My girlfriend was sharing with me some relationship challenges with her significant other. Teary-eyed and heartbroken, she struggled to process the dynamic between the two of them.
Not everything he says feels loving to her, even despite his sweetness and attempts to "take care" of her. When she needed his gentle touch to reassure her, he disappears, seemingly aloof, to fix the car.
In her angst and frustration, she bravely confesses that he may not love her. And if he does, perhaps, he simply doesn't know how to love her.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get him to understand what she was going through. He didn't seem to even hear her.
Why do his choices seem so inconsiderate? How is it that he can be so harsh when all she ever needs is some tenderness?
- "Maybe he doesn’t know how to love me.”
- “Maybe he cannot love me the way I need."
- “Maybe then, I’m not lovable.”
These words are mantras that take me instantly back 20 years ago when I sang the same tune. After I got off the phone with her, I spent some time with the energy she embodied in The Silence and took a walking meditation.
As I meandered through the walking trail, the 5 Love Languages that I learned so very long ago came to me, light a flash of awakening. They simply speak different love languages.
A lifetime ago, before I met my husband some 12 years ago, I walked in her shoes. For a decade I walked in her shoes, feeling as she did: misunderstood, unlovable, incapable, unable to truly communicate and uncertain if there is anyone out there that is “right” for me.
As I sought out resources to better myself, my coping skills and my understanding of the world around me, I found Gary Chapman’s book The Five (5) Love Languages. In doing so, I found a framework that I can easily understand and grasp.
His book was a treasure trove of information, tools, and resources to better understand myself and how to navigate intimate relationships. Over the years, I have learned various other tools and methods to bridge communications: Al-Anon, Non-Violent Communication, Enneagram Work and Shadow Work, to name a few.
As I believe the cornerstone of all relationships is the one we have with ourself, I went on a self-reflective, self-inquiry process that has been a lifelong journey. This path of presence has deepened my understanding of who I am, why I am here, and what my purpose is.
Looking deeper into my past, and how I evolved, I learned to identify patterns of how I have coped with my problems. I began to understand how my perspective affects the outcome of any given situation, and what colors my listening or affects my way of seeing things.
In the process of awakening to my place in the world, I needed very much so, to own my decisions. Owning up to my actions, reactions, or lack thereof, was a way I took responsibility. Education, even though it was learning about me, is my path to empowerment.
Exercising My Personal Power
I wasn’t about to blame my parents or point fingers at how others have wronged me. Somehow, it was just really important to me that I take accountability for my actions, reactions, decisions, behaviors, and (especially) thoughts. Like all human beings, I had childhood wounds that were unhealed and I needed recovery from them.
Even as a young adult, I was smart enough to know that I cannot change anyone and that real change really begins with me. As I cannot control others, the only person I am in control, be it action, behavior or thought, is myself.
In bettering myself and my understanding of Love, I learned that the 5 Love Languages is a framework of expression.
It is a system to understand how we understand love, how we express ourselves (and our love), and what we understand as Love.
Learning this system has enabled me to reframe the statement “ He doesn’t love me in the way I need to be loved."
The Five Love Languages, as taught by Gary Chapman has been around for as long as I can possibly remember. His popular program and series have sold over 11 million copies. I first stumbled upon this series as an accident (or was it?). Back in the day, I actually found this book the traditional way: the bookstore.
I digested the information like a thirsty sponge! I couldn’t put the book down and I made notes along the edges as though it was a textbook. I am so grateful that so many now know about Dr. Gary Chapman’s work, and I honor him for his contribution to society.
Ultimately, Dr. Chapman’s book encouraged me to dig deeper, to bravely look within. Rather than to brush off any relationships that do not work, I now have a tool to bridge an understanding and connect with the other.
This is especially vital for my most intimate relationships: the ones with my immediate family: My husband, my children, my siblings and yes, even my late parents (to understand how they were truly loving the best they could).
The Five Love Languages are the following:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Let’s see if you can identify which of these 5 if YOUR love Language. In others words, "how do you give and receive love?"
Love Language # 1: Words of Affirmation
"The language uses words to affirm other people"
A person whose love language is affirmative words would use words to express love. It is also the case that when affirmative words are spoken to this person, they feel loved.
If your loved one serenades you with encouraging affirmative words (“You are so brave!” Or “You are amazing for doing that” Or “How am I so lucky to have you?”) it is likely that his or her love language is expressed through loving speech.
Love Language # 2: Acts of Service
"For those whose love language is the act of service, actions speak louder than words"
This person will do something for you and it is an expression of his or her love. If your spouse is one that always fills up the gas for you in the car, fixes the broken toaster or files the income tax, it might be a clue that his or her love language is to perform acts of service.
To this person, being of service and being useful is how he or she expresses love.
Love Language # 3: Receiving Gifts
"For some people, what makes them feel most loved is a gift"
Do you find flowers or gift often from your sweetheart? If so, gift giving and receiving might be this person’s love language. My mom used to bring me a gift every time she came home from a business trip. This was her way of telling me she thought of me and that she loves me. If your lover showers you with gifts, but not necessarily words, it doesn’t mean he’s all about “
Things,” it just may indicate that is how he expresses and receives love.
Love Language # 4: Quality Time
"This love language is all about giving the other person undivided attention"
When you are really busy on a project, does your Love want extra attention? It’s not that he or she wants to be your ball and chain, it just might be because this is how he or she gifts Love. Spending quality time, above flowers, or getting all the dishes done, or saying “I love you” is the love language of Time.
Love Language # 5: Physical Touch
"To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch"
There is a saying by Virginia Satir, family therapist, that says “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” If you find that your loved one is “touchy feeling, or very affectionate, his or her love engage might be physical touch.
Physical touch is how this person, whose love language is ‘Physical Touch’ gives and receives love.
What You Need to Know About the 5 Love Languages Above
Make a list of your most intimate relationships, beginning with yourself.
- Can you identify what your love language is?
- What is your significant other’s love language?
- What is your child(ren)’s love language?
- What about your best friend? What about your parents?
If you love language is "receiving gifts," and your partner’s love language is "acts of service," there might be a communication problem.
How You Love: Your Love Language
What you most need and want is to feel love. As your love language is receiving gifts, you are most receptive to getting something as s token of your partner’s love.
How Your Partner Loves: His Love Language
Interestingly, as his love language is acts of service, so (for example) he is constantly fixing your car, or buying you an appliance or reminding you about not forgetting your keys. In this way, he is loving you the best he can.
Moreover, for those of us who have children: consider how your relationship with your child, (particularly if they are a teen!) might deepen and improve if you have a better understanding of what his or her love language is.
Understanding this dynamic of love language helps you understand that it isn’t a matter whether or not he loves you - because, clearly, he does! It is a matter of opening to communicate better with one another so that you can actually receive the love he is sharing.
The 5 love languages provide a framework, a foundation, to have heart-to-heart communication about what you need and what the other needs to feel loved.
Being seen, heard, and understood is a basic need in any relationship.
When someone “gets” us, we feel loved and our relationship is harmonious. When they just don’t “get it” all is awry and connecting heart-to-heart is a struggle.
Did this article help you? Think of the times when you may have felt heart-broken that someone didn't "get" you, and what it would be like if they totally understood what you needed. How might that change your life?
* * * * *
To Deepen Your Practice & Better Understand Your Love Language
I have some worksheets here for you from to deepen your work. They are the proprietary product of Dr. Gary Chapman's work and foundation. I have utilized these to assess my love language and have had every member of my family answer them so we are clear about what each other's love language is. Having this clarity gives us a tool to best express our love to . one another, and to recognize the authentic expression of Love, even if it may not come in the form we recognize.