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The Five Love Languages

Posted by admin 12:30 am, 9 January 2015

What really makes you feel loved? Is it when your partner makes you a cup of tea? Or when they give you a hug? What makes you feel loved might be different to what makes them feel loved. Perhaps they feel loved when you sit down and listen to them tell you about their day, or buy them a thoughtful gift. Sometimes we can feel that we are giving love to the loved ones in our lives, but it may not be in quite the way that they want to be loved. Or we may feel that our partner shows us love in ways that don’t quite meet our needs.

The different ways that people show love are often related to the way that they themselves like to be loved, but as we all differ in the way we like to be loved, it’s important to understand how the people in your life want to be loved.

The theory of the ‘five love languages’, which was developed by Dr Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, categorises five main ways that people may like to be shown love.  People may have one main love language, or many. All of the love languages are important to most people, but some are usually more important than others for each of us. Although this theory has been mostly used to describe love between romantic partners and spouses, it also applies to friends and other family members.

I particularly see these love languages as being important in a family context between parents and their children. Parents are crucial in showing their children how to express love, and often the love language of parents becomes that of their children, however, often parents fail to show love to their children in the child’s own love language and this can lead to the child feeling unloved.

The five love languages are:

Words of Affirmation: This involves telling the person that you love them and giving verbal expressions of care and affection. People with this love language feel truly loved when they hear someone tell them how much they love them. Although hearing those words is important to most people, for some it’s what they need to know that they are loved. If this is your love language you might need to hear words of affection more often than others.

Quality Time: This is when people show love by spending time together and giving someone their undivided attention. People with this love language feel most loved when someone takes time to see them, talk to them and listen to them talk about their day. It may also be when you do the things you both enjoy together. For children and teenagers this involves ‘child-centred time’, which means their parents playing with them and doing what their child likes to do, such as playing video games, watching movies they like or watching them play sport.

Gifts: Gifts can be a way of showing that you love someone and many people feel loved when someone buys them a thoughtful gift that shows that they care. Gifts don’t have to be expensive, they could be a flower that’s picked on the way home or a book by a favourite author. People with this love language might feel unloved if their partner forgets to get them a present on their birthday or anniversary.

Acts of Service/Deeds: Doing something for your loved one often makes them feel loved. Going back to belief that ‘actions speak louder than words’, showing your love through making someone a cup of tea, doing chores for them or helping them out with something can often make people feel truly loved. It shows consideration and thoughtfulness. If this is your love language you might feel truly loved when your kids do their chores or your partner makes you dinner.

Physical Touch/Affection: Physical affection is a basic human need, but for people with this particular love language physical affection makes them feel truly loved. This might mean feeling loved when a hug is given, an arm is stroked, or a hand is held. For couples it also includes sexual intimacy, without which a partner may not feel loved.

Often we show love to the people around us in the way that we like it to be given to us. This is understandable, but sometimes causes problems in relationships if the people in that relationship have different love languages. For example, if your love language is Quality Time but partners is Gifts, they might give you lots of thoughtful gifts and truly believe that they are showing you how much they love you, while you might feel neglected because they’ve been so busy that they haven’t spent much time with you. Or if your teenager’s love language is words of affirmation and yours is Acts of Service/Deeds, they might be feeling upset that you don’t say you love them more, while you might be upset that they don’t do the chores that you set them.

The key to love languages is working out what your love languages are, and those of the people you love, and communicating this to those people. The next step is trying to show people love in the way that they ‘hear’ it, in their love language. It’s also important to ask for love to be given to you in the way that you ‘hear’ it. Tell those around you what makes you feel loved, rather than making them guess, because we’re all hearing the world through the ears of our own love language.

Reference: Chapman, G.(2010). The Five Love Languages. Moody Press. U.S.A.

Written by Dr Rani Ellison