Love's Labors Lost... in translation.

Dear Fellow Translators:

During my years as a pastoral counselor, I recommended one book more than any other: The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. It is a simple, straightforward read in which Chapman suggests that each of us is conditioned to share and receive love in particular ways. When we want to convey our love to our partner, we do so in the love language we understand. We also resonate with love communicated in the language we find familiar. As the book title suggests, Chapman identifies five love languages: 1. Words of Affirmation, 2. Quality Time, 3. Receiving Gifts, 4. Acts of Service, and 5. Physical Touch. The problem, Chapman believes, is not our lack of love, but our failure to translate our love into expressions meaningful to our partner.

Tomorrow, Dani and I celebrate eight years of marriage, initiated eight years and three months ago by my proposal at Buckingham Fountain. After more than a decade of dating, we texted our kids with the announcement of our engagement, which brought the blasé response, “It’s about time,” from them all. But despite their lack of surprise, the proposal itself was almost lost in translation.

In ranking Dani’s fluency of love languages, Receiving Gifts and Words of Affirmation rank four and five. It's not that she doesn’t enjoy the occasional bouquet of flowers or encouraging word; it’s just that Acts of Service rank way higher. So, when I dropped to one knee and popped out a marquise diamond engagement ring and began to wax eloquent about the wonder that is Dani, her response was not swooning delight but, “What are you doing? Get up! People are staring! Get Up!” (If being the center of attention was a love language, Dani’s fluency would rank somewhere below Urdu.)

Of course, having read Chapman’s book, I was aware of my own fluency in Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation. Dani had also read the book but sometimes experienced me as an insecure, cloying, praise junkie. I frequently referred to Chapman’s work, using it as a weapon to explain how she needed to step-up her language acquisition, but when I started to understand Dani rather than insist she understand me, things dramatically improved.

Some lessons are easy. As a minister I’ve learned to never bring her flowers after officiating a funeral (even if I’ve taken the time to clip off the ribbon that says “Loving Grandpa”). But other lessons have been hard. To this day I really don’t understand the purpose of making a bed that I will be messing up again in 16 hours, or why I should never use the guest towels, even when we don’t have company. As I’ve tried to wrap my brain around Acts of Service as an expression of love, Dani has been graciously patient. Of course, as with all foreign languages, I speak with a thick accent. I make the bed and, even though it still looks like the dog is sleeping under the covers when I’m done, Dani receives my effort with the love I’m trying to convey.

Tomorrow is our anniversary, and I’ve learned how taking out the garbage without being asked will be received way better than a box of fine chocolate. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a big hug and an “attaboy” for taking out the recycling.

Still stammering through foreign language class, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Happily Married