Learning Your Love Language
One of the things that has been most helpful for us in developing and growing our relationship together, in our relationships with our wives and in our relationships with others in our lives has been learning our own love languages.
Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book, The Five Love Languages, states that every person needs two of the five languages to be expressed to become their best selves.
Here are the five languages of love he identifies:
Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
As you explore all five of the languages, which two are most significant for you to feel loved and valued the most? How do they play out in your every day life? Do you often receive them? Are you able to articulate that you need them?
Early on in our relationship together we met at a local coffee shop and started to explore these languages. We discovered that we shared the same primary love language – Words of Affirmation. We both understand that we need and value being affirmed by others. We grew up in cultures that didn’t always give us the affirmation we needed, especially verbally. In realizing that need we each began to develop our own practices of affirming others, because affirmation was so vitally important to us. We are intentional about expressing our appreciation to one another because we know that we do need that feedback and we strive hard to make certain that we express appreciation to everyone else in our lives.
But we also understand that it’s not something that everyone needs as much as we do. For example, I, Tom, spent an evening last week with a friend whose primary love language is Quality Time. I was intentional about making the time to share with him because I value his friendship and want ot be able to give him what he needs. I, Michael, realize that for my wife, Acts of Service are primary. So I make an extra effort every day to take care of things around the house, for example, that I know she would otherwise have to do herself. She, in turn, does many Acts of Service for me, which is how I’ve learned the importance of those acts to her.
The challenge for all of us is to learn and recognize – and then do our best to implement, however imperfectly – the primary love languages of those in our lives. When we do our relationships really do grow and deepen and become stronger for our efforts.