Mom lying on couch with daughter laughing together.

Appreciating Love Languages

In my last two blogs I invited readers to explore some of the many principles and properties of love and how powerful giving and receiving love is for each of us.  We looked at the differences between conditional and unconditional love, how we need to fill our emotional tanks on a regular basis and the importance of extending unconditional love to children.

In today’s blog I invite you to consider the five love languages developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, a psychologist and the late Dr. Ross Cambell, a clinical psychiatrist, who together authored nine Love Languages books that each focus on a different category of people. They postulate that each of us has a favored love language and a hierarchy of responding to each of the others.

The five categories are:

Words Of Affirmation (Compliments)

These are statements that tell someone something you appreciate or admire about them, affirmations about their character, abilities, or things they do well with a statement about their impact. “I am so thankful you are here for me and the kids. You bring so much joy and happiness to our family!”

Quality Time

Showing your willingness to spend extra time with someone doing something with them that they enjoy like taking a bike ride or a walk together, going to the movies with them, reading together, engaging them in conversations.

Gifts

Buying special toys, sports equipment, clothing or other tangible items you know they will enjoy. Sometimes the gifts are for special events like for the holidays or a birthday that are over the top. Sometimes it is a surprise item you bring home: flowers, candy or something wrapped in gift paper to make it extra special, or giving them money to help them pay to visit a friend or family member who lives far away.

Acts Of Service

Doing something that is helpful to the other person, that makes their life easier or happier. Folding the laundry without being asked, taking a day off from work to fix something around the house, washing their car for them, weeding the garden.

Physical Touch

Being intentional about touching them, like patting them on the back, hugging, holding their hand, or giving them a massage.

As you read about these love languages, you might immediately recognize what your top two are and which one or ones are probably not very meaningful. 

It is important to appreciate that others in your life might not share the same love languages you have which might lead to disappointment when you offer your top love language and it is not received as special to them. Discussing this concept and describing your primary love languages with them can help them better show you love in meaningful ways. Asking them about their preferences can enhance your ability to express love to them in ways that help them know you love them.

Learning about love languages can help us enhance our abilities to love. As the authors say in concluding their section on the importance of unconditional love: “Whatever love language your child understands best, he needs it expressed in one way— unconditionally.” This is true for each of us who are working to show our unconditional love to both children and adults in our lives in ways that allow them to fully experience that love. And knowing about love languages can help us understand why we are feeling deeply loved (or not)  by our significant others.  

Invitation for Reflection

  1. As you read about this concept of love languages, what recent exchanges have you had where you felt deeply and unconditionally loved by someone important to you? What specifically did they say or do? Which love language was used?
  2. If it was not what you expected, what do you wish they had said or done to express their love for you?
  3. What love language were you demonstrating in a recent exchange you had with someone you love in which you wanted to demonstrate that love for them? Which love language did you use? How was it received?
  4. If you suspect that it wasn’t demonstrated in one of their top two love languages, what could you have said or done that might have resonated more strongly with them?
  5. How might you help your family members and/or close friends appreciate this concept?

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