If you’ve never heard of Love Languages before, this week’s question might come across as confusing or even absurd. No, this isn’t a way of swaying your hips or glancing over your shoulder to attract a partner. It’s not something you can study from a textbook either.
Rather, the theory comes from Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, which was originally published in 1995 as a way to help couples express and experience more connection in their marriage. Today, however, he’s extrapolated the concept to many other relationships, including extended family and friends.
While Dr. Chapman’s writings have religious undertones which may not appeal to everyone, he describes with clarity how we all long for love, and how it can hurt when someone isn’t speaking our language. Indeed, his series of books on the subject have sold more than 10 million copies.
So if you’ve ever felt unappreciated, had your needs unmet, or wished for a deeper connection to those you love, I invite you to keep reading about how this simple concept has been changing lives and relationships across the world.
Download this free guide to get started and follow along…
In a relationship, people often come together with different needs, expectations, and methods of communicating. Dr. Chapman defines five distinct ways people understand emotional love, as well as express it to others:
Using language to declare to someone that they are cherished and appreciated.
People with this love language need to hear that they are valued within a relationship. Words, whether spoken or written, carry meaning and can have a lasting impact.
Offering something tangible to someone else to help them feel special.
People with this love language see a gift as a symbol that someone was thinking of them with love and affection. The gift needn’t be large or expensive, rather it should be thoughtful and selected with care.
Doing something for another person which is helpful and fulfills one of their needs.
People with this love language find meaning in the actions of others. They value your time and energy, as well as your willingness to help them out.
Giving another person your undivided attention so that you can connect.
People with this love language need uninterrupted time to talk, explore, and simply be present with one another in order to feel valued and seen.
Sharing the warmth and comfort of physical contact, whether in a platonic or romantic expression.
People with this love language feel nurtured when someone reaches out to them with a hug, kiss, or just holding hands.
Sometimes, people are very in-tune with their own love language. They read through the profiles and readily identify how they prefer to express and receive affection. Others might not be so sure.
If you’ve felt lonely or disconnected within your relationships for any length of time, you might believe any gesture would be a welcome change. Dr. Chapman asserts that while we may enjoy the benefits of all five means of expressing love, we all have a primary love language which speaks to us most clearly.
One of the methods you can use to discover which love language fits you best is to recall instances when you felt under-appreciated or unseen:
When you think about the times when you felt unloved or let down in a relationship, which love language frequently was unmet?
Don’t worry if you’re still not sure…Dr. Chapman has many more examples available within his book, as well as a convenient online quiz.
Most of us want to have a long-term, intimate relationship, but we also have other emotional connections that fill our lives. We are daughters/sons, sisters/brothers, parents, and friends. Managing all of these relationships can be tricky, especially if one of them is suffering because we aren’t speaking the same love language.
The original book on love languages focuses mainly on couples, as Dr. Chapman drew his theories from counseling people who were struggling in their marriage. However, he’s now expanded these concepts to singles, as well as kids and teens.
One of the great things about discovering which love language speaks to you, is that you can share this knowledge with the people in your life.
It’s not possible to avoid being hurt by others, even those with whom we’re closest. The people we love aren’t usually trying to offend or abandon us though. Often times, conflicts occur in relationships because two people just aren’t speaking the same love language.
Knowing your love language allows you to have an open and honest discussion about how you want to be treated. If your partner brings you flowers for every anniversary, but you prefer quality time over gifts, ask them to go out for an intimate conversation over dinner instead.
It takes a lot of courage to ask for what you need, but it’s certainly better than stewing over not getting what you want.
The answer is simple…Ask! Send them a link to the Love Language Quiz and make a point to share your answers too.
I always suspected my youngest daughter would speak the language of Gifts. She was the child who crafted homemade cards for me in her spare time and whose eyes lit up when I found a new state quarter for her collection. My oldest daughter was a bit more of a mystery however. I guessed that she might prefer Acts of Service, since she has a physical disability and certain tasks are more challenging for her.
So in a recent experiment, I gathered the whole family and asked them to answer a few questions so we could share our results.
Turns out, I was right about my youngest daughter…yet I appreciated hearing her explanation of why gifts were so important. “Because it means that I know you were thinking about me,” she said. A personal item, selected with attention to detail and her particular preferences, conveys how much she is loved. And her favorite gift? A beautifully painted rock I had given her years ago.
My oldest daughter does indeed appreciate acts of service, but that isn’t her primary love language—which is Quality Time. She’s not one to ask for my attention, and sometimes it can seem impossible to get her to look up from her phone. But the one-on-one book club we had last summer stands out to both of us as a meaningful connection. So, I learned I need to focus on finding moments to connect, particularly because she’s now in college and busier than ever.
I encourage you not to blindly guess what love languages your family members value, but ask them to discover and share their inclinations with you. As our attention turns to relationships this month, what better gift could you give to those you care about?
My invitation for this week is that you take the online Love Languages Quiz, and invite at least one other person to join you. Once you’ve shared your results, what then?
How can we start speaking someone else’s love language if it doesn’t come to us naturally?
The good news is that you can begin with a Small Step. A gift doesn’t need to break the bank, and quality time doesn’t mean spending an entire weekend gazing into someone’s eyes. Especially if there’s been any strain or distance present, small gestures will go a long way to building trust and establishing your intentions to strengthen the relationship.
Think of a few ways you might be able to fulfill their longing to feel loved and appreciated.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
This week, set a couple reminders on your phone or calendar to speak the love language of someone you’d like to be closer to.
“The number of ways to express love within a #lovelanguage is limited only by your imagination.” Dr. Gary Chapman
At the end of the week, reflect on the relationship…
Don’t worry if you’re still unsure about how to speak a love language that doesn’t feel intuitive. Just as listening to a French tape wouldn’t prepare you for a move to Paris, your first attempts at speaking a different love language may be a bit awkward. But it’s a start…and each time you practice loving people in their language, it allows you to grow and deepen these relationships.
The key aspects from this experiment, for me, were noticing and making time.
There are dozens of opportunities in our day where we can reach out and speak someone else’s love language. And there are many occasions when we can ask for what we need in order to feel cherished.
Slow down long enough to identify moments where you can make relationships a priority over the busyness of your schedule.
Now I’m finding all sorts of opportunities to connect with my kids and my husband by speaking their love language, and in turn I feel more loved through the experience.
Won’t you share one way you’d like someone to speak your language, or an insight you’ve had about a relationship after discovering their love language?