Valentine’s Day: Not a Review of The Five Love Languages

Category: Weekly Columns

We’ve met some very interesting couples over the years. Interesting in that they were so different from each other, yet they found each other and had what we viewed as terrific relationships. Since my wife and I also have solidly different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions, we find these other couples fascinating. In light of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a look at these couples, us too, and talk about love. Note: You may enjoy last year’s Valentine’s Day column, Guys Hate Valentine’s Day.

My parents were the epitome of a love affair, for 66 years of marriage and 73 years knowing each other. However, their backgrounds were similar with the one exception that my dad came from a lower-class family than my mom and, in those days, that mattered. But, their race, values, and religions were the same. Their story will be the subject of my second Valentine’s Day column this year so stay tuned.

Dan and Fionna (names changed) are friends we met on a trip. They were pretty much as diverse and opposite as can be and even had a local paper cover their relationship on exactly those grounds. Dan is White, Jewish, liberal, and a lawyer. Fionna is Black, Christian, conservative, and works in the non-profit sector. For a while, we actually thought they had us beat as even more diverse than us…but there was one big exception on which they had agreed. They chose not to have kids.

Given how much we adored them, we felt sad for the kids that might have been and the incredible parents those kids would have had in Dan and Fionna. But, I’ve always espoused that if you don’t want kids, DON’T HAVE ‘EM!

We’ve traveled with Dan and Fionna several times and enjoyed their company immensely. Evidently, both families accepted their love and marriage so, thankfully, that was not an obstacle for them.

The other couple is Eddie and Nicole (names also changed). Eddie is a Social Media and #DadChat buddy who I’d spoken with but hadn’t met until a few weeks ago when he and Nicole were in town for a high school reunion. They met in high school. They were high school sweethearts. And, though they wouldn’t confirm it one way or another, I think they were each other’s “First (and only) loves!”

How many high school couples ever really work out? Eddie and Nicole have been together over 14 years, married 7. They have two small kids. Eddie is Black and was raised by his mother, a Baptist preacher. He described his childhood as happy, but quite poor. Nicole is White, Jewish, and didn’t suffer quite so much economically, but faced some serious challenges when her mother died very young. Politically, they are on the same page.

Their families did NOT approve, at first, so they had that obstacle to overcome in addition to all the other obvious ones, including the fact that Dan’s job has included a lot of travel, leaving an ambitious Nicole to choose to not work and stay at home with their kids.

I was completely in love with Nicole and Eddie, both because they were adorable and because the smiles on their faces when they looked at each other were addictive in its sweetness.

Now, let’s consider Debbie – my wife – and me. I want YOU to weigh in, based on my possibly biased review, which couple you think is the most diverse and perhaps faces the most challenges. It doesn’t matter a hoot, but I’m curious what you think?

Our marriage is a second one for each of us. Debbie had been married 14 years and had no children. I was married 10 years and had two boys 24/7, who were 9 and 12 when they met Deb. I’m White, Jewish, a moderate conservative, and a very out-there personality. Deb is Chinese, Christian, also a moderate conservative, and with a much softer demeanor.

When she hooked up with me, we had to “marry” not just each other but my two boys, two dogs, and her and her one dog. I literally hired a dog-whisperer to introduce the dogs because one of mine was pretty dog aggressive. Deb was unwilling to meet my boys until and if there was a serious commitment between us.

When that happened and she did meet the boys, it was naturally a bit awkward, but my younger one immediately bonded with her while my older one, still bruised from his mother’s abandonment, was cautiously skeptical.

It’s all worked out. The dogs got along. The boys eventually both embraced Debbie, and we’ve been married four years with our oldest having left home to begin his college career this past fall.

Love is always a challenge. Do you think having commonalities is a requirement for a relationship to work? Do the differences described in this column among these three couples suggest success or potential failure in the long run? Finally, I invite you to share YOUR story of love.

Note: The mention of The Five Languages of Love in the title of this column is simply because that book was incredibly revealing to us and I think merits review at another time and is quite relevant to all couples looking to find their language of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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  • Daniel Alexander Dinnie

    I think any couple can make it work. I think what the couples you spoke of seem to do well, is not dwell on things that happened in the past and rather the future. If you were born black and I white, that’s done, but the first couple commitment not to have children is something they will live with for the rest of their lives and seem to be very comfortable with. So that’s great!
    On a side note: good for them for CHOOSING not to have children. So many parents today (and this is after doing research for my book) don’t choose. It’s just the thing to do: Go to school, get a job, find a partner, have a baby… It should be an active choice!

    • Bruce Sallan

      We soooo agree about being conscious about whether or not to have children, Daniel!

  • dadofdivas

    As you said, you always have to work in relationships, and movies, media or anyone else that says otherwise is mistaken, but I think you can have your differences and still make it, you do have to some commonalities and values that are similar though (IMHO). My wife and I chose to wait 7 years to have kids so we could have time for us, and now have our two girls that keep us on our toes daily!

    • Bruce Sallan

      @DadOfDivas:twitter – I didn’t have that luxury of waiting given my own age and my wife – at the time…

  • Ellen Bremen

    Love languages… Harville Hendrix? Love him! The first couple really resonates with me… The lack of parents’ approval can be stressful, but is only compounded if the son/daughter is “unfaithful” by waffling with the family and not putting his/her spouse and their family first. I had that happen in my first marriage and that is why we are no longer married (I was also very young).

    The second danger with that first couple, but sounds like they’ve probably negotiated it, is that the spouse travels (I have that one, too!). If the wife is feeling stressed and strapped being the stay at home mom and full caregiver of the kids (without relief even in the evenings because of the travel), that takes a toll in about 1.2 seconds and can wear on a marriage and create a lot of resentment.

    Of course, communication helps a great deal. I never believe that it solves everything, but without it, no love language is possible. I hope both couples are doing extraordinarily well :-). From some snow pictures I saw recently, looks like the latter is!

    No love story to share at the moment. I’ve been married for 17 years this February and it is all a work in progress.

    • Bruce Sallan

      @ChattyProf:twitter – No, Ellen – The Five Love Languages was written by Gary Chapman and is one of the VERY few of those type of new-age self-help books that I really appreciated! What – 17 years IS a Love Story, Ellen!!!!

  • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Hi Bruce, What wonderful love stories! All of them are so touching, just showing that differences don’t matter as much as what you have in common. My sister and her high school boyfriend celebrated 23 years of marriage last year, before his heart gave out unexpectedly the day after Christmas. No history of heart trouble and he was in great shape.

    It just goes to show you, cherish what you have. How boring would it be if we were all the same?

    • Bruce Sallan

      Well put Carolyn @WonderOfTech:twitter – Love is certainly a mystery, thank G*d!

  • Jodi Okun

    My parents met at age 16 (dad) mom 17  – they eloped and have been married for over 51 years – it is a great story and I strive to follow in their foot-steps – on our way my husband and I to celebrate 30 years of marriage this year !!

    • Bruce Sallan

      That’s a beautiful model to have @JodiOkun:twitter 

  • Aaron Brinker


    Love is one of those mystical things if you actually think about it. The very idea that two people on this huge planet find each other, fall in love and stay together is an amazing thought in my mind! My grandparents were together for over 60 years…my parents just celebrated their 45th anniversary and my wife and i have been together now for almost 23 years (married for 18 of them this year). 

    I have always believed that the couples without any children are the ones that “ultimately” will have the hardest time in life. It is not the idea that they are not in love with each other. It is not even the fact that they may not have wanted children. I think it’s more about as they age and come closer towards the end of their life. They will forever have the “what if” complex. What if we had children? What would have our life been like? It’s just an observation that I have noticed on couples that are older and never had children….just my two cents of course….

    Aaron Brinker

    P.S. I took a note out of your books….please note my name is now on my twitter and on my Disqus…I am slowly changing them as much as possible. I have come to the decision that i would prefer having authorship (even though I have been concerned about my son…I know I can protect him to the best of my ability)

    • Bruce Sallan

      Lots of wisdom there, Aaron about #LOVE – @DadBlunders:disqus – and congrats on the longevity of YOUR marriage! That’s a badge of honor!

  • Gstandev

    Hi Bruce – in my opinion your marriage is the most diverse simply because you added children into the equation on top of all the other potential obstacles. My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and we are as different as night and day. He was ‘country’ and I was ‘disco’ when we met (now we’re meeting more in the middle lol) – he is short and I am tall – he dropped out of school in grade 10 and I’m an author and inspirational speaker … yet, it works! I’m his second wife (he married his high school sweetheart and divorced two years later) and he’s my first ‘official’ husband but I admit I ‘shopped’ around in order to know what I ‘didn’t’ want in a mate. Love is blind and I think you tend to ‘know’ it when the real thing hits you!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks for weighing in – you’re actually the first person to answer my question! 

  • David Weber

    I’m not wholly sure what you wanted us to weigh in on, Bruce.  Was it on which couple was most diverse?  I’d probably say the first couple you described because of the degree of difference still attributed in the U.S.A. to black and white race difference.  Plus they seemed to be fairly different in other areas that are conventionally focused on in terms of thinking about diversity.  

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks David…we used to think they were THAT different too, until we spent more time with them and ultimately – while it wasn’t a contest of course – felt our challenges were greater due to the kids…your thoughts on that aspect?

      • David Weber

        Yes, the presence or absence of kids would seem to be a big deal.  In other words, across the two couples, the fact that one has kids and the other doesn’t makes the couples markedly diverse with respect to one another.  Then, when you add a blended or step configuration to the mix, that’s even another level of difference to negotiate, and differentiate from one couple to another.

        Actually, I’d go so far as to say having kids or not having kids is the fundamental point of distinction between married couples.  That is, imagine that the partners in one couple differ from one another along the lines of cultural or group identities, and the partners in another couple are more or less the same as one another.  Also imagine that neither of these couples have kids.  Now imagine a third couple that DOES have kids.  The difference between the first two couples is smaller than the difference between the third couple and either of the first two couples … I suspect (but I could be wrong).

        • Bruce Sallan

          I suspect you’re right, Professor!

  • Susan Spence Daniel

    What great stories, Thanks for sharing! The Five Love Languages is a great book for helping couples see what each person needs to feel loved and valued!

    • Bruce Sallan

      What’s YOUR Love Language @SueSpenceDaniel:twitter ?

      • Susan Spence Daniel

        My Love Language is words of affirmation …

        • Bruce Sallan

          Where were you @SusanSpenceDaniel:twitter when I was single! lol…

  • Carlabreeves

    We met in our late 20’s. First marriage for hubby, second (very short one) for me.  We met on a ski trip and married at 30.  After 6 years of travel and developing our individual careers we had our only child, a son. Happily married for 37 years. We are partners, lovers and best friends.  Lot of commonalities but also lots of differences. How to make a marriage work?  Really care about each other. Act like best friends, give each other the benefit of the doubt, have fun, a sense of humor, be kind to each other. A word to women: treat your man like he is THE best, handsomest and kindest and chances are (if you chose a good man) he will treat you like likewise. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      Carla, I love a good love story – TY for sharing! #DadChat

  • diesmaprevil

    this is so funny

    • Bruce Sallan

      Good funny, I hope? #DadChat is tonight…