By Robine Jean-Pierre
There are hundreds, if not thousands of languages spoken, written and articulated in the world today. Not all of us will be able to say we learned Swahili, Chinese or Urdu in our lifetime, but there is one language that we can all speak, one language alone that can unite us: the language of love. And no, I don’t mean French or Spanish.
“No man is an island” (the title of a poem by John Donne). Unless you have spent all of your life in solitary confinement, you have connections with people around you. What we often overlook, even though it may seem obvious, is that these deep rooted relationships require maintenance. Your loved ones have standards that you need to meet, and vice versa, in order to keep the relationship afloat. That might mean phone calls, keeping the house clean, gifts, visits, etc. The thing is that we all set those standards in different ways, and that’s where the specific love languages come in.
In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that there are five main ways we express and receive love. They are: acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and quality time. He goes on to point out that each of us has a primary love language; we feel the most loved through it and express it toward others the most. I will explain in my own words and give some examples below.
Acts of Service
If this is your primary love language, you feel most loved when someone helps you. You are always willing to lend a helping hand to others as well. It warms your heart when someone holds a door open for you or offers to do the dishes when it was your turn. Conversely, it really “grinds your gears” when someone does not offer you a hand, whether by outright refusing, or by failing to acknowledge your need.
For these people, actions speak way louder than words. If you love them, you will be willing to show it, and to do whatever they are asking of you with a sincere heart. This might be doing the dirty work, like taking out the trash without being asked. This is definitely my mom’s love language, and not just because she is a mom. I have seen her offer herself wholeheartedly, not just for her children, but for people who, frankly, do not even deserve it.
You love to give and receive hugs, pats on the back, an arm around the shoulder and firm handshakes. You find massages incredibly enjoyable, and holding you while you cry is the most compassionate way someone can console you.
People might be suspicious of you because they are not as comfortable with touching, or they suspect that you are just trying to “make a move” on them–but that’s not true. Physical touch is not limited to affection exchanged between lovers. This is my fiancé Angel’s primary love language, and I realized early on that his touchiness was not simply flirtiness when I observed his interactions with family and friends. He was all hugs, all the time, and still is that way.
Words of Affirmation
You value words of praise and encouragement. One compliment has your mood lifted for the entire day. Love letters are the quickest way to your heart. On the other end, hurtful words inflict a wound like nothing else can.
If you know individuals like this, it is crucial that you constantly boost them up with the power of your words. Don’t dismiss them as being vain or conceited when they fish for compliments. Tell them “I love you” often, because even if you hit all of the other four love languages, they might not feel certain until you say it. Don’t just think good toward them–be very vocal about your appreciation and generous with compliments. Be careful, even when joking, about what you say to them.
You feel most loved when someone gives you a gift. Whether something small like a flower or expensive like new sneakers, just the fact that someone thought of you means the world to you. Someone’s presence is also a present to you; you would be greatly offended if your significant other got you nothing on Valentine’s Day, but also if your best friend did not make it to your birthday party.
I feel as if this can be mistaken for being materialistic, but there is a difference. From what I have observed, this is my younger sister’s primary love language, and it took a while for me to realize that she wasn’t just being greedy whenever she asked me to bring her something on my way back home. Her attention to detail when choosing and packaging gifts for others also says it all. Because of this, when I have the money and time, I am less reluctant to pick up a Snickers bar or buy her something she’s been raving about every now and then.
You are an unofficial event planner, always coming up with a new idea for a date with your friends, family or significant other. You value long conversations, especially with an engaged listener. If you had one complaint in a relationship, it would be, “We never spend enough time together!” You give your phone a side-eye when someone does not reply back to your messages quickly enough or answer your calls.
This is definitely my primary love language. Nothing hurts me more than a missed opportunity to see someone I love, especially Angel. It drives me crazy when he’s not texting me, even if he has a very legitimate excuse, like work. I can spend a whole day with him and still feel disappointed when we have to part ways. This was true even with my best friend Marsha when we were younger; I often cried whenever I had to leave her apartment, and we lived in the same building.
People like me need as much time as you can afford to give. Make sure that in the midst of all your responsibilities, you don’t make a “quality-timer” feel as if he/she is at the bottom of your list; we are more likely to get jealous of things (e.g. work, sports, video games) than people. Set aside time for dates, phone calls, etc., and as a tip, it’s not enough to just be in the same room together–make sure that the activity requires you to give each other undivided attention.
Get Out There and Love Someone
Chapman explains that each of us has a love tank that needs to be filled. Often times, people act out, complain, or are unhappy because their tank is not filled. Marriages often crumble because two people are working hard to please each other in the way they know how, not in the way their spouse wants. The main way to fill the tank is to show love in that person’s primary love language.
If you are wondering what your primary love language is, think about which one you show others the most, and what bothers you the most (and see the quiz online). I highly recommend you get a copy of the book for yourself and take the quiz. Just as a final word of advice, the goal here is not to win people over, but to love them for the sake of love. If something is to be done, it might as well be done right. Do you want a boring relationship or an exciting one? Do you want nagging parents or happy parents? Love people wholeheartedly, expecting nothing in return, and this world would be radically redefined.