A year ago, I wrote this. I was talking to couples. But keep reading.
Because of this tendency, I put off reading The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate for years. (It came out in 1992. I read it in 2003 or 4). One day, however, I saw a copy and decided to skim it.
I’m glad I did.
In this book, Gary Chapman suggests that rather than there being just one way to say, “I love you”, we can think about five languages:
- Words of affirmation: encouraging, kind, humble, specific words, whether written or spoken.
- Quality time: undivided attention, listening conversation, significant activities.
- Receiving gifts: A visible, touchable reminder that someone else cared to think about you.
- Acts of service: Doing what matters to the person, for the person.
- Physical touch: Physical contact, usually without direct sexual connection.
Chapman suggests that it is possible for couples to have different love languages and, as a result, to experience great frustration in their relationship if they are actively saying “I love you” in a language their other isn’t hearing.
For example, spouse #1 may love gifts. Even little, handmade, cheesey gifts. They mean paying attention. They mean thinking about. Spouse #2 may love quality time. Even sitting looking at each other without the TV on for 15 minutes, talking. If spouse #2 thinks gifts are a waste of time and money but is always hanging around, and spouse #1 spends time making scrapbooks of the relationship, this couple is going to feel empty and unloved, though they love each other very much.
On the other hand, spending even a little time learning another language will strengthen the relationship significantly.
Tonight I was telling some guys in a class about it, in the context of working with volunteers. I explained that expressing appreciation for volunteers would benefit from thinking about love languages, too.
For example, some people love certificates. Some people find them a waste of money. Some people love to be asked how they are doing. Some people find it a waste of time. Some people like gift cards, some don’t. Some people like trophies, t-shirts, parties, thank you cards, telephone calls, public announcements; some don’t.
When you are thanking people for making a difference, I have a suggestion.
Speak their language. Not yours.