Do you feel love or express love and appreciation primarily through words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, spending quality time or physical touch? The group session looked at each of these in more detail, from Gary Chapman’s book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ to start understanding how we and others close to us, give and receive expressions of love.
Affirming words are those which are positive, encouraging, appreciative, complimentary, have a sense of togetherness, ie ‘We’, words of praise and kindness.
If you grew up with cold critical condemning words you can start learning this love language from where you are-being active to phone or text, or create an opportunity to talk, make strategies of when to do this, and to plan words and phrases to use.
It became apparent that receiving words of affirmation was more difficult to receive for the majority in this group. This has been a previous group topic; exploring why it can be difficult to receive compliments. Some people felt comfortable speaking words of affirmation, but overall this was not the primary love language of this group.
Gifts say, ‘I was thinking of you, I want you to have this’ they communicate emotional love. They are not given conditionally nor to make up for a lack or to say sorry. They are just given. A person whose primary love language is gifts can tell you the story of a relationship and love behind each gift, and they will be thoughtfully on the lookout for things that their person might need or enjoy. This idea started to resonate with some group members who recognised that this is a way they like to express their thought and love to others, especially where verbally expressing love feels difficult.
Gifts can be simple and home made or lavish-sometimes we have to pitch it right-the 6 foot teddy bear, red roses and heart shaped chocolates on a 2nd date may feel quite hard to receive, especially by someone whose love language is not gifts.
If receiving or trying to think of a gift feels stressful this is probably not your primary love language.
Acts of Service is a love language demonstrated by being available to help out or fix practical things such as hospitality, technical support, advice, DIY and chores. These are served in freedom not in fear, not as a response to ‘if you loved me you would e.g….fix those shelves’. Again this idea resonated among the group who identified different ways that they like to help out where they can such as doing the ironing, helping to decorate, child care and baking.
Quality time; this love language is about being together, focused and undivided attention whilst not looking at a phone! This may be uninterrupted conversation focused on communicating and listening, or a shared activity; enjoying something together and being willing to enter another’s interests and trying these with them.
The group strongly identified with this love language and suggested that it is the primary love language of the collected group. Individually, group members were aware that time spent with family in really listening and enjoying being together was important to them. If this is your love language you may notice how time spent with others like this energises you. We thought about our current context and how this quality time transfers online. We agreed that our weekly online group was such a slice of quality time.
Physical Touch can communicate love, warmth, care and presence. It can also communicate the opposite. This love language can be complicated, misinterpreted and may invoke bad previous experiences. To learn it, we may need to read or check with others how they want to receive it. Some people shared how receiving a hug from someone they knew well was comfortable but uncomfortable with a stranger. We discussed how we might ask first ‘Can I give you a hug?’ or ‘Would you like a hug’. Some communities or cultures are naturally more tactile which is not necessarily always the case in Scottish culture, although the group wondered if the younger generation were more comfortable with touch in general.
It may be useful to ask yourself what kind of touch feels affirming and what feels uncomfortable?
We thought about how we are finding lack of proximity and touch at this time. It was acknowledged how good it is to be able to meet up online, but we are missing being able physically sit together in a room.
When thinking about what your love language might be, we can work this out by looking at our own behaviour towards others, how do we typically express appreciation to someone? What do we request of others, what do we ask them for or like to plan for? It can also be helpful to think about what you complain about, for example; not being thanked, or feeling that someone is too busy to make time, or someone forgetting your birthday! Another way to discover it is to think about what it is that you most like about the people you married, or dated or are friends with-what do they do that makes you feel loved; do you feel loved when they spot a task that needs doing and do it or when they ask to put a date in the diary to spend time together, perhaps it is when they turn up with your favourite biscuits, tell you how special you are to them, or give you a hug.
While I was writing this, there was a knock at my door. Although the person had gone by the time I opened it, they had left a bar of chocolate on my doormat. Chocolate does not have a love language of it’s own, however this confirmed my suspicion that gifts are my love language-I realised I feel loved at the idea someone thought of me and had taken note of what I like and given it to me….What’s yours?