When I was a student I had the opportunity to spend a year in Spain. I had a fantastic time there but my experience did not have an auspicious start. I turned up in Madrid carrying the largest suitcase my parents could find in the loft with instructions to find one of Madrid's cheapest hotels, in one of Madrid's red lightest of districts. I remember dragging the suitcase along a dark side street, sirens wailing in the distance, desparately trying to find my hotel. I finally found it, blinking in the neon of the cinema across the street and dragged my suitcase up 5 flights of stairs before standing grinning inanely at my hostess as she ran through the rules of the establishment in strong Madrileno Spanish.
I gathered from her hand gestures that I was sharing the room with a stranger and trying to ascertain which bed I was allowed to sleep on I pointed at the one nearest to the window and asked her "Puedo, er, cantar sobre la cama?"
She smiled benignly as if to say "Si, you English idiot" before closing the door and giggling all the way down the corridor.
Because "Puedo, er, cantar sobre la cama?" of course, as we all know, does not mean "Can I sleep on the bed?" but "Can I sing over the bed!!"
Can you speak my language?My lack of communication got in the way of my getting my message across and in the end my hostess had to guess what I was trying to say.
It can be like that in relationships as well. So many problems between husband and wife come down to communication.
My lovely wife and I ran The Marriage Course (set up by the folk who brought you Alpha) for a number of years at our church. It is a fantastic course suitable to any couple looking to strengthen their relationship and go for a marital MOT.
One of the best sessions on the course is concerned with "Love Languages" - a brilliantly astute and yet simple piece of work by the American sociologist Gary Chapman.
Chapman's thesis is that everybody likes love to be expressed to them in a particular way - this is our Love Language. So, for example, I really feel loved and appreciated when my lovely wife does thoughtful things for me. I also, like most blokes, feel loved through physical affection. These are my Love Languages.
My lovely wife, on the other hand, likes me to spend time with her - talking and sharing our experiences of the day together. She also rather likes presents! These are her Love Languages.
The problem is that we tend to show love to each other in the way that we like to RECEIVE love. So I will often spend ages doing thoughtful things for my lovely wife such as cleaning up the kitchen whilst she watches TV - which means I am away from her and not giving her the time and attention that she loves so much.
So, Chapman's suggestion is that we work out what our love languages are and also the love languages of our husband/wife and then seek to express love to the other in a way which they will really appreciate..
It can be a hard thing to remember and we often go through varying degrees of hopelessness in speaking to each other in a language which the other will understand - but when it works it is truly wonderful.
You can find out your Love Language here. You can find out more about Love Languages here and you can purchase the book here.
PS This is not a sponsored post - I have not been asked to promote the Love Languages this is just a really great idea.