Marriage and the Military
by Gary Chapman with Jocelyn Green
Separations can mask a person’s love language simply because of the limits they impose on time spent together. Vernon and Jackie spent most of their engagement on two different continents, and, due to a deployment, didn’t live together until six months into their marriage. During that time, neither realized their primary love languages were as far apart as their zip codes.
After redeployment, however, it became painfully clear.
“One day Vernon surprised me by coming home from work for lunch,” said Jackie. “When I heard the door, I ran to hide in the closet so I could surprise and seduce him. When I jumped out, I was the one in for a surprise. He felt so unloved by the dirty dishes and clutter he saw that he was not ‘in the mood.’ Vernon turned around and left, confused, angry, and discouraged.” Finally, it clicked for Jackie. “Vernon’s love language is acts of service, and mine is quality time.”
Five children later, the chaos in the household bothered Vernon much more than it bothered Jackie. Though Vernon helped with household duties as much as he could, the chaos that remained left him feeling tired, frustrated, and unwilling to give his wife the time and words she craved. “Sad to say, it was often a relief to go on multiple-day field exercises and deployments to get away from the pressures of daily trying to please my wife,” Vernon said.
It’s easy to see separations as time off from loving one’s spouse the way they want to be loved, but the need for love does not go away. The key is learning to speak each other’s language when you are together and then learning to speak it when apart.
Though it has taken years to learn to read him better, Jackie now knows how to speak Vernon’s language. “Recently, I stayed up all night to clean the house to demonstrate my love for him, and it changed the entire climate of our home in minutes after he saw what had been done.”
Dual military couples have the added challenge of juggling two sets of orders. When Carmen and Garrett were dating, both were active duty with overlapping deployments. Sometimes, they were literally two ships passing in the night, inbound and outbound in the Boston Harbor ship channel. “Those were tough days,” said Carmen. “We weren’t together long enough to get used to being together, and there was always another deployment hanging over our heads. We fought a lot. Not quite constantly, but we weren’t married yet. I often wondered if we’d make it that far.”
Eventually they discovered The 5 Love Languages and realized that in the limited time they did have together, their love was lost in translation. With short intervals together, each of them standing duty one or more days per week, and under pressure to earn qualifications, there was very little time to fill each other’s “love tank.” When they were together, they spoke the love language that came most naturally—their own. “Once we knew how the other ‘heard’ love, we could be more deliberate in how we spoke love to one another.” Carmen and Garrett have now been married for fifteen years.
Learning to speak each other’s love language can keep love alive even when we are worlds apart physically.
Excerpt from The 5 Love Languages Military Edition