Let’s talk about love! The dictionary defines love as, “an intense feeling of deep affection,” but what does that really mean? How do we truly show others that we love them? How do we truly know that others love us in return?
In my counseling private practice in Flower Mound, Texas, I see only women for individual therapy. I see an array of different presenting problems from depression to anxiety to grief and loss, but often when we’re talking, relationship concerns start to surface as well. This can be problems between adult women and their parents or their own kids, or interpersonal problems between themselves and their spouse.
One of my favorite books about love, in regards to marriage and relationships, is a book by Gary Chapman called, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.
The following is a list of these five love languages from the book:
- Words of Affirmation– The premise behind this love language is to use kind words to make the other person feel good about themselves, such as saying, “Thank you for being an amazing parent to our kids and taking them on that fun bike ride today.”
- Gifts– This love language is not so much about the gift itself, but the meaning behind the gift and what it represents, such as saying, “I was thinking about you and missing you while I was on my business trip, and this gift lets you know how I was truly feeling.”
- Acts of Service– This love language includes doing something for the other person that they will like and appreciate, often housework such as cooking dinner, filling up the dishwasher, mopping the floors, etc.
- Quality Time Together– This love language is about focusing solely on the person you are with and no one else (without distractions from the TV, cell phones, etc.)
- Physical Touch– This love language includes physical acts, such as hugs or holding hands, as a way to show the other person that they are loved.
The book has a great test at the end where you can discover your primary love language (although the other four are often found on a continuum, where some will be more important to you while others will be less important to you).
What do you do with all this information? First, you need to know what your primary love language is so you can be clear with others about how they can best show you that they love you (specifically your partner for right now). Mine is spending quality time together, what’s yours?
Here’s the catch though, people often show their love in the same way that they would like to receive it from others. This works, but only if you and your partner have the same primary love language (which in my case, my husband and I actually do). However, most of us assume that if we like something, say touch for example, then when we’re holding hands while we’re walking down the street, since we’re getting our own needs met our partner must be getting their own needs met too. But, what if what they really need from you is words of affirmations or gifts or acts of service or quality time together?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
You need to know what your partner’s primary love language is in order for you to show them that you love them, in their love language and not yours!
Now, taking all of this a step further, we can also use this same information and apply it to others who we feel close to, such as our kids, extended family, friends, etc. You can ask them and see if they already know their primary love language, but if you pay close attention, you might actually see what it is on your own.
My nine-year old son’s love language is personal touch, and he has been the best little hugger for as long as I can remember. He still greets me each and every morning with a big hug, which is such a great way to start my day! My daughter’s love language is spending quality time together, with the caveat of us doing exactly what she wants to be doing during our quality time together (some of this is typical teenage behavior, but if I think back, I could see this love language early on with her as well!).
By now, you should already have an idea of your own primary language of love, but what about for those closest to you? What’s your spouse’s primary love language? How about for your parents or for your siblings or for your best friend? It’s kind interesting to think about, right? But, the bottom line is this, focusing on really knowing the people closest to you, in turn helps you know what they need from you to make them feel loved, cared for, special, important and worthy in life.
When you know your own love language, take the time to share it with the people you love, so they will know how to best show you that they care. But, also take the time to learn the primary love language of those you care about most in this world. Saying “I love you” is one thing, but showing them you love them is quite another! Good luck!