The Tricky Languages of Love (or something like it)

Five years or so ago, my spousal unit and I woke to a perfectly wonderful, cool and clear late-winter Saturday, a day full of hope and promise — then took a chance on ruining it all by going to a marriage workshop.

Going to workshops or seminars or couple-improvement things is OK if you’re alone. If you attend as a couple, it’s wise to wear camo. Could be combat.

Because humans are naturally defensive, there is potential, when confronting defects, for tense moments. By tense I mean something along the lines of disarming an explosive device or filling a cavity for a mountain lion.

Why do you think they sometimes call these things “retreats”?

This workshop/seminar/retreat was at the church in the sanctuary and lasted something like two hours in the morning and three in the afternoon. Cost maybe 20 bucks. A steal. Plus, free Chick-fil-a at lunchtime.


Long story short is that it was actually really good. My spousal unit didn’t want to go as much as I did, but when it was over, we looked at what had been created during those five-ish hours and said, “It was good,” and the next day, the seventh day, we rested.

(I’m blatantly stealing material now.)

We got there 15 minutes early. They checked us for weapons — can’t be too careful at a marriage workshop — and we headed for the safety of the balcony.

It was understood that if either of us were asked to stand and say something (this is called “sharing” in the seminar game) or if we were asked to “break into small groups,” we would head for the door and try to salvage what was left of the day. I still get the shakes and shivers just thinking about being somewhere and the “facilitator” suggesting we “break into small groups.”

More like break into a fast trot.

And if I’m ever asked to say something on the spot in front of a big group, it would be “goodbye.” (At moments like this I always think of my precious granddaddy Teddy who, when the preacher asked him to pray one time, said, “I beg to be excused.” Then he bowed his head and waited for the preacher to bring in a pinch-hitter. Or pinch-prayer.)

Our leader that Saturday was a good one and an old pro, Gary Chapman, whose 1992 book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, has sold more than four million copies. He was funny and warm and the opposite of high-falutin’. He also used a couple of words (they had to do with sex) that I had never heard in a sanctuary, which made it worth the 20 bucks admission price right there.

He explained that the five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Find out your spouse’s main two languages and you become aware of how they wish to be loved, not how you think they wish to be loved or how you want to love them. At least that’s the way it works in theory.

Great concept once he helped us understand. Of course, we’re only human, so you can talk your spousal unit’s love language in sexy French and still be in trouble if you forget to pick up milk or diapers.

Ultimately, me writing about this is silly because I know more about how to fix a jet airplane engine than I do about most matters of the heart. But we have had no dustups around the house during the past 94 weeks of global madness, so maybe it’s luck but maybe we learned something that day.

If you’re interested at all, there is lots of info available online, plus Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, as if we needed something besides omicron and booster shots to worry about.

I can only wish you luck because while I could pretend to explain more, I don’t really know anything else so … I beg to be excused.

(P.S. My main love language turned out, Mr. Chapman said, to be a first: fried chicken. My backup was gravy. Two whole new love languages! Who knew?)

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