Navigating love can be challenging, and in spite of ourselves, we often mess up with the ones we love the most, sometimes irrevocably so.
Author of the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Dr. Gary Chapman advocates that all of us have a particular love language, and that understanding what our loved one’s language is can make for improved and happier relationships. This blog seeks to explore the merit of this theory, not just as it relates to romantic love, but also regarding how we love our children and other important people in our lives. If we get better at loving and understanding one another, perhaps our relationships would be happier, easier and subject to less conflict.
So what is a love language? Essentially, it is the various ways we express or receive love in the relationship. Five love languages have been defined by Chapman, and while a few may resonate, just one of the five love languages typically emerges as our most dominant one.
Here is a quick overview for you to decipher which may be yours:
- Words of Affirmation – Do you need others to validate the things you do, to be acknowledged or to be told of your value to others with compliments or praise?
- Gifts – Do you need tokens or gestures as a demonstration of others’ appreciation for you? Is it important that loved ones remember significant events such as birthdays, anniversaries and celebrate you with a present or special activity?
- Acts of Service – Do you feel loved when someone does something thoughtful or kind for you, like providing unsolicited support or helping out just because?
- Quality Time – Is it important that your significant other always prioritise you and carves out dedicated time to spend with you on your favourite or joint activities?
- Physical Touch – Do physical touches like hugs, kisses, intimacy or public displays of affection like holding hands make you feel loved?
Find out more about the 5lovelanguages. Whether you are navigating single parenting or contemplating a relationship with someone new, knowing your love language and that of your loved one(s) could foster more understanding, compassionate and appropriate emotional responses, enabling us to be more mindful and considerate in our interactions. Quizzes have been formulated to test love languages for individuals, children, teenagers and couples. So take the quiz and be a step closer to understanding your loved ones. You have nothing to lose and maybe more happiness to gain.
If we are honest, it is the littlest and silliest things that cause angst in our relationships. For example, if your young child craves being hugged yet you often shrug him/her off or reproach them for being too clingy or needy, the child may not feel loved, could act out and start a chain reaction of events that probably won’t end well. What if your “silent” teenager secretly craves words of affirmation and to be told that he or she is smart or did a good job, or is handsome or pretty, but you constantly berate him/her for not getting better grades or disparage their “unique” sense of personal style? The child will probably shut down further, may become self-deprecating or suffer from low self-esteem. Maybe as a hardworking single parent, the kids simply doing their chores (without having to be told) or providing unsolicited extra help once in a while would make you feel more loved and appreciated, as those acts of service or support would ease the struggle of carrying it all.
As much as we do for and give to our children, it may surprise you that in spite of your best efforts, they could still grow up feeling like victims who do not feel loved. This concept is explored by parenting expert Sherry LefKoe, in her article What Your Child Really Believes About Your Love Will Surprise You, in which she explores how to raise confident and self-sufficient children who absolutely know and totally feel that they are unconditionally loved.
Modern-day relationships are struggling, as evidenced by high divorce rates, break-ups, cheating, child abuse/neglect, behavioural issues with children, suicide, broken friendships and a host of other issues. We could decide that we are done with all of it and shut down, or we could approach relationships more consciously, deliberately and discerningly by taking our time to know the other person, asking questions, investing time, being observant and trusting our gut. People will show you who they are, and you must have the courage to act on what they reveal.
The challenge is loving and caring enough to invest in the other person’s happiness and well-being and recognising that quite often, the very thing they are seeking to give to you may actually be what they want or need from you to feel loved.
Why not do a monthly check-in and ask your loved ones how they are feeling about the relationship, what is working and what is not, with a view to making things better? It is a fallacy that relationships do not require work. Just as your garden needs water, your car engine needs oil, love needs nurturing and tending. By investing in truly understanding those you care for, your relationships have a better chance of thriving, and you just may achieve greater trust, more authentic connections and enduring happiness.
Communication is the key, and love is the language.