In today’s mobile society, periods of frequent, sometimes long, travel or separation can add stress to any marriage. It’s vital for families to know how best to love one another when time apart takes a toll.
That was certainly the case for Army Chaplain Darren Turner, who returned from his deployment to Iraq to find a whole new battle to fight on the home front to reconnect in his marriage and with his family.
Just out of seminary and commissioned in the Army, Darren almost immediately went to war, leaving his wife, Heather, and children behind. In Iraq, Darren bore responsibility for helping members of his battalion stay in touch with family and keep relationships strong. But over time their own relationship suffered, and when he came home himself, Darren and Heather were shocked to find the invisible, emotional wounds of war tearing their once strong relationship apart
The Turners’ true story is now the subject of a stirring new film – "Indivisible" – which is now in theaters nationwide. It vividly brings to life the challenges – and triumphs – I’ve seen many separated families experience over my years of counseling.
It offers a good lesson for every family to learn. We all want and need love, and we all want to receive love in the same way we give it. However, we need to learn our partner’s “love language” and speak it.
Over decades of helping couples learn to love each other better, I’ve learned the five love languages still apply for any family that deals with periods of separation: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch.
For any relationship, it’s vital to know your partner’s love language and yours as well. Why? Try to imagine that you speak English and no other language. Your spouse speaks Chinese and no other language. You might have the most awesome words of love and affection to tell him or her. But no matter how hard you try to express that love in English, if your spouse understands only Chinese, you will never understand how to love one another.
If your spouse understands love by hearing Words of Affirmation and you show love by doing Acts of Service, all your hard work to show that love ... doesn’t hit the target.
Learning to express love effectively takes work over time. Adding to that the all-too-normal life of frequent separations that many families face today adds to the challenge, but it can be done.
Here are a few examples of how.
If you’re a person who needs quality time to feel loved, what do you do in time of separation?
One family I know made sure to “bank” a lot of quality time together before the being apart. Once separated, they kept that need at the forefront of their minds, and when they could talk by phone or online, they did all they could to make that time, quality time.
One couple had a daughter who understood love by receiving gifts. Before her father’s long travels, he and his wife bought a number of small presents for their little girl – nothing extravagant, but each thoughtful and intentional. The dad penned a personal note with each gift. The girl regularly received the gifts and notes while her dad was away as reminders that she was loved in the love language she understood!
One spouse received love through Words of Affirmation. Her husband traveled often in his work. They spoke daily, and he was intentional in affirming the job she was doing meeting the family’s needs on her own, affirming her as a wife, affirming her in her work.
Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse’s primary love language, I believe you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage. These languages can be spoken even when you are separated.
You must stay alert to signs that your spouse might be crying out for love. You need to gauge the possibility that his or her emotional love tank could be running on “empty.”
And this goes doubly so for those facing times of separation.
At the heart of humankind’s existence is the desire to be intimate and to be loved by another. If we want our spouses to feel the love we are trying to communicate, we must express it in his or her primary love language, at home or away.
"Indivisible," from Reserve Entertainment, Provident Films and Graceworks Pictures, is in theaters nationwide now. IndivisibleMovie.com