Speaking the Language of Love

IMG_4034Ah, love is in the air! This Valentine’s Day, Americans are expected to spend nearly $3 billion helping Cupid shoot his arrow into the hearts of those we love. That’s a whole lot of flowers and chocolate, but what if our loved ones really just want us to hold their hand, say those three little words or unload the dishwasher?

Thirty years ago marriage counselor Gary Chapman wrote a best-selling book called The 5 Love Languages. The book has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 50 different languages. Chapman believes everyone gives and receives love in different ways. He asserts that we all speak one of five specific love languages and that to create loving long-lasting relationships, we must learn to speak each other’s language.

Chapman’s five love languages include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. His theory applies to all relationships including those with friends, parents, children, siblings and even co-workers. Here’s a brief description of each love language ~

Love Language #1 Words of Affirmation ~ This language uses words to affirm other people. Verbal compliments and words of appreciation are powerful communicators of love. Chapman says they are best expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation. For example you might take the time to sincerely say, “I appreciate the time you took to put together our family reunion. You did a great job.”

Love Language #2 Quality Time ~ This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention. Chapman explains the concept means giving someone your full attention while wholeheartedly doing something they enjoy. This might mean going with them to a concert, movie or sporting event, even if that’s not your favorite thing to do.

Love Language #3 Receiving Gifts ~ For some people, receiving a heartfelt gift is what makes them feel most loved. Chapman writes, “Gifts are visual symbols of love.” The gift need not be expensive. What’s important is that you thought of that person. The gift is a tangible expression of that thoughtfulness.

Love Language #4 Acts of Service ~ For these people, actions speak louder than words. By this, Chapman means doing something for someone that lightens their load. Such actions might include cooking a meal, filling the car with gas, helping a child with homework or mowing the lawn. Chapman writes these acts of service “require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.”

Love Language #5 Physical Touch ~ To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than a caring touch. Research shows babies who are held and cuddled develop a healthier emotional life than those who don’t receive physical contact. Many individuals feel unloved without physical touch.

If you are interested in knowing more about Gary Chapman’s work with love languages, go to 5lovelanguages.com. There you will find a love language quiz as well as other resources. By learning to recognize these preferences in ourself and those we love, we can identify the root of conflicts, connect more profoundly, and grow more loving relationships.

Before you spend the average $175 on a Valentine’s Day gift this week, consider your recipient’s love language. Maybe she really will swoon over that five-foot stuffed Teddy bear, but then again maybe she’d just like you to take out the trash. §

“The number of ways to express love within a love language is limited only by your imagination.”
~ Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages