Our small group at Southside is studying the book, The 5 Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Smalley. It is a fantastic book and it really helps with every relationship in your life - not just marriage! John and I had studied the book in our singles class at FRC when we were engaged and it really opened our eyes to the cause behind many of our clashes and hurt feelings.
The basic premise of the theory is that everyone operates out of one of 5 love languages - gifts, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, or words. You tend to show love in one of these ways and it is directly connected to the language that you tend to respond to in the strongest way. For example, my top love languages (they are always tied - I know, I'm a whack) are quality time and gifts. I tend to show love to others by giving thoughtful gifts and by spending time with them. I also feel incredibly loved when I am given a thoughtful gift or when someone makes time for me. When these things happen regularly, I feel loved. When they are neglected, I feel very low and unloved.
When we first took the test, John had quality time as his top language. Because of my languages, I would show love by cooking dinner for him or by leaving cards in his truck about once a week. The clash would come when I would put my acts of service (cleaning the kitchen after dinner) above sitting on the couch with him (quality time). He would get his feelings hurt and feel as if he was not very important to me even though I was showing him love. Once I realized what his love language was, I was able to show him love in ways that shouted to him how important he is to me.
If you struggle with letting people know how you feel or if you struggle with feeling loved by the people in your world, you should really check this out. It will help you not only to realize how you best receive love, but it will also help you give your love away more effectively!!
By the way, if you know your love language, I'd love to know what it is!!!