Monthly Archives: December 2009

Owners’ Manual: Languages of Love


Did you ever feel like you were speaking a different language than your mate, your family, your friends? It’s one of the reasons humans can feel lonely even when there are people who love them all around them.

As the holidays come around, I am doing my standard year end reflecting and my standard run from house to house to house for festivities. I realized (and have written in journals) that it upsets me when people do not bring a gift/dish/bottle when they go to someone else’s house for dinner or to a party. And no, I don’t mean that every time my mom stops in for a cup of tea or my best friend comes to lounge on my couch on Saturday night that they should bring me a bottle of champagne. I mean that when someone has put some effort into treating you, you should express your gratitude. I personally keep an eye out for inexpensive hostess gifts because I find they are far more valued and memorable to the host/hostess – they feel special that I’ve taken some time and selected something nice for THEM (that they don’t even have to share with their party guests). The point of this behavior is to acknowledge the work the host/hostess has put into creating the evening. It’s important to me because I put a lot of work into making guests feel special in my home.

For me, this extends beyond superficial social courtesy – in many ways I use it as a barometer for acknowledgment in life. I thought about my past suitors. I gave much more leeway to those who brought flowers, a bottle of wine, a gift when they came to eat or stay at my house. In fact, one guy I dated (hands down the worst boyfriend candidate ever) never walked into my home without SOMETHING for me – be it a slinky, a light up pen, mentos – and god, did I give him ridiculous chances that I shouldn’t have. It’s because I never felt that he was taking advantage.

On the flip side, I dated a guy I absolutely adored but finally felt that he wasn’t contributing what was necessary to create a relationship. It was then that I realized in physical actuality, I had nothing to show for our time together – he had never once brought me ANYTHING. Wow. That was my -proof- that I was right in this feeling all along.

Luckily, Gary Chapman has put some sense into this incompatibility of human relationships. He has developed an entire series of books on the languages of love.

The premise is that each person expresses their love for other people in different ways. The feeling of loneliness appears when we expect love to be expressed exactly how we express it or exactly how we need it without understanding what that means. Gary believes we love in these five languages:

  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affection/Communication
  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

Obviously, I love in gifts. Someone else may find the friend who shows up an hour early to help put together the food far more loving than the one who brings a bottle of nice wine. That would be -acts of service-. We can be a hybrid of many of the languages. We have needs related to all of them, the quantity and importance vary from person to person.  The point is to classify how we and the people around us are expressing their emotions so that we recognize the expression is still there, just in a language we didn’t understand at first.

So back to the slinky guy. I always felt appreciated because he expressed himself in my primary love language of gifts but someone else may have felt very unappreciated because he was never around (quality time) and he surely wasn’t walking the dog on a snowy night for me (acts of service).

And adored guy? He wanted to spend copious amounts of time with me (quality time) and had no problem pouring his heart out to me (communication). So the fact that he didn’t bring me flowers didn’t mean that he didn’t love me any less than slinky guy, it was just a different language of expression.

So thanks to Gary and his Languages of Love, we can recognize when someone is loving in a language that isn’t our primary language. We can also recognize the loving languages that people around us respond to best and try to use that language with that person as much as possible. It also provides a fact based center ground to acknowledge what someone is doing for you and start the conversation on how to have other needs met too.

What is your primary love language? The secondary? Which language do you need expressed to you? Which language do you most express to others? What do you think the primary languages are of those closest to you? Do you already see there could be something lost in translation when you are expressing emotion with that person? This book is a great start to feel more appreciated and doing your best to appreciate others in ways they can easily understand.