"Encouragement requires empathy
and seeing the world from
your spouse's perspective.
We must first learn
what is important to our spouse."
- Dr. Gary Chapman -
the first love language is best illustrated in conversations i had with a young couple from philadelphia many years ago. rocky and adrian met while rocky was a small time boxer and adrian worked in a local pet store. the ever boisterous rocky swept the quiet and timid adrian right off her feet. however, times quickly became tough in their relationship.
"i mean, you know, it's alls i know," rocky said of his former boxing career.
"but his right eye was going bad," adrian said. "i didn't want to marry a man who would be blind in one eye before the end of the year. i loved him too much for that. so i asked him to stop fighting."
"you know, she asks me to stop fightin', and i did. i stopped cause, you know, she's adrian and stuff. but workin' wif paulie down in tha docks, you know, i wanted to pack punches on tha beefs insteada packin' t'em up. it's alls i know."
adrian didn't realize that rocky's primary love language was words of affirmation. when adrian told rocky that not fighting would make her feel loved, he gave up fighting. she complimented him on his time at home, on his lack of bruises and scars, on him looking straight at her with his right eyeball. but what adrian didn't realize is that fighting is all rocky knows. when rocky repeatedly says, "you know, it's alls i know" - and when he says this in reference to boxing - what he's saying to adrian is that boxing is the only occupation that makes him feel worthwhile and good about himself. in a perfect world, rocky would occupationally box with adrian sitting ringside cheering him on in his endeavors; however, such a sacrifice was difficult for adrian to make. she wasn't sure she could see rocky beaten every night of the week. that all changed in the coma.
"when i was in the coma, i had long conversations with myself," adrian said. "as you may remember, rocky had just started training again with mickey."
"yeas, i was trainin' with mickey and stuff to fight creed again, but i couldn't, you know, get my head in tha ring. i was all standin' there, throwin' the punches, and mickey's yellin' at me to eat some lightnin' and crap some thunder, but, you know, adrian wasn't happy 'bouts it. so i wasn't happy 'bouts it."
adrian continued, "when i was in the coma i realized that rocky loves two things in this world: me and boxing. and i realized it was unfair to ask rocky to give up one for the other."
rocky became excited at this part of the story, "yeas, and i'd been sittin' there, you know, watchin' her in that coma and t'inkin' how beautiful she was all asleep and stuff, and i'm t'inking, with mickey sittin' right there and all, that i'm ain't fightin' creed no more. but then adrian, you know, she flutters her eyes and i'm like, whoa! adrian's awake and stuff! and then she says to me, oh, and i'll never forget it, she says, 'rocky, do something for me' and i says, 'what, adrian, anyt'ing.' and she says, 'win, rocky. win.' oh, t'em words felt better than all t'em kids hopping around me on tha museum steps."
rocky went on to beat apollo creed in the championship fight, going fifteen rounds after creed promised to beat rocky in two rounds. this example shows the power of a spouse's affirming words. adrian knew that rocky loved boxing, and she also knew that rocky could not succeed at what he loved without her support. by speaking rocky's primary love language, affirming his success with her words, rocky become more than the champion of a single fight: he, and his love for adrian, became american icons.