Written by Evi Idoghor
One evening, I came across a YouTube video featuring a married couple. The woman was stunning, with her short hair and glowing light skin. While admiring her, I noticed something about her eyes. I wondered, "Is she blind?" When the conversation began, it was revealed that she had lost her sight due to an illness. As they shared about their lives, a conversation I had with my cousin about Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages began to replay in my mind.
The 5 Love Languages, a book on love and marriage, took the world by storm when it was released many years ago. I got to know about the book as I entered my adult years and began dating. People often asked, what is your love language? After I had taken the quiz on the book’s website, I knew exactly what mine was. This led me to quantify how much people loved me based on the quiz’ results. My top two languages were words of affirmation and quality time. But when I moved back to Nigeria, and saw that water don pass garri, acts of service rose to the top. As such, when people didn't live up to those expectations, I felt unloved - as if they didn't care about my basic needs.
It wasn't until I began to mature in my Christian walk that I realized there was a difference between what the author of that book thought about love (and its expressions) and what the bible says about love. Our belief as Christians is founded on love. "For God so loved the world..." begins John 3:16. God's love for the world drove him to sacrifice his only son for us. The night before he was crucified, Jesus cried out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane to spare him from what was about to happen, if it was his will. Nonetheless, he went ahead and sacrificed his life for us.
I saw a meme once which said, people like to say in relationships – I am not the calling type, or I am not the texting type. Jesus, who died for us, was he the dying type? It was hilarious but held a whole lot of truth at the same time.
According to the bible, there is no greater love than laying down one's life for one's friends. Love is all about making sacrifices. These five love languages: quality time, acts of service, gift giving, physical touch, and words of affirmation, are preferences. We also must consider that we are all different individuals who grew up under different circumstances, as such, how we choose to express love for others may look different. I believe it is wise to choose your life partner based on core characteristics and values rather than preferences. You should be asking yourself, "Will that person stand by me when it comes to the important issues in life?"
If you are facing the loss of a child, or a terminally ill loved one, will that person be able to hold your hand, as you work through the valley of the shadow of death? Will that person be able to stay while you untangle yourself from traumatic experiences? Will that person be there when you lose a loved one, and are crying like your whole world just collapsed? Will that person be there when you are dealing with infertility issues?
Would you be there for that person when they are going through their difficult times, such as losing their job, or when they make a poor decision and lose everything? You see, life is full of twists and turns, it throws us curve balls, that can be earth shattering. If we don’t have the right people to go through life with, it is even more devastating. Thus, you must choose rightly.
For the woman who lost her sight, it wasn’t the quality time, or physical touch that sealed her commitment to her husband. When he kept showing up for her in her lowest moments, during dialysis, and praying with her to find a donor, her decision to marry him became steadfast. He held her hand as she walked through the valley of the shadow of death, being strong for her when she was weak.
His unwavering affection for her, even after she had lost her sight, was something she couldn’t overlook. The yes, that she gave him, would have been one of the easiest, because he had proven to her long before they exchanged marriage vows that he would be there in sickness and in health. It is not the words of affirmation, gift giving, or acts of service, that will bind your relationship/marriage, it is the love of God that you demonstrate through devotion to the person you have chosen.
Where I have a problem is when people place their preferences on a pedestal above all else. More than our preferences, I believe we should concentrate on the key characteristics of the person we are interested in, such as whether they love Christ. What the nature of their relationship with God is like, and how that translates itself to their day-to-day activities.
Questions like these should guide our decision-making process - are they kind to others? Are they patient? Do they spend time in prayer and reading the bible? Do they believe the bible is the highest authority? What are their views on certain important issues that are plaguing the world? Are they generous with their time and resources? How do they treat those who serve them? How do they treat the poor? How do they treat their peers? How do they handle their responsibilities? How do they manage difficult situations when they arise?
This is not to minimize what we like or prefer; however, those things change with time and maturity, and we should not base long-term decisions on fleeting emotions. We should strive for the unique characteristics of love described in the bible, not whether he affirms me or takes out the trash. I'd like to believe that when a person's heart is in the right place, our preferences (while fickle) tend to fall into place. If someone loves you, he will show it. You will know if someone cares about you.
As Christians, we tend to conflate what the world says with what the bible says. The beauty of relationships, however, is that you get to work out your differences and make allowances for each other's faults because there is no such thing as perfection in relationships. Relationships, like marriage are meant to last a lifetime. That means you have time to grow with your partner, learn about them and evolve with them.
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