Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My love languages

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Last week I posted about the Five Love Languages.  If you didn't get a chance to read that post, you should probably read it before reading this post because this one will be more difficult to understand if you do not have a background in the Five Love Languages.

For my personal experience, I tend to have a mixture of a few with varying degrees which is very difficult.  The only language I absolutely do not speak is physical touch.  I don't hate physical touch, but it is not on my radar as something to automatically do.  I always hug people as a greeting if it has been a long time since I saw them (usually a month) and when saying goodbye if it will be a long time until I see them again (again, usually a month).  I am not a spontaneous hugger other than that unless someone is crying.  The only exception would be my husband who I hug for no other reason than that I am on my way to the next room (I have heard 5 minutes of total cumulative hugging a day is good for your marriage because it stimulates oxytocin release--the bonding hormone that makes breastfeeding so cool).

Quality time is also low on my list.  I think of my loved ones often and just assume they think of me often as well and never question their love due to lack of quality time together for the most part.  If someone had a blatant opportunity to spend time with me when we hadn't seen each other in awhile or wouldn't see each other for awhile in the future, that would be a different story. 

The languages I understand best are acts of service and gifts.  I tend to give love the same way I best receive it.  I used to use my gift language a lot more until I found out about the love languages.  Most of the people in my life have expressed that they are not gift people.  Really?  Well that means I'm wasting my time.  I bought my husband (then boyfriend) probably a dozen or more gifts before I realized he was mostly just trying to figure out where he was going to put this new thing.  (I've also become less inclined to receive via gifts recently as I've become a bit more minimalistic and tried to avoid acquiring more things.) 

However, as a gift person, I can tell you that gifts don't have to be something that will take up space.  Magazine subscriptions or memberships can be gifts.  If you're a quality time person then maybe you give the gift of the membership and the receiver gives you the gift of enjoying the membership with you.  Just think: maybe no one you know is a gift person.  That's ok.  There are lots of quality time people who might say, never buy me a gift again.  Just have lunch with me or spend the day with me.

I think other things that qualify as gifts are surprises in general and encompass a lot of the "romantic" gestures out there.  (Planning a special day or evening or trip for a person.  Even making dinner, which some might construe as quality time or an act of service can be a "gift".)  As a gift person, I think I realized there were a couple of things about gifts that spoke to me.  For one, I appreciate symbols.  I love looking around my home and seeing items that we collected on our travels or were given to us by someone.  The items have meaning and seeing these things on a daily basis reminds me of the person and their thoughtfulness.  When I see your gift sitting on my bookcase or hanging on my wall, I see a little sign that says "I love you".

Probably the main reason gifts speak to me as a love language is that they are evidence that I am known.  That I am understood.  I have been told that I am not an easy person to get to know and I wouldn't dispute this.  I tend to be private and share most private matters and feelings with only a couple of people or sometimes none at all.  I also tend to not fit very well into categories and people have difficulty pegging me as a certain type of person.  (I feel one way about controversial issue A so people assume my feelings on controversial issue B to fit accordingly but they don't.)  When someone gives me a gift, especially one that is precisely what I would enjoy or appreciate, I feel understood and known.  I think this is a desire we all have, but since some of us can be "known" more easily than others, it is not a desire at the forefront of everyone's mind.

These days, acts of service are what I like the best.  It feels amazing to realize I don't have to take care of something and it's already done for me.  A couple of weeks ago my husband changed my brake pads and I didn't have to spend half a day dealing with it at the mechanic!  My aunt told me how the time my dad fixed her toilet was one of the best "gifts" she ever got.  She still remembers it and it was almost 10 years ago now.

I strongly recommend either reading the book and/or taking a love languages quiz.  If you can take it with your spouse, friends, or family it's even better.  You can discuss your answers and everyone can figure out if they're doing the right thing.  If it turns out that the other person speaks a language foreign to you, try taking some time to write down things that you could do to speak that language.  It may take a conscious effort on your part to say or do the things that speak that language, but it will become easier eventually.  If you are working with someone and you are both trying to speak each other's language, try accompanying each of your efforts with the corresponding "I love you."  It can help both of you to change your thinking to hear those words or see those actions as an expression of love.

As I mentioned, the language we best receive and best give are not always the same.  Some people give gifts like crazy but don't receive that way at all.  Try to get to know both.  If you'd like to take a love languages quiz, click here.

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