I think it’s time to compile some information on Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages…
As I spend time on Personality Cafe, I seem to always stumble upon threads where members are trying to pin down traits as something that “all ISTJs do” or “all sx doms do.” In many of these circumstances, I feel like relationship questions can better be addressed by understanding the Five Love Languages.
Most of us grow up learning the language of our parents, which becomes our native tongue. Later we may learn additional languages, but usually with much more effort. In the area of love, it’s similar. Your emotional love language and that of your spouse may be as different as Mandarin from English – no matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse only understands Mandarin, you’ll never understand how to love each other.
Seldom do a husband and wife have the same primary love language. We tend to speak our primary love language and become confused when our spouse doesn’t understand what we’re communicating. Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse’s primary love language, you’ll have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage.
Determining Your Own Love Language
Either take the assessment here, or since you may be speaking what you need, you can discover your own love language by asking yourself these questions:
❤ How do I express love to others?
❤ What do I complain about the most?
❤ What do I request most often?
Speaking in your spouse’s love language probably won’t be natural for you. Dr. Chapman says, “We’re not talking comfort. We’re talking love. Love is something we do for someone else. So often couples love one another but they aren’t connecting. They are sincere, but sincerity isn’t enough.” **
Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.*
Verbal compliments or words of appreciation are powerful communicators of love.
Encouraging words: “Encourage” means “to inspire courage”. All of us have areas in which we feel insecure. We lack courage, which often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. Perhaps you or your spouse has untapped potential in one or more areas of life. That potential may be awaiting encouraging words from you or from him.
Kind words: If we’re to communicate love verbally, we must use kind words. That has to do with the way we speak. The statement “I love you”, when said with kindness and tenderness, can be a genuine expression of love.
Humble words: Love makes requests, not demands. In marriage we’re equal partners. If we’re to develop an intimate relationship, we need to know each other’s desires. If we make our needs known in the form of a request, we’re giving guidance, not ultimatums.
If this is your partner’s love language: Set a goal to give your spouse a different compliment each day for a month.
The Power of the Tongue
Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Good for Mark Twain, but I don’t know many husbands and wives who can survive on six compliments a year. Solomon, author of the ancient Hebrew wisdom literature, wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Many couples have never learned the tremendous power of verbally affirming each other. Verbal compliments are powerful communicators of love.
One way to verbally affirm your spouse is to give encouraging words. Allison always wanted to be a writer, but after receiving her first rejection slip from the publisher, she gave up. One evening her husband Keith came into the den and said, “I hate to interrupt your reading, but I have to tell you this. I just finished reading your article. Allison, you are an excellent writer. This stuff ought to be published! Your words paint pictures that I can visualize. You have got to submit this stuff to some magazines.” “Do you really think so?” Allison asked. “I know so,” Keith said. “I’m telling you, this is good.”
Ten years later, Allison has had several articles published and has her first book contract. She credits her success to Keith’s words of encouragement. Perhaps your spouse has untapped potential in one or more areas of life. That potential may be awaiting your encouraging words.
Focus on Your Spouse
There is a difference between encouraging words and nagging words. Encouraging words always focus on something your spouse wants to do, not something you want them to do. A nag is anything you tell your spouse more than three times.
“It’s Not What You Said. It’s How You Said It!”
If we are to express love by words of affirmation, those words must be kind words. Kindness has to do with the manner in which we speak. Sometimes our words are saying one thing, but our tone of voice is saying another. Our spouse will usually interpret our message based on our tone of voice, not the words we use. The same words expressed with a loud, harsh voice will not be an expression of love, but an expression of condemnation and judgment. An ancient sage once said, “a soft answer turns away anger.”
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.*
This means giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. What I mean is taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and looking at each other while talking. Time is a strong communicator of love. The love language of quality time has many dialects. One of the most common is that of quality conversation – two individuals sharing their thoughts and feelings. A relationship calls for sympathetic listening with a view to understanding the other person’s desires. We must be willing to give advice, but only when it’s requested and never in a condescending manner.
Here are some practical listening tips:
❤ Maintain eye contact when your spouse is talking.
❤ Don’t do something else at the same time.
❤ Listen for feelings and confirm them. Ask yourself, “What emotion is my spouse experiencing?”
❤ Observe body language.
❤ Refuse to interrupt. Such interruptions indicate, “I don’t care what you are saying; listen to me.”
❤ Quality conversation also calls for self-revelation. In order for your partner to feel loved, you must reveal some of yourself, too.
If this is your partner’s love language: Ask your partner for a list of five activities that he’d enjoy doing with you. Make plans to do one of them each month for the next five months.
Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television. I mean sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, and giving each other your undivided attention. For some people, quality time is their primary love language, and if you don’t give them quality time, they will not feel loved. Is it possible that your spouse’s primary love language is quality time?
Listen for Clues
Quality time is a powerful emotional communicator of love. One medicine does not cure all diseases. Just as one love language does not communicate emotionally to all people. If you give your spouse affirming words; If you express love by acts of service; If you touch them affectionately; and they still complain, “You don’t ever have time for me. We used to do things together. Now you are always too busy or too tired,” they are telling you that their primary love language is quality time.
The Essence of Quality Time
A central aspect of quality time is togetherness. I do not mean proximity. Togetherness has to do with focused attention. A husband who is watching sports on television while he talks to his wife is not giving her quality time, because she does not have his full attention. A husband and wife playing tennis together, if it is genuine quality time, will focus not on the game, but on the fact that they are spending time together.
Dialects of Quality Time
Like words of affirmation, the language of quality time also has many dialects. One of the most common dialects is that of quality conversation. By quality conversation, I mean sympathetic dialogue where two people are sharing their experiences, their thoughts, their feelings, and their desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. If your spouse’s primary love languages is quality time, such dialogue is crucial to his or her emotional sense of being loved. Sit down. Ask questions, and listen.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.*
Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest. A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” A gift is a symbol of that thought. Gifts come in all sizes, colours and shapes. Some are expensive and others are free. To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts, the cost will matter little.
There is also an intangible gift that can speak more loudly than something that can be held in one’s hand. Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give. Your body becomes the symbol of your love.
If this is your partner’s love language: Keep a “gift idea” notebook. Every time you hear your spouse say, “I really like that,” write it down. Select gifts you feel comfortable purchasing, making or finding, and don’t wait for a special occasion. Becoming a proficient gift giver is an easy language to learn.
Gift giving is a major part of relationships in many cultures. I was in Chicago when I studied anthropology. By means of detailed ethnographies, I visited fascinating peoples all over the world. I went to Central America and studied the advanced cultures of the Mayans and the Aztecs. I crossed the Pacific and studied the tribal peoples of Melanesia and Polynesia. I studied the Eskimos of the northern tundra and the aboriginal Ainus of Japan. I examined the cultural patterns surrounding love and marriage and found that in every culture I studied gift-giving was a part of the love-marriage process.
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. How often do you think about your spouse throughout your day? How often do you make that known to them? This week when you think about your spouse try to show them by giving them a token of your affection, a symbol of that thought.
Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.*
People who speak this love language seek to please their partners by serving them; to express their love for them by doing things for them. Actions such as cooking a meal, setting a table, washing the dishes, sorting the bills, walking the dog or dealing with landlords are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love. I’m not saying become a doormat to your partner and do these things out of guilt or resentment. No person should ever be a doormat. Do these things as a lover.
If this is your partner’s love language: What one act of service has your spouse nagged you about consistently? Why not decide to see the nag as a tag? Your spouse is tagging this particular task as a really important thing to him or her.
“Acts of service” – doing something for your spouse that you know they would like for you to do. Cooking a meal, washing dishes, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, changing the baby’s diaper, and painting the bedroom, etc.
If this is your spouse’s primary love language, nothing speaks as loudly as these acts of service. You may give him or her words of affirmation, but they are thinking, “Cut the talk. If you loved me, you would do something around here.” For them, actions truly speak louder than words.
When we translate this into a marriage, it means that we will do acts of service to express love to our spouse. Why not choose one to express love to your spouse today?
You may be tempted to stop helping around the house because you get criticized. Your spouse’s critical remarks may be your best clue as to his or her primary love language. The next time your spouse criticizes you, look behind the criticism and see if you can discover their love language. They are trying to tell you what is important to them emotionally. Don’t fight the criticism. Seek to learn from it. Love effectively by learning your spouse’s primary love language and speaking it daily.
When I talk about acts of service as an expression of love, I am not talking about being a slave. When we treat our spouses as slaves, we remove the possibility of love because we remove their freedom. “If you were a good spouse, you would do this for me” is not the language of love. “You will do this, or you’ll be sorry” is manipulation, not love. If acts of service are to be acts of love, they must be freely given. Requests give direction to love, but demands stop the flow of love.
Learning to speak this love language may require some of us to reexamine our stereotypes of the roles of husbands and wives. Is this difficult? Perhaps. That’s why I use the word love language. Learning a new language may be difficult and take time, but it can be done. A willingness to examine and change stereotypes may be necessary in order to express love more effectively.
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.*
Holding hands, kissing, hugging and sex – all of these are lifelines for the person for whom physical touch is the primary love language. With it, they feel secure in their partner’s love. “Love touches” don’t take much time, but they do require a little thought, especially if this isn’t your primary love language or you didn’t grow up in a “touching” family. Sitting close to each other as you watch TV requires no additional time, but communicates your love loudly. Touching each other when you leave the house and when you return may involve only a brief kiss, but speaks volumes.
If this is your partner’s love language: While eating together let your knee or foot drift over and touch your partner.
For some husbands, when they hear the words physical touch, they immediately think of sex. But sexual intercourse is only one of the dialects of this love language. Holding hands, kissing, embracing, back rubs, or an arm around the shoulder are all ways of expressing love by physical touch.
Physical touch can make or break a marital relationship. Do you know how to speak this love language? To the spouse whose primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important than your tender touches. You may give them words of affirmation or gifts, but nothing communicates love like physical touch.
Touches may be explicit and call for your full attention, such as a back rub or sexual foreplay. They can be implicit and require only a moment, such as putting your hand on his shoulder as you pour a cup of coffee. Once you discover that physical touch is the primary love language of your spouse, you are limited only by your imagination. Kiss when you get in the car. It may greatly enhance your travels. Give a hug before you go shopping. You may hear less griping when you return. Remember, you are learning to speak a new language.
When you reach out with tender touch, you create emotional closeness. This is especially true if the primary love language of your spouse is physical touch. You may say, “What if I’m just not a toucher? I didn’t grow up in a touchy-feely family.” The good news is that you can learn to speak this love language. It can begin with a pat on the back, or putting your hand on their leg as you sit together on the couch.
Almost instinctively in a time of crisis, we hug one another. Why? During these times, we need to feel loved more than anything. All marriages will experience crises. Disappointments are a part of life. The most important thing you can do for your wife in a time of crisis is to love her. If her primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important than holding her as she cries. Your words may mean little, but your physical touch will communicate that you care. In a time of crisis, a hug is worth more than a thousand words. Physical touch is a powerful love language.
Have you ever had a time when you were in need of a hug? What do you do to let others know that you need a gesture of physical touch?