Understanding Love Languages to Better Your Relationships A Reflection by Dr. Michelle Retz
2020 was a heck of a year. Although COVID forced us to re-evaluate EVERYTHING in our lives, which was completely discombobulating, I genuinely feel that true benefits from a global down to an individual level, did and are still occurring. We were forced to look at our situations, work, relationships, schooling, our home life. What was serving us, and what no longer was? Without external distraction, we gained immediate, sometimes very jarring, clarity. And that clarity is serving us for our highest good, even though it may be pushing us faster than we are comfortable in creating necessary change in our lives.
As we are all evolving collectively and in our individual ways, there are common tools we can use to help us more effectively navigate, and perhaps prevent negative experiences in the future, or augment difficult relationships we are still facing daily. The old adage may sound corny, but is true; every challenge is an opportunity. The question is, do you know what the positive opportunity is that you’re being faced with? If not, one reason may be that the communication in the house/work/school/relationship is not being conveyed in a way in which the other person can TRULY hear you and receive it positively.
In 1995 Dr. Gary Chapman wrote The Five Love Languages, a simple short description of the five ways in which we all prefer to receive love and appreciation. Depending on our individual personality types, we may feel loved differently than others in our relationships. Understanding and accessing these different ways of showing love will help everyone in your environment directly feel the kindness/love/appreciation that you are trying to convey.
If you ended a relationship this year, this will help you learn how to speak the language of a potential new partner. If you’ve decided to work through current challenges in a relationship, this can help get you back on track most effectively. If you’re really struggling with your children schooling at home in whatever capacity, and it’s taxing your once very stable parent-child relationship, this will be incredibly valuable. If you’d like to improve your relationship with your child in any capacity, this will help. And if your work dynamics, environment and location have changed, your relationships likely have changed as well. How can you still be heard, show appreciation, give credit and acknowledgement in these new times?
Finally, I often talk about us as individuals teaching others how to treat us. Learning your own love languages and how you receive/hear/feel value and appreciation, are PARAMOUNT to helping your partners in life have a healthy relationship with you. This is the most fundamental reason to read this book! And also to understand that we often GIVE love in the way WE would like to receive it, NOT always in the way the OTHER person would like to receive it. This is huge!
According to Dr. Chapman, there are five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.
- Words of Affirmation – This love language expresses love with words that build up your partner. Verbal compliments don’t have to be complicated; the shortest and simplest praises can be the most effective. Words mean a lot if your partner has this love language.
- Acts of Service – Your partner might have this love language if their motto is “Actions speak louder than words. ”This love language expresses itself by doing things that you know your spouse would like. They require some thought, time, and effort. All of these things should be done with positivity and with your partner’s ultimate happiness in mind to be considered an expression of love. Actions out of obligation or with a negative tone are something else entirely.
- Receiving Gifts – This love language isn’t necessarily materialistic. It just means that a meaningful or thoughtful gift makes your partner feel loved and appreciated. This is different than Acts of Service, where you show affection by performing actions to help your partner.
- Quality Time – This love language is all about undivided attention. No televisions, no smartphones, or any other distractions. If this is your partner’s primary language, they don’t just want to be included during this period of time, they want to be the center of your attention. They want their partners to look at them and them only. That will help them feel comforted in the relationship.
- Physical Touch – To people with this love language, nothing is more impactful than the physical touch of their partner. They aren’t necessarily into over-the-top PDA, but they do feel more connected and safe in a relationship by holding hands, kissing, hugging, etc. If Physical Touch is your partner’s primary love language, they will feel unloved without physical contact. All the words and gifts in the world won’t change that. They want to feel you close by, not just emotionally, but physically.
- Please use the word “Partner” loosely here, to also mean your work partner or child.
- There is a simple online quiz to find out what your love languages are in order of priority. I HIGHLY recommend you do this for yourself and anyone else vital in your world, if it doesn’t seem obvious to you already. Speak to their top two preferences. I’m an Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation gal 😉
- The idea is that by beginning to speak the languages of those nearest to you, they will begin to automatically reciprocate, even if they don’t know what you’re doing. They’ll be FEELING your appreciation more than they ever have, and will be naturally responding to that.
- Dr. Chapman has written The Five Love Languages of Teenagers and The Five Love Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Please check them out! My sincerest hope is that this information helps create smoother relationships for you in ALL areas of your life!
Here is a handy example to get you started: