I've been meaning to write a post about the Five Love Languages for ages. At least a year or two. If you have never heard of the Five Love Languages, keep reading because this is a concept that has the potential to change the health of nearly every relationship in your life. The Five Love Languages is actually a book by Gary Chapman (he also wrote The Four Seasons of Marriage I'll be reviewing soon).
Many people first hear of this concept in conjunction with their marriage but this is actually a concept that can be applied to your relationship with your parents, children, and friends.
The basic idea is that each individual person has a way in which they best receive love. This is sometimes, but not always, the language they best give love. If you are not "speaking" someone's love language then they will not understand or interpret your words or actions as love.
The Five Love Languages are:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Physical Touch
4. Acts of Service
People who best understand words of affirmation feel loved when some verbally affirms or validates them. For example, Joe feels loved when Susan tells him that he is a good husband and provider.
People who best understand quality time feel loved when someone sets aside time just for them. For example, Jenna feels loved when her sister Hanna visits her for a special long weekend.
People who best understand physical touch feel loved when they get just that--physical touch. For example, Samantha feels loved when her dad gives her a head rub when she puts her head on his lap.
People who best understand acts of service feel loved when someone does something for them, like a chore that needs to be done. For example, Jerry feels loved when his son comes over to clean out his rain gutters for him.
People who best understand gifts feel loved when they receive something that someone took the time to find for them specifically. For example, Ken feels loved when his older brother Bob gives him a jersey from his favorite sports team.
The language of gifts is often a misunderstood language so I tried to emphasize that it is not the physical object itself that makes the person feel loved. A person who speaks the language of gifts understands the effort put into selecting a present that may have been difficult to acquire or the thought committed to choosing something the receiver really wanted.
The language of physical touch is sometimes misunderstood as well. This isn't a language exclusive to romantic couples as I tried to show with the father/daughter relationship. It is also not always related to sex and should be respected as a legitimate love language. Many men speak the language of physical touch and are written off by women as "just being a man". Hugs, holding hands, a brief touch of the shoulder are all legitimate communications of love through physical touch.
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.
I'll share my personal love language and experience in another post next week.