I first learned about love languages a few years ago from a book titled The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. It made so much sense to me and I have now witnessed the languages in use lots of times with lots of people. In my own household, we have three different love languages being spoken — no wonder we sometimes feel unloved! It’s not that we aren’t loving each other but we are not loving each other in a way that the recipient of that love recognizes.
So, what are these love languages? They are:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
When we express our love for others, we don’t always say the words I Love You; we say it in our actions or in other, more subtle ways. To illustrate that, imagine if I said to a group of people that they were to prove their love for another but they were not allowed to say I Love You in words. One person may buy a big bouquet of flowers, someone may organize a romantic picnic for two, another may choose to hug their loved one and give them a massage, the next person could secretly do a job for them and know it will be a surprise! You see? Each person has their own way of showing love for another, and yet the recipient of that love gift may have preferred a handwritten poem of affection because they can’t see the point in wasting money on gifts!
We tend to use our own love language to communicate our love to others but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand what you are doing. If their love language is different from yours, then they don’t even hear the I Love You that you are giving them. Some people spend their whole lives doing I Love You things for their loved ones and yet those loved ones still feel unloved. Or perhaps it’s the other way around and others are doing the I Love You things but you are totally missing the signs.
The key to understanding each other is to recognize your loved ones’ love languages and use those to express your feelings back to them. For example, if your loved one’s language is physical touch but yours is receiving gifts, then don’t buy them chocolates — hug them more often or hold their hand. Or perhaps yours is quality time and theirs is acts of service — offer to make dinner and do the washing up while they go and read a book, instead of suggesting you both cook dinner together so you can have a lovely chat!
So, my son’s comment was a timely reminder that I need to do more Words Of Affirmation to him because my Acts Of Service (my presence on the sideline of basketball and football games, and being the manager of his team, and buying him things “just because I know he loves those”, and organizing outings with his friends, etc.) are obviously not getting the message through. And my other son? Well, I know when he says to me, “Want to have a spa* tonight?” he is actually saying, “I want to spend Quality Time with you mom and I love you”. (*spa = hot-tub/jacuzzi).
What’s your love language, or the language of your loved ones? I challenge you to observe that this week and try to reflect their language back to them. There’s so much love in this world but I’m sure half of it misses its mark and doesn’t get a chance to do its magic! Let’s start changing that.