In college, my Family Systems professor told us that early in his marriage, he would write short love notes to his wife and hide them around their house. Every day, he would slip notes into her books, shoes, purse, and briefcase and walk away feeling like the best husband in the world. “I was incredibly proud of myself,” he told the class.
This went on for a few months and his wife never said anything about it. This surprised him a little bit, so one morning he asked her what she thought of his daily love notes.
“Oh, those things?” She said. “I don’t really notice them a lot. They kind of get in the way.”
Our class room full of unmarried freshman gasped. Some looked panicked (“If that doesn’t work, what does?!”) and some scorned (“I would love that”).
“I had never actually asked her what she liked,” our professor said sheepishly. “I had assumed it would be love notes because it’s what I would have liked…but it didn’t mean the same thing to her.” Once our professor discovered that she felt loved when he cleaned the house, he abandoned the notes in favor of doing the dishes after dinner.
The example opened an interesting dialogue about communication in relationships. It also demonstrates the concept (and difficulties) of love languages.
What are Love Languages?
Love Languages are the ways in which you communicate love for and feel love from other people. The Love Languages concept was created by Dr. Gary Chapman in the early 90’s. While Dr. Chapman is not a therapist – he’s actually a Baptist pastor! – the theory has found success in marriage and family therapy offices for decades. Romantic, family, and friend relationships can all benefit as you learn to speak in your loved ones language.
Dr. Chapman observed five different categories of love expression:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
If This Is You You love hearing love. Compliments, praise, and verbal “I love you’s” are the way to your heart.
If You Love a Words of Affirmationer Use your language to express your love and appreciation for them. Words of encouragement and kindness will help build them up. Try something like “I love it so much when you….” or “I am so impressed when you….”
If This Is You You feel most connected to your loved one when you spend time with them, giving them your full attention and receiving their full attention in return.
If you Love a Quality Timer First thing first, drop that screen. For this to work, the time needs to be quality so nothing else can have your attention. No phones, TV’s, not even driving. Go for a walk together and talk about the day. Try a new experience together and really engage in the process with them. Turn mealtimes into relationship builders by having a conversation with direct eye contact. This will let your loved one know they are important to you.
If This Is You Gifts are concrete symbols of love for you. The more thought and meaning, the better! You’re not after the monetary value. To you, gifts are symbols of appreciation.
If you Love a Receiving Gifter Focus on thought over price tag. Gifts mean you’re thinking of your partner often so find ways to demonstrate that. Consider grabbing them their favorite drink on the way home from work. If they’re having a rough day, make a homemade card telling them how much you love them. If you ever see something in a store and think, “Oh, I’d bet they’d like that”, snag it and gift it “just because” (assuming it’s OK with your budget). It’ll mean the world to them.
Acts of Service
If This Is You When someone reaches out to help you out, your heart just swells. Receiving help from others means they really see you and want your life to be happier.
If You Love a Acts of Servicer Learn these words: “Let me do that for you.” Whether it’s folding laundry, putting the groceries away, or dealing with irate family members, try to find ways you can step in to help ease your loved one’s load. This may take some practice at first. To learn what your partner most likes, try a combination of asking (“How can I help you out right now?”) and proactively looking for opportunities to help without being directed.
If This Is You Hugging, kissing, cuddling, massages, holding hands, sex…physical connection is what you need! Person-to-person contact makes you feel secure in your relationships, especially in times of sadness and crisis.
If You Love a Physical Toucher Embrace your loved one – literally! To avoid any confusion or awkwardness, ask them what kind of touch they like. A lot of people think this love language is exclusive to 1) men and 2) sex. Neither is true. Physical touch is important to both men and women. It can mean anything from a part on the back to foot rubs. Just ask.
What Is Your Love Language?
Want to know what your love language is? Take this quick 5 Love Languages quiz to find out what your favorite (and not favorite) love languages are! You can also buy The 5 Love Languages book if you’d like to learn more. It’s a pretty easy read and has a lot of helpful tips and insights.
So learn your own love language! Find out what languages your loved ones speak and think of ways to express love to them. It may take some practice, but it’ll be worth it!
Before You Go…
- Remember that how you “speak” probably isn’t how your loved ones “speak”. Make an effort to know what their languages are so you can clearly communicate your love to them. Insisting on using your love language is the equivalent of shouting a foreign language at them.
- Your love languages can change with time and different relationships! What works in one relationship might not translate to another. Keep a pulse on yourself and what you find meaningful in each important relationships. Communicate changes to your loved ones.
- You can be “bilingual”! You may take the test and find there’s a tie for first place. That’s great news! More ways for you to feel loved and for others to express love to you!
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