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Apologize and Change

If when you hug your spouse and they stiffen up, and it feels like you are hugging a tree, there’s a reason. Either physical touch is not their love language, or, they have a lot of resentment toward you because of your past behavior. The answer to the first is to discover their love language and begin to speak it. However, the answer to the second is more difficult. Resentment is the result of hurt. It doesn’t go away with a hug. It goes away when you sincerely apologize and change your behavior. Saying, “I’m sorry,” is not an adequate apology. You must admit your wrong, and ask what you might do to make things right. Learn the love language of your spouse and speak it daily. In time, resentment will fade and they will accept your hug.

When a Touch can Talk

If your spouse complains, “I don’t think you would ever touch me if I didn’t initiate it,” they are telling you that ‘physical touch’ is their love language. What makes them feel loved is when you reach out and hold their hand as you walk across the parking lot, or give them a hug when they walk in the door. Your ‘touch’ says, “I love you.” When you seldom touch, their love tank becomes empty and they begin to feel that you don’t love them. I know that physical touch may not feel comfortable to you, but you can learn. Set a goal of one touch a day. It may be as simple as putting your hand on their shoulder as you pour a cup of coffee. Or putting your hand on their leg as you watch TV. Each touch will make the next one easier. And, your spouse will feel your love.

Have You Hugged Today?

Have you hugged your child today? Or, if you’re married, have you hugged your spouse today? How long has it been since you kissed each other?

Physical touch is one of the five love languages. Some people grew up in homes were family members seldom touched each other. For these people, learning to speak the love language of physical touch will take effort. The good news is that you can learn to touch. I remember the father who said, “I know that my son’s love language is physical touch because he’s always touching me. But, I have a hard time touching him. My father never touched me, so it doesn’t seem natural to me.”

My advice? Learn, one touch at a time. Begin with one finger on the shoulder. Every time you touch will make the next one easier.

Physical Touch

Physical touch is one of the five love languages. For some people, it is their primary love language. If you want them to feel loved, then give them a hug, or a pat on the back. This is true for children as well as adults. If a child’s love language is physical touch and you seldom hug the child, the child will grow up feeling unloved. I remember a prison inmate who told me that he grew up feeling unloved by his mother. When he read my book: The Five Love Languages, he discovered that his love language was physical touch. “But, my mother never hugged me,” he said. “The first time I remember her hugging me was the day I left for prison.” How tragic. Don’t let that happen to your child. Hug them every time they leave the house and when they return.

Touch is Fundamental

A while ago, I met an old friend whom I had not seen in a long time. Immediately, we hugged each other. Why? Because ‘touch’ is fundamental to who we are as humans. We speak of the ‘five senses’. One of the five is touch. It is one of the ways in which we experience life. What parent does not know that toddlers like to touch? We may say, “No, don’t touch that,” but touch is one way a child experiences life. The same is true with adults. All cultures have appropriate affirming touches when they greet each other. When you touch me in an appropriate way, you affirm my worth. When you touch me in a harsh way, you demean me as a person. Make sure that today, all of your touches are affirming touches.

Communicating Desires

We are creatures of desire. That is, we want certain things. Desires are usually expressed in terms of “I want, I wish, I hope, or I would like. In an intimate marriage, couples can share their desires without making demands. If my wife tells me that she would like a new dress for the party, then perhaps I can make it happen. If she doesn’t tell me, I have no way of knowing her desire. I don’t mean that any of us can have everything we desire. But if we share, then we can discuss the possibilities – is it realistic or not? If so, then what steps need to be taken? Helping fulfill the desires of your spouse is one way of expressing your love. Love always wants what is best for the spouse.

Thoughts and Emotions

Intimacy comes from a Latin word meaning ‘inner’. It is two people sharing the ‘inner self’. Marriage is meant to be an intimate relationship. Two of the things we share are our ‘thoughts’ and ‘emotions’. Emotions can’t be seen, but they can be revealed.

When I say to my wife, “I’m feeling disappointed,” I have shared an emotion. If I tell her why then I’m sharing my thoughts. We make it easier for our spouse to share thoughts and emotions if we don’t pounce on them with condemnation. If you say, “Well, that’s nothing to be disappointed about. You shouldn’t let that bother you,” you have become a preacher, not a loving spouse. When you say, “I can see how that would be disappointing, tell me more about it.” You are encouraging intimacy.

Interpretation Differences

Ever notice how we interpret things differently?

A husband walks in and sees the sink filled with dirty dishes. He reads a note on the table: Darling, I am attending a program at church. May be late. Love you. He may say to himself “lazy woman, she’s taking advantage of me – expecting me to wash the dishes.” And he walks out of the room. Another husband might say, “She must have had a busy day. The least I can do is to wash the dishes.” And he rolls up his sleeves. The difference was interpretation. Love ‘thinks the best’ and always looks for an opportunity to serve.

The first husband was self-centered. The second was a lover. Lovers always have better marriages.

Verbal Abuse Saddens God

Behind every verbally abusive tongue is a person of value. I know that’s hard to believe when you are hurt by exploding words, but it is true. Your spouse is an extremely valuable person, a person deeply loved by Christ. Of course, their verbally abusive behavior saddens the heart of God as it does your own. But their abusive behavior does not distract from their worth. If you can focus on their worth rather than their abuse, perhaps you can be God’s instrument for bringing help. The wife who says: “I’ve been thinking about us. I’ve been thinking about our dating days. I’ve been remembering the tender touch, the kind words, the smiling face, the fun we had in those days. I guess that’s why I believe in you so strongly. I know the good qualities that are there. Sometimes I lose that vision when I am hurt by your verbal attacks, but I know the kind of man you are and I believe in that man.” She is giving him what all of us need: someone who believes in us. This has powerful potential for motivating positive changes in his behavior.

Deep Need for Self-Worth

Most people who verbally abuse their spouse are saying more about their own needs that they are about their spouse’s character. The verbal abuser has a deep need for self-worth. They are unconsciously seeking to elevate themselves by putting down the spouse.

Of course, this is not an acceptable way to build one’s self-esteem. The spouse who wants to have a positive influence will affirm the need, but reject the behavior. By saying something like: “I know that you must be terribly frustrated to speak to me in that manner. I wish I could hear you and help, but I am so pained by the words that I cannot listen. If you could write me a note telling me what you feel and how strongly you feel it, maybe I could be there for you and could be the spouse you need.” This statement acknowledges the inner struggles of the abuser, but refuses to accept the destructive behavior. This is a step in the right direction