If you’re a human being (and chances are pretty good that you are), you need to be loved. We all do. The desire to be cared for is innate to who we are. Our lives teem with opportunities to love other people. Throughout our years, we’ll meet amazing individuals who we could form meaningful relationships with. Family members. Friends. Neighbors. Coworkers. A significant other. Just think of all the people around you. How incredible is it that you were put in the same place at the same time as them?
As we figure out how to love our parents, significant others, kids, and friends well, we might get frustrated. Like super frustrated. Maybe you’ve tried so hard to show your son or daughter that you completely adore them, but they totally don’t get it (even if they’re old enough to do so). Or you’ve made all kinds of moves to let your partner know that they’re special to you, but it’s like they speak a different language or something.
Maybe it’s because they do.
It’s a concept created by Dr. Gary Chapman, and it has transformed relationship after relationship for over twenty years now. It’s built on the idea that everybody expresses and receives love differently. Dr. Thomas proposes that there are five main ways to show love (or love languages): Gifts, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.
Each individual is usually drawn to one or two of these languages in particular. For instance, you might naturally show your love through gifts. You enjoy carefully picking out the perfect present for your partner, or making a DIY gift just for them. But maybe they don’t get you gifts in return, and that leaves you feeling like they don’t care for you. Likewise, maybe your partner really appreciates quality time with you, and would much rather go on a special night out with you than buy each other gifts. Two people can both think they’re loving the other person really well. But that love gets lost in translation when they don’t understand each other’s love languages.
Someone whose love language is gifts feels extra special when someone takes the extra time and effort into buying or creating a present for them. It’s not about the money or being greedy. Giving someone a gift isn’t something you can do on the spot, it requires planning and sacrifice. These gifts don’t need to be expensive or fancy. Even surprising them with their favorite coffee drink or a handmade card can mean a lot.
For some people, actions speak way louder than words. Acts of service could be doing the dishes for your mom, mowing the grass for your neighbor, or driving a friend to their doctor’s appointment. It’s putting your heart into action, noticing and doing the little and big tasks that make someone with this love language completely light up because they sense that you care.
There’s nothing like a friend who we can just be with. That’s how someone who identifies with love languages feels about all their relationships. It means the most to them when their loved ones set aside a specific time to just hang out, talk, or share favorite activities together and focus their full attention them while they’re together.
Sometimes we just want to be told “I love you. You’re beautiful. You are special to me.” Folks who resonate with Words of Affirmation need to hear things like this frequently in order to feel loved. Of course, these words must be sincere. There’s nothing quite as frustrating for someone with this love language to hear a nice-sounding phrase that they know isn’t true.
Human touch is another deep desire that all of us have to some degree. For those with this love language, they feel so cared for when their loved ones share a hug, an affirming touch on the shoulder, or hold their hand. Appropriate physical touch can be a great way to remind your love ones that you are here for them and aren’t going anywhere.
These are just basic summaries, but hopefully you get the picture. The way you crave love may be totally different than the way your child or your partner or your parents crave love and tend to show that love. If we want to have thriving relationships, we need to figure out what is meaningful not just for ourselves, but for those we care about. Finding out your own love language helps you understand your own needs and desires and help other people know how they can show their love for you.
Want to find out your own love language? Take a quiz and read more about the Five Love Languages here! Share the results with your family and friends and encourage them to discover their own love languages as well. Dr. Chapman has written multiple books on this topic, including The Five Love Languages of Children and The Five Love Languages Singles Edition. Whatever stage you’re at in your life, there’s probably a Five Love Languages book for it.
Here at Lifeline, we love to supply you with the physical resources you need at no cost, like diapers and wipes and ultrasounds. But we also desire to provide you with the resources you need to have healthy relationships. Maybe you’re looking for a pregnancy test, or maybe you just need someone to listen. Lifeline’s got you covered.