‘Expressing love in the right language. We tend to speak our own love language, to express love to others in a language that would make us feel loved. But if it is not his/her primary love language, it will not mean to them what it would mean to us’ – Gary Chapman
What’s your love language? I came across this phrase only recently and had no idea what it meant so I set about researching and here we are – a blog post!
It turns out there are 5 love languages, with the concept first developed by Gary Chapman, Ph.D., in the 1990’s and drawn from his experience in marriage counselling and linguistics. Not everyone communicates love in the same way or wants to receive it in the same way. Interestingly it doesn’t just relate to romantic love but to all of our close relationships. Knowing your love language, and working on those you are not so good at, as well as understanding the language that other people use, is a simple and effective way to strengthen all of our connections. Better connections and communication helps us to experience harmony and happiness, so it’s a no brainer right?!
Why does it matter?
If we think about the relationships with our nearest and dearest, we might be able to spot some areas where we communicate differently. For example, in a romantic relationship, one partner might verbalise how they feel, expressing their love frequently, whilst the other expresses their love through their actions, bringing their partner a cup of coffee, giving them a shoulder massage when they are tense or cooking them dinner when they have had a long day at work. If these two people don’t understand the love languages, the one who verbalises their feelings might feel that the other doesn’t feel the same way. On the other hand, the partner who expresses love through actions could feel that they are doing all the work. Neither is probably true, it’s just they are speaking different languages.
So what are the 5 love languages?
Words of Affirmation – this is where we use words to convey how we feel: ‘I love you’, ‘Thank you’, ‘You’re amazing’, ‘You look great’. for example. People who are strong in this love language tend to use written communication a lot as well, including digital methods such as frequent text messages. If this is your love language, you need to hear these expressions back to feel understood and appreciated.
Acts of Service – this is where you do something for someone because you believe that actions speak louder than words. It might be as simple as making a cup of coffee or picking your partner up from the station because it’s raining. You demonstrate that you value the other person enough to go out of your way to help them and make their life easier. If they don’t do these little things for you, you might conclude they don’t really care about you.
Quality Time – a phrase that we might associate more with the parent/child relationship, quality time is about giving your undivided attention to someone else. It could be doing something together, sharing an activity or having a deep conversation. The person who is strong in this area will use eye contact and active listening without any outside distraction, such as a phone or other people, to make the other person feel loved and appreciated. This person needs their partner to focus on them when they are doing something together in order to feel valued.
Receiving Gifts – people with this love language feel loved when they receive a gift because the other person has taken time to think about what they would like. They appreciate the time and effort that went into choosing the gift which they see as a physical symbol of love. Equally they love to buy gifts which show how they feel about the other person.
Physical Touch – this is where a person feels loved, understood and appreciated by receiving physical signs of affection such as a hug or kiss, a gentle touch on the shoulder, or being physically intimate. Holding hands with a child or your romantic partner increases feelings of warmth and closeness between you.
At first glance you might think that you use all five love languages but generally you will find that one or two are much stronger. You might also find that you use different love languages with different people. Perhaps acts of service with a parent, words of affirmation with a child, quality time with a work colleague, receiving gifts with a friend and physical touch in a romantic relationship. You could even find that the love language you use is different to the love language you want to receive.
If we can identify our love language and that of the people closest to us, we can then build a better understanding of each other. There are various quizzes if you are interested in finding out more. I used the ones at http://www.5lovelanguages.com and http://www.psychologies.co.uk which showed that, for me, ‘quality time’ is my strongest language with ‘receiving gifts’ last.
It’s easy to see, once you understand these different love languages, how we can so easily misunderstand each other. We might feel that we are expressing our love or care for the other person and be confused as to why they don’t reciprocate. In actual fact, it could just be that we are using two different languages. Learning what our partner needs and how they experience love is a great way to build the connection and hopefully they will do the same!
Becoming familiar with our own love language will also help develop our self-awareness, maybe understanding why some things irritate us or why we become frustrated with certain people. Anything we can learn about ourselves can only be a good thing and helps us to grow as people.
So the tiny tweak is to think about the love language(s) we use and those used by our nearest and dearest and try to understand why they do or say what they do. Why not do one of the quizzes?! Let me know how you get on!
Until next time xx
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