They say there are five key love languages that we all operate in. Each of these love languages is described or thought of as ways of meeting others emotional needs as well as our own. In other words, they are ways of communicating our love and respect to one another. Think of a love language in the same way we see language of speech. Everyone speaks in their native or ‘primary’ language and some speak in other languages as well. We speak and understand our primary language of speech in the same way we do with love languages. We communicate our emotional needs through a primary expression or ‘love language’ as do others. The purpose of understanding these love languages is that we may be able to communicate more effectively to others once we understand them. Because everyone’s ‘primary’ love language differs from the next, its to our benefit to understand each of them and how those in our lives operate according to this list.
Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved is a primary emotional need. Specifically, child psychologists affirm that every child has a basic emotional need that must be met if he or she is to be considered emotionally stable. Among those emotional needs, none stand out more than the need to be shown love and affection. This deep inner need stirs in every individual a desire to feel wanted and to belong. This need for love, however, does not stop in our childhood developing years but follows us into adulthood. We all want to feel loved by someone who chooses to love us and finds us worthy of loving. If we are to have a healthy emotional life then these emotional needs must be met. The five love languages, which are said to develop within the first handful of years of childhood, are dependent upon psychological make up and how one experiences love in those first handful of years. Unhealthy upbringings are said to hinder this development but does not necessarily negate one’s potential to develop them at some point in life. The following gives a basic understanding of each love language that one may primarily operate in.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
One way to express love emotionally is through our words. Verbal compliments, words of appreciation and encouragement as well as words of kindness are all ways that one can edify and uplift another. Each of these can be seen as powerful ways to communicate ones love and affection. It is also a known fact that when we receive affirming words we are far more likely to reciprocate, allowing for a healthy give and take flow in our relationships. When thinking about the objective of love, we see that it is not about getting something we want but rather about doing something for the well being of another person. Our words, therefore, contribute to filling others ‘love tanks’ if you will, which when full naturally spill over. A cause and effect of such that meets one another’s emotional needs. Compare those who have constant sources pouring positive words into their lives to those who are surrounded by more negative talk. Which do you believe will be healthier emotionally? Words of affirmation, when given consistently, show the other person how much you love and value them and can make all the difference when it comes to them feeling a sense of worth emotionally.
A central aspect of quality time is togetherness. This time of togetherness is seen as a time where two people have each others undivided attention. Based on this definition, it is not to say that being in the same room would qualify as quality time. Togetherness requires ones focus and attention with the motive of spending time together being for the purpose of expressing ones love to another. Sitting in a room watching television is technically being in one’s presence but the focus is on the TV, not on each other. This is not to say that you have to sit gazing into each other’s eyes; it just means you are taking time to be intentional about the time you spend together, providing each other with undivided attention. Meeting one another’s emotional needs is always the primary goal. A key component in achieving this is quality conversation. Whether your playing a game of tennis, going out for a nice meal or having a picnic; quality conversation is an essential aspect to this time spent together. It engages the individuals and allows for relationships to get to know more about one another and what is going on in their lives beyond just the typical surface.
A term for this kind of conversation is called sympathetic dialogue. This is where two individuals share experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. Unlike words of affirmation that focus on the words being spoken, sympathetic dialogue focuses on what you are hearing. The listener engages through genuine desire to understand the others thoughts and feelings. It is a way to grow relationally because one whose love language is quality time has a deeper need to be sympathized with and understood. This can be challenging for the one trying to fill the others ‘love tank’. Not everyone has a good practice at sharing their thoughts and feelings so a learning curve is to be expected.
Think of a gift as a symbolic thought. It expresses that someone was thinking of you when they bought the gift. Additionally, how the gift is presented communicates an added layer of love. When a gift is given with love that love is received along with the gift. Gifts, therefore, can be considered visual gifts communicating ones love for another. For some, this is not important but for the person who sees this as valuable, it means a whole lot more. These individuals place value on the gifts they receive beyond just monetary measure because they see them as emotional expressions. This is also why gifts don’t need to cost a lot or even bought from a store. A handmade gift can be all it takes to express love to one whose love language is receiving gifts. Another important point is that sometimes presence is the greatest gift one can give. Typically this will matter most in times of crisis. When you think of funerals you often think of flowers and cards but in these cases, ones presence may be all that is needed for one who operates within this love language.
ACTS OF SERVICE
The first thing to understand is that acts of service involve doing things for the other person, not for yourself. These will not always be things that you enjoy doing but consist of things that are helpful and important to the other person. Acts of service can be anything from helping with dishes, setting a table, cooking a meal, painting a bedroom, fixing something broken to changing a diaper. What often times gets in the way of one giving their time to an act of service is that they feel it is being demanded of them. It’s important to remember the reason why you would give an act of service (to show someone that you value them and love them). This gives motive and focus to what you are doing. On the other hand, it’s equally important that the person whose love language is acts of service, not demand what they need help with or want done but rather present it through a request. A simple request with a kind tone can make all the difference when communicating something you may need help with and will more likely be received in a way that engages the other person who is looking to pour into your ‘love tank’. It’s also helpful for the other person to know what specific needs you may have so they are not doing a lot of guess work and wasting effort and time with something that you would find unfulfilling. Demanding what we need help with or what we desire to be done will often lead to other problems even if the task is completed. Without the expression of love, the goal will be neglected. Love is a choice, not something to be coerced. Requests, along with communication of specific needs will always outshine demands and leave everyone feeling happy.
It has been long understood that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous amounts of research in child development have concluded that babies who are held, hugged and kissed develop healthier emotional lives than those who go a long time without physical contact. It is safe to say then that physical touch can make one feel secure and affirmed. On the flipside, when abused, physical touch can express a negative form of communication. It’s also important to understand that this love language doesn’t just require touch that brings pleasure. Our bodies operate out of five senses, touch being one of them. This physical act stimulates nerves which communicate to our brain. Something as small as a hug or a handshake goes well beyond the physical act because of how the brain receives it, making touch a powerful communicator of love.
People often think of this love language as being ‘sex’ geared but this primary language is fulfilled in many ways that exist outside the bedroom Sitting next to each other on the couch for a movie, holding hands on a walk, kissing one another goodbye before leaving for work are all ways to express this love language and fill the others emotional need bank or ‘love tank’. When ones need for physical touch is not met, they will often withdraw because instead of feeling affirmed and loved, they feel rejected. These emotions are seen as a negative and are usually avoided. If ones primary love language is physical touch it’s important to understand all the ways this love language affirms you and express it to those who would fulfill this emotional need.
SO DO THESE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES AFFECT HOW WE RESPOND
According to this, the primary love language that we operate in does affect how we respond. If we have learned to accept and receive love through one of these acts, then not being able to receive it would affect how we respond in our relationships. Meaning, if our spouse for instance, was not expressing their love to us in a way that we best receive love (our primary love language) then we can feel unfulfilled and empty. On the same token, if we are not communicating our love to others according to their primary love language then they in turn can feel empty and unloved. Understanding not just how we like to be communicated to but also how others like to be communicated to, when it comes to love languages, can open up doors in our relationships so that they can thrive and grow.