Monday, July 20, 2009

The Five Love Languages

I think I'm just a johnny-come-lately, but I only yesterday found out about the Five Love Languages (pay no mind to the cheesy website design, they're actually pretty cool--read on!) by Gary Chapman. Basically, he posits that there are five basic "love languages"--ways to express and receive love. The five languages are (in no particular order):

  • Quality Time - You find it really important to spend time with people and be together.
  • Acts of Service - Small acts of service really communicate love.
  • Words of Affirmation - It's important to have love and compliments expressed verbally.
  • Gift Giving - Giving gifts is a major way of communicating love.
  • Physical Touch - A hand on the arm, a back-scratch, an arm around the shoulder, a kiss--these are the best ways to communicate love.

It's important to remember that everyone experiences love in all of these ways, but Chapman contends that everyone has one that is more important than all the others, and that they can be (more or less) ranked for each person--think "good, better, best." Also, although for most people they are the same, it is possible to prefer to give love in one language, and receive it in another.

For me, it was kind of hard to pick my dominant language. I can definitely rule out gift-giving since gifts don't mean much at all to me, and service (while of course nice) is also not very high on my list. But the remaining three were harder. I finally decided on quality time being my number one--I really love to talk to people one-on-one and spend time with friends and loved ones. Words of affirmation are also very important to me--I sometimes can crave verbal praise and recognition, and when I hear them it just feels really, really good. Physical touch is also important for me. I love hugging, back-scratches, holding hands, etc., though PDA is gross. All that was validated by this quiz (no scientificity guaranteed), where I scored 11 on quality time, 8 on words of affirmation, and 7 on physical touch (service was 4, gift giving 0 :) ).

Like I said, I just yesterday found out about this way of looking at ways of communicating love, but I think it's a very useful tool. Just talking to my girlfriend about it helped me recognize a source of what had been some concern for me (that she's not a "words of affirmation" kind of girl) but also helped me realize that she expresses love through physical touch and quality time. It was also good to find out that we're both not very into gifts--phew! (but don't worry, I still give flowers or whatever on special occasions).

Overall I think it's very useful to recognize how family, friends, and significant others give and receive love so that you're not talking past each other. If one person constantly says "I love you" but the recipient of those words thinks talk is cheap and would prefer the other person just pitch in with the chores, you can see how problems could develop and both sides feel hurt. Apparently, you can also work on improving your fluency in love languages that don't come as naturally to you, which is a great goal, and one I'll be working on.

So, were you already familiar with the five love languages? Which one(s) is (are) your primary language(s)? Did you like all those parentheses I needed to make that last sentence exactly tolerant of whether or not you had multiple love languages? Have you ever been in a situation where two people had their relationship damaged by using two different love languages without realizing it? I'm anxious to hear your thoughts!


  1. Biggins, I'm physical touch. When's the last time we hugged?

  2. Too long, Lester, too long. Next time I'm out east, or next time you're back in pseudo-Zion, I've got a brotha hug all lined up for ya.

    How bout the missus, do y'all have compatible love languages?

  3. I think that I"d probably heard of the five love languages before, but I'd never looked into them. My love languages came out from highest to lowest as: Time/Touch/Words/Gifts/Service. I'm gonna hazard a guess that Silas's list would have Acts of Service higher up on the list and that Quality Time lower down. I'll talk with him about it and report back :)

    I don't know that differing love languages has ever damaged our relationship, but there have definitely been times when we've discussed this sort of thing. Two instances jump to mind:
    1. Historically when I would ask Silas if we could go on dates more often he would be confused, thinking, "But, we spend all sorts of time together! Why do we need to go on dates?" Just recently, Silas asked what exactly I meant when I would talk about dates. To me, dates are times for us to step outside of everything else going on in our lives and relationship and focus exclusively on each other, to flirt with each other, and to thoroughly enjoy each others' company. Very different from just spending time together. This is part of the reason that I think service is probably higher up for Silas. A lot of the time we spend together is him helping me do things. Also, I've noticed that he'll go out of his way to do chores that his mother would otherwise have to do, as a way of showing love.
    2. There was a short time period during which Silas wasn't very receptive of my touch, nor would he touch me very much. Nearing a week of this (and not knowing why or what was going on), I was getting pretty anxious. We talked about it, and the discussion was really interesting. I think that this instance brought to mind how I feel that culturally we're led to believe that most touching is for the benefit of the male ("hot hands" and all that,) but really simple touch is an important part of building relations and doesn't necessarily favor one partner over the other. Unless, I suppose one partner has a high Touch love lang and the other a low Touch. Hrm.

    Anyhow, as long as I'm writing a novel, I was discussing this topic with a friend recently. The conversation went something like this:
    P--I've made it plenty clear that I'd like flowers. They only cost $2 at Smith's! Some of my friends are saying that if he isn't buying me flowers when I've made it clear that I'd like it, that he's doing it for a reason.
    Me--I don't know about that. Silas knows that I like flowers, but still very very rarely actually brings me any.
    P--And y'all have been together for a while.
    Me--Well, yeah, but that doesn't make our relationship perfect.
    P--Yeah, but we know that he cares about you.

    So, to my friend P, the fact that her boyfriend wouldn't bring her this simple gift indicated that he didn't really care for her. Even though my example helped calm her fears a bit, it wasn't until he went ahead and brought her flowers that she really started to feel more confident about the relationship.

  4. Merinmel, cool thoughts. I think those are great examples of different love languages coming through in relationships. I think that as long as communication is working well, as it seems like it was for you and Silas, different love languages can in many ways be good for a relationship in that they force us to stretch and learn in very new ways. Thanks!