“What? Another language! I have enough trouble with English. You know that!” Charlie looked at us belligerently as we introduced Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages to our “Building Strong Marriages” class. Even though the idea of love languages fascinates me, I knew we had to sell the idea to Charlie.
It seemed that this newly-wed couple was constantly disappointing each other and had no idea why. But studying love languages improved their marriage.
To show his love, Charlie served her. He did things around the house and for her car and everything he thought of to be helpful. His love language is acts of service. Meanwhile, all she wanted was a surprise gift, no matter how small, because receiving gifts made her feel loved. Analyzing their individual languages helped them to please each other and get along better. She could show appreciation for what he did and he still today works at giving her gifts to help her feel loved. She understood that he didn’t care about gifts, but he could go a long time on a meal of his favorite foods or her filling the car with gas. After we’d studied the various love languages, even Charlie could see how they worked.
My receiving love language is physical touch, and I love to touch and be touched by those I love. Conversely, I do not like to be touched by mere acquaintances. I don’t like to dance with strangers, even when they are excellent dancers. I don’t enjoy their touch. On the other hand, I relish the touch of children and adults that I love. I don’t always initiate a hug, but I appreciate it.
I have a friend who constantly touches my arm as she speaks. Perhaps touch is also her love language, but it seems intrusive to me in a casual conversation.
The love language we like to receive is not necessarily the way we give. The way I prefer to show love is service. I love to do things for people, from leading a Bible study to caring for someone who is sick to cooking a dinner for a crowd. That’s the way I like to show my love for others.
So it was important to me to figure out Steve’s love language. It took me a while to realize that talking while I’m preparing dinner, though efficient, is aggravating to Steve. He wants us to sit down, facing each other, and discuss the matter–whatever it is–with undivided attention. His love language is quality time. I finally realized that I can give him that gift because it’s the love language he enjoys receiving.
Another friend has identified her language as words of affirmation, so I want especially to give her verbal or written appreciation for all she does. Sometimes when people are very accomplished, we forget to tell them how much it means to us. Often their very accomplishments are a plea for words telling them they have done well.
Children have love languages, too. One child needs to be held, another needs compliments. This child helps just for the joy of serving, while that child appreciates time alone with one parent or another. Even though children love gifts, I’ve observed that the other characteristics are usually valued above receiving gifts. I’ll keep watching.
So there they are: acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. As I think about pleasing my friends and family with physical gifts this season, I also want to be aware of their love languages and give them gifts fro the heart.
And perhaps, even as I give his wife a gift, I should think of some way I can serve Charlie.