Dr. Chapman is a famous marriage counselor who formulated The Five Love Languages after realizing two key things about his clients. One of the greatest problems in the couples’ relationships was a lack of communication, specifically in regards to feeling loved and understood. Oftentimes, one person would express love towards their partner how they individually wished to be loved, without taking into account how their partner best experiences caring.
Chapman then realized that these different expressions of love could be categorized into five types: quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. While Chapman recognizes that everyone likes all five of these to some extent, he argues that each individual has one specific “language” they appreciate the most.
Though initially made for couples, I believe that the Love Languages is a system that can be used not just romantically, but for all relationships. This system has helped me not only with dating, but with my friendships and family as well. It can be easy to assume that people will understand when you’re showing care, but the Love Languages have taught me that’s not always the case. Instead, I now know how to look through the eyes of my loved ones.
The first “language” I’ll discuss is the one that I’m fluent in: Quality Time. Whether it’s with my parents, boyfriend, or friends, I always want to be with someone. I’ve found that we don’t even have to be talking; I just simply enjoy the presence of a loved one. An ideal date for me is a day on the town together, and I still love going on errands with my mom.
Before learning about the Love Languages, I didn’t understand why always wanting to be around others could be seen as clingy, or even unfulfilling for others: to me, being there is enough. Now that I know, for example, that my mom uses Acts of Service and my dad uses Words of Affirmation, I am able to become “fluent” in their languages to better show my care.
Words of Affirmation
My dad is a firm member of the Words of Affirmation group. To him, what people say has added power to lift up or bring down. Every time he leaves for work, and when he is the first to go to bed, he makes the effort to say, “Love you.” He appreciates a response to everything he says, something we’ve had to learn. For someone whose love language is Words of Affirmation, deeper conversations, genuine compliments, and a sense of humor does wonders.
Though oftentimes a favorite for the men in our lives, Physical Touch extends beyond exclusively romantic intimacy. This language can mean being a shoulder to cry on, giving a reassuring brush on the arm, or offering up a cozy blanket or jacket on a rainy day. Of course, while my boyfriend wants plenty of kisses, it also means that I can give him a hug after a long day, or show that I notice him in a busy room by holding his hand. For non-romantic relationships, many of these tips can still apply.
Acts of Service
Acts of Service is a classic love language in my life, as my mom and many of my friends “speak” it. I remember growing up how much she loved when my dad vacuumed for her, especially since she's a homemaker. I first noticed that my best friend spoke Acts of Service when she gave advice about a variety of topics: cleaning, makeup, relationships, and offered to do my nails for free. For someone whose love language is not Acts of Service, this isn’t always natural; it can feel like the loved one is doing too much. That is our cue to give back – help your parents run errands, clean the kitchen for your roommate, or plan your friend’s baby shower.
The last love language is often misunderstood, as it can be seen as materialistic, though it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. Receiving Gifts can be a fun language and can even be done for free. For those whose Love Language is Receiving Gifts, holidays are often the most exciting time of year, and little things like flowers and meals can make their week. Gifts can also tie into your own love language: giving is an Act of Service, writing a card is a form of Words of Affirmation, and going out to dinner is a way to spend Quality Time with someone. Giving is a way to show that you have thought about your person’s interests and what they need.
Like a real language, learning a Love Language besides your own can be difficult. However, it will create bonds that were not possible before. Ultimately, that’s what the Love Language system is all about: recognizing the needs of the people you care about. It’s a form of empathy, stepping into the shoes of another and thinking beyond, “What would I want?” and extending it into “What do they want?” When you love someone, it’s an invitation to connect two souls, merging two worlds into one.
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