Friday, July 24, 2009

The Love Languages

I recently read the book The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, and its theory has been pressing on my mind ever since. I think it's true! I learned what my love language is (actually, I'm bilingual, speaking and understanding two love languages equally), and I learned what my husband's love language is--and that was a bit of a surprise!

The premise is this: We give and receive love differently. What feels like love to one person, does not to another. If you feel love in one way, and give it in the same, but to a person who receives love differently, it's as if you are literally speaking a different language. It can lead to many misunderstandings in a marriage relationship, where you have one spouse saying, "I just don't feel loved!" while the other spouse sits aghast, saying, "How can you not feel loved when I do (fill in the blank here)?" Simple. Different love language. Learning to speak your partner's love language can be as tricky as learning another spoken language. It might even feel unnatural at first, requiring conscious effort. But when you see the results of your partner's emotional love tank filling up, the rewards can be immeasurable, and returned to you ten-fold.

The five languages are these:

Words of Affirmation: you know, like praise, verbal encouragement, notes of adoration, love letters.

Physical Touch: this would be signs of physical affection, hugs, kisses, sex, massages, foot rubs.

Acts of Service: From a woman's perspective, a man helping around the house, pitching in without being asked, lightening a load. From a man's point of view, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. A woman who serves him.

Receiving Gifts: this is the person who loves a present. Small or large, wrapped or unwrapped, surprise or planned, give them a gift and they feel loved.

Quality Time: they just want a piece of you. A moment alone, just for them. A vacation, a walk after dinner, date night, just time to talk.

Now, we all like all of these, of course, but one (and sometimes two) are understood the loudest as our primary love language. (There are tests in the book for you and your spouse to take to determine what languages you each speak.) It's very interesting, actually. And while it revealed much to me about my relationship with my husband, as well as how I best feel loved and why, lately I've been transferring this theory to my relationships with my children as well.

I know the author has written a Love Language book for kids (and teens, in another volume), but I think I can pretty well figure out my children just from what I learned in the original book. And here's the funny thing:

They each speak different love languages!

Of course they do. Who said parenting was ever easy, right? But knowing this gives me a great advantage. Parents usually love their children in their (the parent's) love language because it is most familiar to them. I have one child who speaks my love language, so that child has a very full emotional "love tank". But with my other kids, I needed to listen more to their cues, and that, the author suggests, is a big, loud, screaming hint into the love language of others. Listen to what they ask for and what they complain about. (Same thing in marriage: if there is one theme that you usually are complaining about, odds are it has something to do with a love language that is not being spoken.)

I have one child whose love language is Quality Time. You know how I know? This child always wants to go on dates with me. I mean, this is something I do with all of my children, but this one child regularly reminds me, and is always looking forward to the next date. This child also is always the one who asks if I will play a game, read a story, or go on a walk. It doesn't matter where I'm going, this child wants to come with me.

I have another child, who I used to think was just a selfish, money-hungry, greedy child (kidding), but now I realize that this child's love language is Receiving Gifts. It can be a pack of gum or a video game or a bike. It almost doesn't matter what the gift costs, as long as it's a gift. This one is harder for me because Receiving Gifts is not my love language. In fact out of the five languages, it ranked last when I took the test. I love getting gifts, of course, and especially thoughtful gifts, but it is not how I feel loved.

I have another child, who, like me, speaks a primary love language of Words of Encouragement. The little love notes I stick in the kids' lunches every single day (easy for me, since it's my love language, so it feels natural to express love this way) mean the most to this child. The emails/letters/cards I send whenever the kids are away at their dad's are most appreciated by this child. Another tipoff here was that this is how this child most often expresses love to me, and we of course, do what feels natural to us.

Even the baby, though he's still young, has expressed signs of what his love language will be. I believe he's another Quality Time. He most often requests, "Snuggle me, Mom", and his second request is "Play with me, Mom?" Board games, Legos, Play-Doh, or coloring, he just wants me doing it with him.

Because three of my children speak love languages other than my own, it takes a bit of coordinating, and conscious effort to be sure that I learn to be fluent in the way that they will most feel love from me. I can plan little gifts and surprises for one, and outings and dates with another, while still expressing love in other ways too. And that's what I'm working out, while half of my kids are still gone. What can I do to make them feel so incredibly loved when they get home? It can be so frustrating to feel like nobody speaks your love language, that you need love in a way that you are not getting it. When that happens, we go looking for our love in different places.

So for my Quality Time child: I plan to bring this child with me on errands whenever possible. This child likes to go on my walks with me too. I also plan to have a dinner date before school starts to set new goals and talk about the upcoming year. Another idea I had was to keep this child up a bit later than bedtime to sit downstairs with me and have a bowl of cereal, just to talk.

For my Receiving Gifts child: I will reward more with tokens of love, rather than just words. A few bucks for extra jobs around the house, a pack of gum or a bag of chips just because, a little treat wrapped and left on the pillow with a note of love. His own pint of Ben and Jerry's when I go to the store.

For my Words of Encouragement child: Regular emails just because, expressing my love and appreciation and admiration. Periodic cards that I picked out especially with this child in mind, with a loving message written inside. Public praise of good works and a job well done, a note left in a backpack or on a pillow.

It takes some effort, but the best investment of my time as a parent is learning to speak the languages of my children's hearts. I believe that when their love tanks are empty, nothing I say matters, but when love tanks are full, everything I say does. I want them, especially now during these teen and preteen years, to feel the love that I have for them so that they will not go looking for love and acceptance in unhealthy or dangerous ways. If they know that I am willing to love them in the way that they understand and need, then they are more likely to trust me in other areas as well.

And of course, the loving is always good for the one giving the love too.

(p.s.--In case you were wondering, my second primary love language after Words of Affirmation, is Acts of Service, with Physical Touch being my secondary language.)


Abby said...

I can't continue to read this until I comment first because I was going to write about this same topic! It was one of my favorite parts of the Strong Bonds retreats! I'm a "be" me you love me by *being* with me..or Quality Time as talked about in your book. Orion's is "touch" he feels loved by me when I cuddle with him (where my nickname came from, btw) and he's all about "constant touching" kind of a joke..but yeah. Okay, now that I got that off my chest, my eyes can focus and read the rest. You got me all excited! Haha

Love you!

Abby said...

K, now that I've read it all!

I totally have all of your kids pegged as to who is what...that's cute!

My main language is Quality Time..even if you're just sitting next to me..just be with me. That's my favorite. I've noticed I'm the same way not just in my marriage but in *all* of my relationships. We don't need to always be doing something..just come hang out with me, ya know? My list then goes: Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Receiving gifts, and Words of Affirmation are my last..not that I don't *love* love letters and things of the such..but encouragement and compliments make me feel weird though I know I should like them. Does that make sense? I want to be appreciated but not really told because it makes me feel like the person is just saying that just to be nice, ya know? Makes me blush.

Anyway, I blab..but that's because this might be my favorite post from you..maybe ever. It's such an interesting subject to me!

So which one is Adam? I feel like he must either be a Touch or Quality Time kind of I totally off?

Megan said...

This was one of the most enlightening topics I studied at college! It has made a huge difference for both my husband and I to recognize what they are, what we each need, and how it may or may not match what we give. I'll have to study my kids a little more closely... :)

Josi said...

I recently borrowed the one about kids from a freind--I shouldn't admit this but I'm hesitant to read it because it feels like so much work to adjust to their love languages. I'm such a nerd. But you've inspired me. I actually woke up today knowing I would have some 'kick-back' time and wondering what I should do with it. I think I'll finish this book and rise a little in the 'mother I should be' ranking. Thanks Jenna

Luisa Perkins said...

I love that book. I also applied it to my kids and was surprised! I am also bilingual, and my languages are Quality Time and Physical Touch.

Turleygirl said...

I love this book! Another book you might enjoy that I just read recently is 'The Noticer' by Andy Andrews. Great Read!!! It is along the same lines as the book your wrote about.

* said...

Isn't that a life-changing book? Love it!

My sisters and I have read it, and we talk about it from time to time, reminding ourselves what our love languages are and getting ideas on what more we can do for our kids and husbands to better speak their "love languages"...

Hannah said...

I have that book!

I'm a touch and presents language. Mike, I'm pretty sure he's acts of service.

Good book. And I figured out your kids too. That makes me happy that I feel like I know them well enough.

Wonder Woman said...

It's a fantastic book. We received it as newlyweds and I devoured it. My husband's languages are physical touch and quality time, while mine are words of encouragement and acts of service. It's sometimes a challenge to make sure each other's tank is full.

I've tried to be aware of my children's languages, but so far I haven't really nailed it down yet. I need to be more vigilant.

Angela said...

One of my favorite books. My mom introduced it to me before I got married and figuring out each other's love language has really helped out. It is a struggle sometimes but easier to KNOW how to fill that tank when needed!

Mine are acts of service and words of affirmation. My husband's are quality time and physical touch. Great post!

Kay the Encourager said...

I agree with you on this one. Encouragement is my passion and my love language because I know it makes a difference for me! I believe if we could learn to say encouraging words to each other, we could change the world one person at a time.
How to encourage

Julie Wright said...

I am bi lingual too. My languages are quality time and service. I need to read that book.

Piper of Love said...

I think I give love through Words of Affirmations. I don't do that nearly enough with you anymore... this is sad.

Is your Piper-Love Tank empty?

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