I’ve been married 15 years and I consider this book instrumental in helping my wife and I build and maintain our relationship.
The book explains that there are five love languages and that each one of us has a language that makes us feel loved. The problem is that we assume that the language that makes us feel loved is the same language that others feel loved.
For example, a husband with Acts of Service as his primary love language would fix things around house to show his wife he loved her. However, if the wife’s primary love language is Receiving Gifts, she’s wondering why he’s working on the house all time when all she wants from him is a little note or a flower or some small token that shows he loves her. She gives him little notes and he’s wondering she doesn’t appreciate all the work he does.
The Five Love Languages says that people feel loved in their language and not ours.
The Five Love Languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch
I’ve noticed that when we have an affinity to one Love Language. There’s a tendency to think our way is the right way and that needing the other languages to feel loved makes no sense. There is no right way.
Words of Affirmation
People with Words of Affirmation as their primary of language want to hear that you care. They feel loved when they hear sincere compliments, acknowledgement of work well done, appreciation of who they are. It’s a mistake to think that people with this language need more self-esteem. I’ve observed that the people who feel loved through Words of Affirmation are highly auditory instead of visual.
Feeling loved through Quality Time is all about one-on-one time without distraction. Whether it’s a date night or just sitting on the couch and talking, Quality time people feel most loved when it’s the two of you being together. Wanting quality time isn’t about clingy-ness. It’s not the amount of time spent together. It’s about creating a connection in your time together.
Gifts people don’t expect huge over the top gifts. It’s little notes, a flower or some small token off affection that make Gifts people feel loved. Gifts people are not materialistic. Picking something on the way to see them is a turn off. It’s the thought that counts and they feel loved when they feel that you thought about what to give them.
Acts of Service
Whether it’s doing the dishes or home repair, anything act that makes the life of an Acts of Service person that much easier makes them feel loved. It’s not that they can’t do these things for themselves. They feel loved when someone does the things that can’t be avoided and eases the burden of everyday living.
It’s about physical affection and not sex. Hand holding, hugs, cuddling and other forms of physical contact create that strong emotional bond. It’s not that Physical Touch people are casually physically demonstrative. They are very aware of physical space especially with people they don’t know. They’re no more into casual hugs as they are into casual sex.
What I’ve observed over the 15 years is that people usually have two main languages, not just one. However, all five are needed in some degree in all every relationships. Also, it’s not that easy to speak someone else’s languages.
My main ones are Physical Touch and Quality Time. My wife’s are Words of Affirmation and Acts of Services. My wife’s not a huge cuddle person, only sometimes. It’s makes her feel constricted so it feels weird to try to consciously do it. It’s the same for me with Words of Affirmation. It’s not a big thing if someone tells me I’m doing good job. So I have to consciously be aware and proactive in telling my wife how much she means to me on a daily basis. It’s about awareness and giving the other person what they need to feel loved and asking for what you need to feel loved.
One of the big mistakes that my wife and I made with the Five Love Languages is that we assume we know what our Love Languages are. For most of our marriage, she thought her primary languages were Acts of Service and Quality Time. So I made doing dishes and laundry just a part of my daily routine. However, there were often times she felt disconnected because she didn’t know how I felt. It’s was only after many discussions and reflection did she realize that Word of Affirmation is her highest which make sense because she highly auditory. Also, we naturally fall into expressing love the way we feel loved and she’s tells me often how much she appreciates what I do for us and our relationship.
So over the years, I wasn’t telling her how much I appreciated her enough which lead to her feeling more disconnected. It was mixed signals where I’m constantly doing things to make her life easier, but not telling her I thought she was wonderful so it was two steps forward one step back.
Also, we’ve both noticed that all 5 are necessary. We both like gifts even if that isn’t our primary language. It’s like a recipe where you have to mix and match all five in the right proportion to create a fabulous meal. So I buy the occasional flower or plan surprise getaways to mix it up a little.
I use the love languages beyond my marriage. There’s a quote that I like that says everyone either feels love or is crying out to be loved. And at any moment we are passing back and forth between these states.
Everyone has a language that makes them feel connected and understood. So with my Gifts friends, I buy them drinks. With my Physical Touch friends, I give hugs when I see them. For the Quality Time friends, I schedule one-on-one lunches. For Word of Affirmation friends, I compliment them on whatever catches my eye either on their appearance or something I know they’ve accomplished lately. For my Acts of Service people, I help out in small ways like bringing stuff or helping them set up if they’re holding a party.
So how do you tell which person has which language? You ask.
It’s not something that can be observed unless you’re with the person all the time. I find that the easiest way to figure out someone’s love language is to ask. It’s also one of the more interesting conversation topics you can bring up.
I find that people form relationships in order to feel connected. The Five Love Languages facilitates the creation and the maintenance of that connection. In the early stages of the relationships, you don’t have and understanding of that person, but trying to speak the other persons language demonstrates that you are trying to understand them. That effort speaks volumes.
Even after you’re in a long-term relationships, there will be times when it’s not all smooth sailing. Some thing takes time to be worked out. Speaking that other person’s language helps maintain a connection even if two people feel distant from each other. I know in my marriage that during the times when we were working out our issues, doing the dishes was clear signal that my wife could read that I was still fully committed to working on our relationships no matter how things were going during that period.
When another person does something that resonates with us we automatically feel connected. We all want to know that this other person cares about us enough to make the effort even if they don’t get it right. Unless their language is the same as ours, it’s going to be difficult to them to figure it out. A non-Gifts person isn’t going to realize that a hand-written note means more than flowers that you told your secretary to send. A non-Acts of Service person won’t be able to tell which things you want help on and which things you want to do yourself. This is were communication is essential.
The Five Love Languages doesn’t bypass the necessity to communicate the things we need to feel loved. It does give us a common base to start talking.