It’s almost Valentines Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Valentine, which means everyone is being flooded with images of romance and love right now. Depending on circumstances that can either be a blessing or a curse for some people, but has anyone ever wondered why romance seems so simple yet people make it so complicated?
“He doesn’t care about me. I’m working just as hard as he is but I still show him love. Yet he never writes me cute notes, cuddles with me, takes me out on a special date or tells me how bad I am (for you non-Millenials that means she’s a really attractive girl).”
“She’s so needy. I’m out here working hard for us, I make dinner, I buy her flowers, I watch that stupid show she likes, and she’s still tripping (that means being insecure or worked up about nothing).”
Whats the problem here? Misunderstanding.
If you’ve read or heard about Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate”, you understand the problem.
The Five Love Languages
If you haven’t read or heard of it before, the book is about how people give and receive love based on a marriage counselor’s years of experience and profession. He makes the claim that in all the ways that human beings show love all of them can be summed up into five love languages.
They are as follows in no particular order:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
“Wow. You look gorgeous babe (Lord Jesus help me).”
“Dang bro, you been going to the gym? Looking good.”
“Nice job on those sales numbers, keep up the good work.”
Those are all words of affirmation, which are verbal expressions of praise, appreciation, encouragement, etc. Everyone feels some sense of satisfaction and confidence when others acknowledge them, their hard work and looks.
Acts of Service
“Honey let me go run that errand for you, don’t sweat it.”
“I got you fam, bring your ride (car) over to my place and I’ll change the oil for you.”
“Hey, if you got a lot on your desk this morning feel free to pass some of that stuff over to me and I’ll take care of it.”
These are examples of acts of service, which are tangible actions of provision, protection, thoughtfulness and care. It can mean the world to people when you go out of your way to help carry their burdens as your own.
“Hey sweety, weren’t you supposed to work late tonight?” “Yeah I was, but I remembered your favorite show is on tonight so I told my boss I’ll go in early tomorrow instead.”
“Yo, what you doin?” “Nothin, just chillin at my house.” “Get dressed, we’re going to this new spot (restaurant or bar) that just opened up in downtown.”
“Hey you brought your own lunch? Me too. Wanna go sit outside the lobby and enjoy the sun for a bit?”
There is something powerful about quality time, in which you share food, stories, and experiences with the people you love and care about. Whether the food is delicious or garbage, the stories dumb or interesting, the experiences boring or life-changing; the time you spent with those people can never be erased, exchanged or taken back. It’s permanently sealed into history, which adds to the bond you have with others. How you use your time, therefore, says a lot about your priorities.
“Pack your bags love, we’re going to that concert you’ve been eyeing this weekend.”
“Thanks for paying for the food and drinks man.”
“I know you’ve been wanting to read up more on that industry and tips for success, so I got you this book and worksheets to go with it.”
It’s nice to give and receive gifts, whether that be cash, an object, or experience. People feel loved when someone see’s their desire or need for something and others go get it for them. Proof is the pudding when you look at all the holidays and celebrations that promote gifts like Valentines Day, Christmas, birthdays, weddings, etc.
Kisses. Hugs. Handshakes. A pat on the back. Dancing. Cuddling. Other activities.
Whether romantic or not, physical touch has been a staple of human interaction since our creation. It’s a physical way to connect and express our emotional affection and acceptance of others. Scientific studies have also proven that children and adults that are denied physical touch and reinforcement are more likely to develop mental illnesses and carry low self-esteem than others.
Language Means Communication and Possible Misunderstanding
Knowing that there are five love languages that we all speak either subconsciously or consciously, and to different degrees, means that you also know that not everyone speaks or understands the same language to the same extent.
Languages take effort to learn, and it takes patience to correct misunderstandings.
Going back to the example given in the beginning, the reason there was a problem in the romance was because there was misunderstanding in what each party communicates to the other. The girl seeks words of affirmation, quality time, and physical touch, while the guy offers acts of service and gifts.
That is just a generic simple example and may differ from your situation, but the lesson is the same: romance problems exist most often when the two parties are communicating in different love languages to each other. To fix it, they have to first understand each others languages and be willing to speak them going forward.
In Chapman’s book, he asserts that we all speak the five love-lingos at some level but that there is a primary and secondary one that each specific individual prefers or naturally speaks. Therefore if you want to be better at loving your partner, romancing them, and keeping them happy, it would be important to understand both your primary love-lingo and his or her’s as well, so that you can then be intentional about speaking that language to your partner.
So What’s My Love Language?
If you’d like to find what your love language is you can take the official test, which apparently 15 million people have taken already, at the following website:
I highly recommend the test, but if you’d like to try a simpler (but less accurate) approach, lets try this.
Think about what makes you upset about your partner.
This is not a place to bash on your partner, and I’m not talking about appearance, economic status or personality. I’m talking about understanding yourself better by looking at how your partner communicates with you in terms of the love-lingos.
- Does it bother you that they don’t make time for you, whether its hanging out, calling or texting you back?
- Does it bother you that they don’t appreciate what you do for them, how you dress for them, or what you say to them?
- Does it bother you that they barely ever touch you or are shy about physical affection?
- Does it bother you that you spend money on gifts or experiences for them and they just respond with “that’s nice”?
- Does it bother you that they never offer to clean the dishes, take out the trash, run an errand, or cook for you?
When you’re done thinking about those things, try and rank them on list from “most annoying” to “least annoying.” It helps to write it down. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to say that the love language associated with the most annoying thing on your list is your primary love language, and that going down the list towards the least annoying ranks them in level of love-lingo importance to you.
Again, this method is at the mercy of your memories and current mood, and is not comparable to the psychologically tested approach behind the actual test, but it may help you get started.
While knowing what the Five Love Languages are for yourself and observing them in your partner is a great start, it will better help your relationship if you and your partner do the same tests and share the results with each other. Relationships are two way streets, so my hope is that in the time that both of you are vulnerable with each other you both connect and bond more than before.
Because at the end of the day, as I stated in the recent Sex article (click here), life and love is about connection, and sex can be a passionate and powerful expression of a special type of connection.
With that said, the five love languages are not just for romantic partners, but also for friendships and family.
When you realize this, your connection and relationships with people from all walks of life will change for the better. You will be more patient, compassionate, understanding, and romantic in a platonic way.
For example: I understand how my family gives and receives love, so in everyday life and especially during those “heart-warming family bonding” moments my behavior around them is in accordance with their languages. I also understand how my close friends give and receive love, so I cater to them to show my love in their own way as well. I do the same with strangers I meet while traveling, working, or whatever it is I’m doing.
I enjoy loving people because it was a deep love that saved me from myself and from a hopeless, purposeless, and isolated life. The thing that made this deep tangible romance so unique was that it was from Someone I can’t see or touch, in this life at least.
Cheers to deep and not cheap love, do unto others as you would want done to yourself, and Happy Valentines Day.
*(To read about the possible dark origins of Valentines Day, click here)