In case you haven’t noticed, today is Valentine’s Day and while romantic love seems to be the focus of every advertisement, not only are there are a multitude of different types of love, but there are also multiple ways to love.
One of the most interesting books that I read last year is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Chapman’s thesis is that we experience love in two of five ways, one that is primary and the other secondary. They include:
- Words of affirmations (compliments)
- Quality time
- Acts of Service
- Physical touch
Most people give love in the way that they experience it, and if their recipient has the same love language, it helps make for a sympatico love match, since the giver and receiver both express, and in turn, feel the same love language. What happens when two people have entirely different love languages can often be dissonance. Chapman writes about kids who feel unloved by their confused parents who say, “Of course I love my kids, I give them everything they want,” which is true for a parent whose love language is gifts. However, for the kid(s), whose love language is quality time, or physical touch, they may feel unloved no matter how many gifts are given. It’s easy for two people to love each other, and yet not feel loved because they are not hearing their own love language. Chapman challenges his clients to not only observe how they express love but to analyze what their loved ones enjoy or complain about and adjust their acts of love to serve their beloved.
There are no value judgments about each love language. While for me words of affirmation ring hollow and I don’t react to compliments, that doesn’t mean that my friend who does love them shouldn’t get them, or that her love language is not valid. I also don’t recognize physical touch as a love language (it could be because of a shit ton of attachment issues that I developed as an orphaned baby/toddler) so it feels super awkward for me to give someone a random hug or neck rub. Like many of us, I need to actively remember to express love in the ways that aren’t in my language. My primary love language is quality time, and my secondary is gifts. Within each love languages lies a spectrum, and some of the challenges and joys in a relationship lie in figuring out where your loved ones reside. Chapman doesn’t explore how we develop our love language; perhaps they come about through nurture or nature. I suspect that it is a combination of the two. In the meantime, if you are unsure of someone’s love language, you can always be like my dear friend A, who covers all the bases. You could say she’s fluent in all five love languages. Makes me wonder whether she’s been struck by cupid’s arrow, or better yet, maybe she’s cupid herself?
*Are you interested in exploring how to build better relationships, gain clarity, get more of what you want and less of what you don’t, or need help writing the best story that is your life? Coaching may be the solution to your problems. I’m training through the Co-Active Coaching Institute and open to coaching clients for 5 or 10 sessions. Email me for rates and scheduling. firstname.lastname@example.org