Many of us were brought up being taught to treat others the way we would like to be treated. But what if others don’t want to be treated the same way we would?
We may carry this teaching into our relationships and find that we repeatedly do what we think others would like, based on our own values. If our actions aren’t gratefully received or reciprocated, this may leave us feeling unappreciated or unloved. When we do this, we are acting on an assumption that we value the same thing when in fact, we are all different and so it is only natural that we will have different preferences and ways of expressing ourselves.
Gary Chapman’s concept of the five love languages was developed through his work with married couples. However, I think this provides a valuable insight into navigating the complexities of human connection overall – not just in romantic relationships, but within relationships with our friends and family too. The idea isn’t to enforce our own love language on others but to try and recognise their love language and adapt the way we express ourselves so that we are communicating love in the way they value it most.
Understanding the Five Love Languages
Words of Affirmation
Expressing love through words – compliments, praise or explicit declarations of appreciation – speaks volumes for those who resonate with this love language. Words in any form, whether spoken or written in a card, letter or message, provide affirmation for those who value this form of connection. People who prefer this love language, like to be told they are valued.
Acts of Service
For some, actions really do speak louder than words, and acts of service are viewed as the ultimate expression of love. This could include helping out around the home to lighten the load, preparing a favourite meal, or organising a holiday. For those who value action, these gestures are tangible expressions of being cared for.
Gifts are more than material when it comes to this love language. The thoughtfulness behind the gesture holds equal importance to the physical item itself. For those who value gifts as their primary love language, a gift transcends materialism and is symbolic of time, consideration and a meaningful personal connection.
Shared experiences, meaningful connection and undivided attention all make up the love language of quality time. This is a deeper connection than physical presence alone. This involves a genuine investment of time with another person to fully engage in an experience together. Watching a film together while scrolling on your phone won’t cut it!
For some, physical touch speaks louder than words or big gestures. A hug, kiss, holding hands, or physical intimacy in a romantic relationship are seen as powerful expressions of love and care for those whose love language is centred around physical touch .
Applying The Love Languages in Relationships
The bottom line here is that we are all different. The real value in knowing about these love languages is through acknowledging our preferences, recognising that this varies in others, and so setting realistic expectations.
Communication is Key
Communication is absolutely key in any relationship. If we focus solely on our
own love language and expect to be shown love in this way, we can misunderstand good intentions and we can overlook the ways others are trying to express their appreciation. If in doubt, talk about it. Share this blog with someone to get the conversation started!