this picture?
You might think I’m being intentionally cynical here; I promise you I’m not. I know when Chapman sat down to write The Five Love Languages, his intention wasn’t to train someone how to be effectively selfish. I know his motive was to help someone who really loves their spouse and just wants to know how to most effectively show their spouse that love. To answer the question of how can a person most effectively serve their spouse? And I think his intent is better applied by readers in his parallel Love Language books on children, teens, the workplace, etc. because the selfish motives of kickback love aren’t as close to our insecurities and our flesh in those relationships as they are in romantic relationships.
What drives most people to pick up the original The Five Love Languages book for the first time? Or when a marriage counselor has them fill out the inventory? Most people’s drive at that point is that their marriage is messed up and they have that empty pit in their chest every day caused by a perceived lack of love and lack of affection and they are looking for anything that will remedy that.
Insert Chapman’s “love tank.”
The more I do what my wife wants (speak her love language), the greater her love tank quotient will go up. The greater her love tank quotient goes up, the more likely she is to give me kickback love. She will do what I want for me because I have been doing what she wants.
Does this sound biblical?
Does this sound like the definition of love?
What happens when I’m doing my part and I feel like my wife isn’t doing hers? I’m pouring into her love tank, we both read the same book, but she’s slacking.
Aren’t I entitled to my love language being spoken to me?
One certainly gets that impression.
As soon as we start talking love tanks, we start talking scoreboards. And it’s only a matter of time before I’m winning on the scoreboard and my spouse has a lot of catching up to do (and vice versa).
A kickback love strategy is all fine and dandy as long as both partners are doing their part. Which is why tools like The Five Love Languages get people so excited. Because they work.
For a season.
Do you ever wonder how full Jesus’ love tank was when he hung on the cross? Certainly his tank was full from the Father, but what about with his Bride? His Bride who strung up on the cross?
Yet he hung.
What was it that held Jesus to the cross?
No. It was his love for you and I.
How does that work in a kickback, love language, love tank system?
Which is probably why the Bible describes love a bit differently than most of the most popular marriage counseling techniques: 1 Corinthians 13:5 Love is not self-seeking.
When we use self-seeking approaches to trying to make love work, it’s going to let us down every single time. If God’s love for us was self-seeking, he would have given up on us a long time ago.
Jesus doesn’t tell us to love in a way that’s convenient, or in a way where we get a kickback, he says love as I have loved you (John 13:34-35) and specifically to husbands love your wife as I have loved the Church and gave myself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).
The only way to do this is to realize we don’t actually deserve anything. We don’t deserve love in our language. We don’t deserve our spouse to do what we want. We deserve hell! Yet God has given us so much, including our spouse just as they are. What do we call that “so much”? We call it mercy. Our response to mercy is not entitlement, it is appreciation.
Kickback love feeds off of another human being. A human being that will always run out of power.
Jesus’ love feeds off the Father, the generator of all love (1 John 4:8)!
For love to work, our foundation must be in what God has done for us and who we are in Him. If the foundation of our love is in another person and who we are in them, just like with any other idol, this love will never fulfill its promises and will let us down every single time.
If you want your marriage to be better, love like Jesus.
Your spouse may not change…but you will.
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