The Five Love Languages

This post is going a little off-topic; it is not really about Assholes and Other Men and dating, but how we relate to all the important people in our lives.
I’ve written before about the book The Five Love Languages, and thought I’d expand on it a little more by talking about how it applies to me.

The premise of the Love Languages is that there are five different ways that people give and receive love; how we show we care for someone and how we feel cared for.

They are:

    • Words of Affirmation
    • Acts of Service
    • Gifts
    • Quality Time
    • Physical Touch

Words of Affirmation
You like being told how much you are appreciated and valued. You love compliments on how you look and what you do. This applies to everyone – who doesn’t like to be told their haircut looks good, or that their hard work is appreciated, or the dinner is delicious – but for the person whose #1 Language is Affirmation, this is ESSENTIAL to how they feel. They will notice when they aren’t thanked, or their efforts aren’t recognised.

Acts of Service
You feel loved when people do things for you and help you. E.G. You feel loved when someone cooks dinner for you or helps you run errands. You show your friend how much you value them when you help them move house.

Gifts
You LOVE birthdays and Christmas presents, but you also light up when someone gives you a little gift unexpectedly. And/or you love finding the perfect gift. (Much more on this later).

Quality Time
Catching up, having coffee, going out, taking trips, talking and having someone’s undivided attention, and simply being together watching a movie is what you want from people you care about.

Physical Touch
Let’s be clear: This is NOT to be confused with sexual touch – they are VERY different, and have different meanings and purposes. If PT is a love language, you like people casually touching you (e.g. on the arm) when you are talking to them, pats on the back, high-fives, hugging and/or kissing people when you greet them, sitting close to them, holding hands when you walk down the street, etc. (Note that this can be influenced by culture, too. In some countries, friends walk down the street arm in arm, or it may be common to gesture and touch people when you talk to them, or kiss in greeting. If you are a PT person, you love this and it feels very natural to you. In other countries, though, public displays of affection, or physical touch with anyone of the opposite sex other that your family or spouse is culturally frowned upon (if not outright forbidden), and that may influence how comfortable people from that culture are in countries where PT is everywhere).

People can give and receive love in different ways. So, you may need words of affirmation from people to FEEL loved, but you SHOW you love someone by doing things for them. It’s also important to remember that everyone needs to receive ALL the demonstrations of love to some extent; we each just have some that speak louder than others. A good way to gauge your top receptive and demonstrative love languages is to consider how frequently you need them and give them, and how intensely they affect you when you get (and don’t get) them.

If it crushes you when you ask someone to spend the day with you and they say no, Quality Time might be important to you. If you are deeply hurt when your significant other doesn’t say anything about the fact that you’ve (finally) fixed the fence, Words of Affirmation might be your thing.  (Of course, Acts of Service might be their thing, and the fact that it’s taken 10 reminders for you to get the job done might have left them feeling hurt and uncared for. It’s a complicated thing, this relationship business).

My top receptive love languages are Quality Time, and Physical Touch, but this is most important with a boyfriend/partner. I hug family and friends, but I generally don’t touch them much otherwise.  It’s probably because they aren’t touchy-feely people. PT from a partner may be obvious, but it’s not sexual contact, it’s the holding hands in public and casually resting a hand on the arm or leg when we are just hanging out that I love, too. I like having my hand on his leg or neck when we are driving. I like giving and receiving massages.
One of the main reasons I know PT is so important to me is that I absolutely HATE touching people I don’t like. Sure, this sentiment is probably fairly universal, but it’s something I’m very aware about myself. I’ll shake anyone’s hand – that’s just polite – , but if I’m on a first date and my subconscious reaction is to cringe internally when they try to hold my hand, I know instantly it will never work and it’s better just to be polite, thank them for the date and let them know a second date won’t be on the cards. It’s not necessarily linked to their looks – disliking PT is just the way my intuition lets me know the connection isn’t there and something isn’t right.

I also like getting Words of Affirmation and thoughtful Gifts, but these aren’t essential to how I perceive that someone cares for me.

My top demonstrative love languages are Quality Time (I like getting attention as well as giving it, which is a good thing 😛 ) and Gifts. People for whom the language of Gifts does not rank highly can sometimes misunderstand this one, thinking the person is materialistic, but let me explain what it means for me.

When I show someone I care by giving a gift, I’m not just talking about presents on special occasions (although putting consideration into what I get someone makes me feel good!) Giving gifts can happen in very subtle ways. For example, I often send people internet links, but I’m NOT talking about a “spam my entire contact list” kind of way. If I read something that makes me think of a particular person, I’ll pass it on. It means, “I know you well enough to think that you will enjoy this and I want to give you the interest and pleasure I got when I read it”. When someone does this to me, and the link really is appropriate for me, I feel loved, too.

The language of Gifts is not about the biggest or most expensive present (in fact, it’s often homemade, but could still have cost a fair bit in materials and time), or the most number of presents, it really is about the thought. It’s finding something that ‘fits’ with someone and seeing the happiness on their face when they receive it. When I receive a gift that has obviously had a lot of thought put into it, I really appreciate it, because I understand the action.

For me, Gifts is also tied up a little with Acts of Service (helping people), because my gifts are often practical. My friend who teaches science to little kids – I just found the perfect book on biology experiments for children! My friend who needs a babysitter – I give the gift of my time.

My mum’s receptive love language is mostly Acts of Service (which I didn’t realise until I read the book), so it’s easy to see how I mix Gifts and Acts sometimes. Vacuuming, cooking dinner, taking out the garbage, doing the laundry, remembering to set the VCR (back in the good ol’ days) to tape her favourite show, etc, were all things that she felt the most appreciation for (and magnified if she didn’t have to ask for it). And I know that when she helped me make my bed, that was her showing me love.

So there you go. A bit of an insight into my personality. I hope you got something out of this post, and if nothing else, will consider how the important people in your life give and receive love. You never know if your significant other may actually be feeling unloved because you haven’t spoken much of their #1 language.

If you want to know more, here’s the website, and it has a quiz to help you identify your top languages. I’ve read the Love Languages of Children and the Love Languages of Singles. I would skip the Singles book, though – I read it about 12 years ago, and actually didn’t really connect with it; it seemed to have been written by someone who had never been single, and I found it rather patronising.

The idea of the love languages, though, is really interesting. And passing on this little gem of knowledge is my gift to you.

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