Let’s jump right in–I am fascinated by the concept of love languages. They’re not just applicable to romantic relationships–oh, no. Everyone you know and meet has a set order of preferences to their languages. And if you can be perceptive enough to learn what that order is, you’ve possibly earned the faith of a family member/friend/coworker/mother/brother/child for a long, long time.
In the last eight months, I have met, engaged, networked, and interacted with more people than I have in the last three years combined. For a so-called highly sensitive super introvert, this can come as…a bit of a shock.
That being said, I did find myself enjoying the interactions and learning that, despite the crap going on in the world, there are still so many absolutely amazing people.
It wasn’t just the new people, though. After visiting my sisters, nephew, and mother during the Fourth of July and hanging out with my friends, I started thinking about how people express their love and affection to each other in different ways. I once had a potential love interest who always wanted me to tell him how amazing I found him. Sometimes, I just wanted him to sit beside me and enjoy a quiet moment.
Remember that Alanis Morissette line? “Why are you so petrified of silence?”
Seriously, why are you so freakin petrified of silence? If you’d just shut your trap for five seconds–
What are Love Languages?
The first time I heard about love languages, my reaction wasn’t the most mature or open-minded.
“Love languages” was coined in 1995 by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The 5 Love Languages. After recalling a moment of emotional dissonance with his wife (which they thankfully resolved after his wife tearfully asked him to “just hold her”), Dr. Chapman explains that there are five major areas in which individuals give and respond to affection. They are, in alphabetical order:
- Acts of Service (aka doing things for someone else)
- Physical touch (aka…physical touch)
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Words of Affirmation (compliments, encouragement, etc.)
While we may generally appreciate from all these areas, each person has a unique primary and secondary language that triggers a higher, stronger positive response than the others. To determine a person’s order of love languages, Dr. Chapman developed a straightforward either-or quiz for single people and people in relationships. Based on the answers in the quiz, the love language results rank by their tallied scores.
There can be various reasons for individuals preferring–or rather, identifying more strongly with–one love language over another. Maybe your parents gave you an inordinate amount of a certain “type” of love as a child. A lot of physical touching. Calling you “beautiful” and “the most amazing thing ever.” Perhaps you were deprived of a certain love language as a child, and it became the language you now long for in your relationships.
When I first bought The 5 Love Languages and read it years ago, I was still skeptical. Love is love, I thought. When people talk “love languages,” they’re just being nit picky. They need the wordy definitions and the test results, because they feel like all their needs aren’t being met.
But then I thought back to that old boyfriend–and how he always had some poetic words for how he could see himself in my eyes or how nice my butt looked in jeans. And then I thought about my response to his words–or rather, lack of response.
And I thought about the failure of that relationship.
And I realized, it certainly couldn’t hurt to take this more seriously.
My Love Languages
I last took the Love Languages Test in August of 2017. That was my second time taking it, and I recalled that those results were different from the very first time I took it circa 2010. I was curious to see if there was a difference in my results in a year’s time (it has been a crazy year), so I took it a third time, just before I started writing this entry.
Here were my results:
|10||Acts of Service|
|1||Words of Affirmation|
The only difference between this time and last time is that physical touch and quality time have flipped–or rather, met in a synchronized second-place standing. But that makes sense–because they are definitely of equal importance to me.
Quality time. When I was a child, some of my favorite memories include me sitting quietly in the same room with my family. One of us is reading a book. Another one is drawing. Yet a third, putting a puzzle together. We didn’t have to say anything; we just knew that we were all there, together and content in each others’ presences.
Physical touch. As I’ve progressed into my 30s, my physical sense of touch has heightened immensely. Maybe it was because I’ve been single and lived by myself most of the time, but I’ve become severely aware of when I’m touched–anywhere. I don’t respond (too) awkwardly, but I definitely notice.
Handshakes become a world of concentration.
Hugs are breaking news in my head.
And when I’m reaching out to touch you?
Yes, I am giving myself a pep talk. Doesn’t everyone?
What my Primary Love Language Means to Me
I can see why receiving acts of service would mean the most to me. In the modern days of click-once-to-buy, ttyl, lol, G-ma, the feels, and other quickened, abbreviated ways of life, it seems like most people are simply in a rush for themselves. Not only that, but I’ve often lived alone and/or noticeably far from people I care most about. When I find out that they performed some task on my behalf, it fulfills two levels of joy within me:
- In their busy lives, with so many wonderful people to care about…they were thinking of me.
- They slowed down to do something that they knew would make me happy.
I still struggle with my self-esteem–to the point where I often feel I am the personification of “out of sight, out of [everyone’s] mind.” I push through this struggle by not wanting to put anyone out and thus taking on everything myself. Ironically, I grow bitter at my own self-fulfilling prophecy and grumble under my breath, “Not like anyone would help me, anyway.”
A couple of weeks ago, I had my gentleman friend over to hang out for a few hours. “Sorry about the mess,” I apologized as we wandered into my galley kitchen to see what we could find for snacks. “I’d been meaning to wash the dishes.”
As I walked into the living room to turn on the TV, I heard an odd noise behind me. I ignored it at first, because my mind refused to believe it. But the noise sounded again, and I turned to confirm what was indeed happening in the kitchen without me.
My guy friend was hunched over, half-hidden by the sink and the half wall dividing the rooms. The duet of china and silverware played from somewhere between his feet.
Slowly, I approached the counter space that separated us. I didn’t want to frighten this strange, domestic beast while it ventured within my habitat. However, I couldn’t stop the perplexity from bursting out of my mouth. “What are you doing?”
He shot up, a white plate in one hand. “I’m loading your dishwasher. Well, first I’m emptying it of the clean ones. These are clean, right?”
I must have been staring, because he impatiently waved me back into the living room. The plate glinted in the beams of the track lights. “Weren’t you putting in a game? Go on, sit down; I’ll be done in a minute.” And then he watched me–until I actually left the room.
Love Languages: Want vs. Give
Having (and letting) someone clean for me out of affection was a surprisingly sobering experience. Even when I popped back in the kitchen a few seconds later to ninja-help, he promptly (albeit good-naturedly) ordered me back out. No one had ever ignored my “Oh, you don’t have to do that” before. No one had ever let me…not be in control before.
For once, I was allowed to rest while someone else took care of me.
To my surprise…I liked it. I appreciated it.
According to Dr. Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages, a person’s order of preferred love languages isn’t just geared to what they want to receive. It also connotes the love languages they like to give. For example, if someone likes to receive words of affirmations, they’re more likely to give them to others, as well.
But I wondered–were there ever circumstances where a person’s preferred received love language was notably different from the one they preferred to give? If so, why? What could/would cause a difference?
These were good questions (thank you, me :3). And I wanted to know if any of them held true.
This love language expo was not over. Not by a far shot.
Click here to take the Love Languages test! And feel free to share your results and your thoughts behind them.