What’s your lover’s love language? Or, a sweet angle on local economy

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Seth Huffman, 19, and Kelsey Stansell, 18, both of Chattanooga, plan to marry in June and are reading a book on “love languages.”

By David Tulis

The men at Panera Posse the other morning considered the work of Gary Chapman, whose “love language” books have been such a help to Christians understanding their mates and their children.

Jeannette and I read Mr. Chapman’s book as young marrieds and prospered greatly. I learned my wife’s love language, and she mine. The love languages Mr. Chapman develops in several works are these:

➤ Words of affirmation
➤ Quality time
➤ Receiving gifts
➤ Acts of service
➤ Physical touch

In considering the “love language” idea, one might guess that Mr. Chapman is dispensing useful versions of the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But I ask you. Does this too-familiar bit of counsel go far enough — penetrate deeply enough into the human condition?

I offer here a subtle revision: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

Do you detect a new angle? Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Don’t care for others as you would want to be cared for — no, that’s not enough. Care for others in a way that fits their needs, their persons. That’s the genius of Mr. Chapman’s idea.

If you’re a man, happiness in marriage is understanding the love language of your wife, and loving her in the way that God made her. In the case of marriage — and that of local economy, believe it or not — the golden rule without our local economy modification might actually get you into trouble. ‡

How to love your wife

In attorney Andrew Huffman’s hand is a copy of The Five Love Languages[;] How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Mr. Huffman has 30 minutes to visit with us regulars at Panera Posse before he shifts to another table. He plans to chat with a couple from his church engaged to be married (his son Seth, 19, and his intended, Kelsey Stansell, 18) and provide godly counsel about the wonderful art in marriage of dying to onesself.

The “love language” between a husband and wife, or between a parent and a child, is determined not by the giver of the love, but by the receiver. To enjoy the godly blessing of marriage, Seth needs to love Kelsey as God has made her to be loved, and in terms she most deserves and appreciates. Kelsey, for her part, is urged by Mr. Chapman’s work to love Seth according to the way God made him.

Acts of service is a love language that I suggest is a forgotten root of capitalism — but let’s save that point for a moment. Acts of service Seth might consider giving to Kelsey once they are married might include cleaning a commode, vacuuming the bedroom, wiping hairs out of the sink, changing a cat’s litter box — Jesus did no less in washing the disciples’ dusty feet at the last supper. And Paul asks the free men in Christ to bind themselves to bend the knee to others: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).

Local economy: Serving the other on the other’s terms

The question of loving your husband according to his love language, or loving a wife according to hers, is a wonderful and engaging topic to cheer your life at home. But there’s more. The love language theme is part of the delight of local economy and the blessing of free market capitalism.

The idea of a happy marriage is the same principle upon which Chattanoogans build their businesses, serve their neighbors, and bring rising prosperity to local economy. Whether you are Hollywog LLC, a medical device maker in Chattanooga adding jobs on Amnicola, or Melanie Brooks-Settles opening Walls of Color gallery in Brainerd, you are thinking about what your public needs and how you, with your gifts and talent, might best serve them.

Every businessman exists to serve another people. Stuart Goggans, for example, a Nooganomics.com advertiser, serves people who own houses and buildings. What does he do? His Aphoenix Systems installs centralized vacuuming systems. That may sound like a dull line to you, who have always wheeled around a vac at house-cleaning time. But a centralized system might be very serviceable to a high-end house’s owner or certain business operators seeking convenience and cost advantages.

Mr. Goggans is not forced to provide his service. He gives it freely. He succeeds if he considers how to address the needs of potential clients. He has to learn who they are, consider their particulars, and make the pitch irresistible. He will close the sale if its argument is framed most cogently in terms of his customer’s actual situation — one Mr. Goggans has perceived by acts of imagination, inquiry and thought.

Mr. Chapman tells of one couple he counseled. In courtship Mark helped his young sweetheart with school projects and with home chores. What had convinced Mary to marry Mark “was the way he helped me with everything,” she says. But now Mary’s complaint is that Mark never helps at home. “He expects me to do everything. He even expects me to wash the car.”

Service is a love language that cannot go wrong. People who love God are ideal models for the language of service and the others Seth and Kelsey have studied in counseling. People serve God. They serve their husbands and wives. They serve their customers. Local economy works best when we redact the old saying, and live according to new principles.

Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

Sources: Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages[;] How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 1995, 1992), 203 pp

Even better than Mr. Chapman’s work is that of Emerson Egerrichs’ Love & Respect books and ministry.

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