Whether we admit it or not, we all need love — a substantial amount if we are to live our lives to the fullest. Most of the problems we as humans face are a result of a lack of love, either real or perceived. If only we all felt truly loved, this world might be a very different place.
Gary Chapman, the author of several worthy books on love, argues that just loving others isn’t enough. It’s possible to express love in ways that others don’t feel loved.
We must know how to love others in ways that allow them to feel the love. What may make one person feel loved may not another. Learning the “love language” of significant people in your life will greatly enhance the possibility of them feeling loved. Also, knowing your love language facilitates your understanding of what you need to feel loved. Chapman proposes that there are five love languages.
1. Words of Affirmation: Mark Twain once said, “I can live two months on a good compliment.” For him, and others like him, words of affirmation are powerful communicators of love. “What a great dinner. Thanks for taking the time to fix it.” “Wow, that dress looks great on you!” “Thanks for taking the garbage out.” “You fixed the computer. You’re so smart.” Kind words such as these, sincerely spoken, communicate “I love you.”
2. Quality Time: Quality time should not be mistaken for quantity of time. Quality means togetherness with focused attention, undivided attention. Meeting for lunch, going out on a date, getting away for the weekend, playing games together and going for a walk are wonderful ways to communicate love to someone who feels love as a result of togetherness. More than a simple act of thoughtfulness, being willing to spend time with another communicates “I love you.”
3. Gifts: The purpose of a gift is not simply to get an object from one person’s hand to another, but rather to express emotional love. For some, receiving a gift (even the most inexpensive) makes them feel especially loved. Obviously, no gift should be given to replace love. Gifts must be given out of love and when given in this manner can effectively communicate “I love you.”
4. Acts of Service: When many men are asked, “How do you know your wife loves you?” they quickly respond with a list of acts of service. “She washes my clothes.” “She’s always fixing me wonderful meals.” “She keeps a clean house.” “She brings me something to drink when I’m watching television.” Such actions, done in the right spirit, can communicate love. The best way to communicate love through acts of service is by doing some things for someone that they cannot do for themselves. This is why children feel especially loved by parents because they are still limited in what they can do. For some, acts of service are powerful ways to communicate “I love you.”
5. Physical Touch: Touch at the appropriate time, the appropriate place and in the appropriate manner can powerfully communicate love. Touch has a way of affirming the worth of a person. We know from countless research projects that children’s emotional lives suffer significantly if they are not held, hugged and kissed. For many adults, physical touch remains the most important means of feeling love. Even a kind slap on the back communicates “I love you.”
What’s the love language of the individuals you love? What’s your love language? A simple understanding of love languages can make a profound difference.