I had planned to start a new Just For Fun series today on how emotions are expressed in different languages. But as I started to research the word ‘love’ (in honor of Valentine’s Day), I stumbled on a very interesting book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary D. Chapman. (I know, I know, it’s #2 on the Amazon Bestseller List; but I almost never read non-fiction now that I’m retired, so I hadn’t really looked at it before.)
Dr. Chapman’s five languages of love are:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Chapman contends that our romantic relationships start to erode, especially after marriage, not because we love each other less, but because we’re not always speaking the same language of love. Now this is not a male-female ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ thing, although it often gets misinterpreted as such.
Men say, “Why are women so demanding? My wife (or girlfriend) is always complaining.”
Women say, “Why can’t men get it. All I want is ____________ (fill in the blank with one of the above languages).”
And both genders think it’s because the other gender is clueless and/or incomprehensible.
But all too often, according to Dr. Chapman, what is really going on is that the couple speaks different love languages. He’s buying her gifts while she’s craving quality time. She’s giving him affection when he wants words of affirmation.
And the great thing about this book (books actually, he has a Men’s Edition as well) is that it asks specific questions to help you figure out (a) your preferred love language, (b) your partner’s preferred language, and most important of all, (c) how to change your way of communicating your love so that your partner really ‘hears’ you
Now here’s my take on this. Languages 1, 2 and 5 are not just ways to convey love. They are also about the emotional needs we all are seeking to fulfill in relationships.
One of the things we all need from our friends and lovers is unconditional acceptance. This is what’s conveyed via Words of Affirmation: I love you just the way you are. I think you’re great! I believe in you.
Another critical component of a healthy relationship is emotional intimacy, defined as emotional closeness based on self-disclosure. If we don’t spend Quality Time together, the emotional intimacy will erode.
And we all need Physical Touch. This has been proven by research. Babies and young children can fail to grow physically, and sometimes even die, if they receive no physical affection.
Perhaps Physical Touch is where there is somewhat of a gender divide. Men, especially in their randier younger years, are more likely to associate affection with sex. She gives him a hug in the kitchen. He tries to steer her toward the bedroom, then wonders what happened when she gets mad.
Folks, there is a difference between affection and sexual touch! And everybody needs some of both.
We need some of this:
As well as some of this!
Is it hot in here? *fans self*
But back to Dr. Chapman’s books. One of the things I like best about his message is that he doesn’t buy the “well, that’s just not me” excuse. He points out that if you want your mate to feel loved, it is not enough to convey that love in your own way, i.e., language. You HAVE to convey it in the language that is most meaningful to your partner. Or they will not get the message!
This makes all kinds of sense because we can change our behaviors a lot easier than we can change our internalized emotional filters. For example, my husband is great at picking out just the right card, with heartfelt sweet messages inside, and he never forgets a special occasion. (I on the other hand, have been known to produce a last-minute, rather cheesy-looking birthday or Valentine’s card on my computer; need to work on that.)
*leaves computer to add Valentine’s card to grocery list*
Okay, I’m back. I very much appreciate his cards (receiving gifts–his language) and intellectually acknowledge that they are sincere expressions of his love, but I don’t feel as loved by them as I do by his undivided attention over a nice dinner (quality time–my language), or by a nice back rub (physical touch–you already figured that out, I’ll bet 🙂 )
What about you? What is your preferred language of love?
(1) Dr. Chapman also has books about the “languages” children and teens use to communicate. Check them out on Amazon.
(2) Some of the info in this post was obtained from Rubin, G. (2011). Which Love Language Suits You and Your Partner? Retrieved on February 12, 2013, from Psych Central.
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