Babies enter this world with a language of cooing and crying which is all they need to get their needs met. After about 18 months of listening to the primary language spoken in the home, the baby will make its first attempt at copying the sounds, putting them together, discovering yet another form of communication, words! It will take another two years of language development for the child to have a real handle on this oral language thing and how to use it effectively. If this now 3½ year old is introduced to a new friend who speaks Spanish, they may be able to communicate by pointing to toys, using body language, etc. and they can “understand” each other to some degree. But do they understand nuances of either language or what the new friend really meant? Both were engaged in the exchange, but neither was understanding fully because of the language barrier.
The same thing is true in communicating love. Dr. Gary Chapman has compiled a list of five main love languages that all people exercise to one degree or another. He is an expert in this area having written six books on the subject! We each feel love in certain ways and we show love in certain ways. You will deeply connect with those who speak your language. You will feel great frustration with those who do not. No matter how hard you try to communicate with your primary love language, if the recipient’s need isn’t met by that language, you’re out of luck. Lay this eye-opening idea on top of a marriage. Husband loves his wife. Wife loves her husband. They think they are communicating but at the end of the day he wants to cuddle on the couch together and she wants help hanging a large picture on the wall, so they are at a loss for understanding each other. This then leads to hurt feelings, mistakenly supposing that their spouse doesn’t care about them or their needs.
Now think about your children. If you feel love in one language and you freely share it in that language, but your child doesn’t receive it, your child may think you do not care for him. That’s a bad cycle. The good thing is, you CAN break that discouraging circular pattern. Let’s look at an overview together.
The Five Love Languages:
Words of Affirmation: Because words do build up or tear down. For these folks, words can be life and death! Every encouragement and criticism is deeply felt.
Receiving Gifts: To know someone was thinking of you while you were apart and bought you a little something! Homemade or costly doesn’t matter. It’s the heart of the giver that counts, leaving the gift as a tangible reminder of their love.
Quality Time: Just being together is paramount! No technology, no crafting, no interruptions. Full on attention is the only thing that fills up this love tank. Eating, walking, star-gazing together!
Physical Touch: For spouses, sex is part of it, but not mostly. Mostly it is high fives, pats on the back, hugs, or holding hands that clearly communicate affection.
Acts of Service: If a person steps into your world and removes one task from your to-do list, a huge burden in lifted and love is felt! They spend their entire days meeting the needs of others and feel treasured when job is done for them or a need of theirs is met.
Here’s a free 30 question online inventory to help you determine your love language. It takes about 10 well invested minutes! If you’re not clear even after completing it, ask yourself these questions: How do I express love to others? What do I complain about the most? What requests do I make most often? The answers to these questions should give insight into your love language. But here’s the bigger challenge. As you determine the love languages of all the members of your family who live under the same roof, you will need to learn how to communicate in all the languages at some point. It will take effort, but there is little else more important on a daily basis than being able to “tell” your family members you love them, in their language!
What is your love language? How could this knowledge help your relationships?