Five Love Languages

The other day I wanted to do something nice for Catherine.  I thought I might get a card and put some pleasant words in it.  I’m good at that.  I thought more and it dawned on me that a bunch of flowers would actually be what she would appreciate most.  I’d love to say that I give Catherine flowers frequently and generously…but that might be pushing it.

The reason that I went with the flowers is that I recalled the lesson I had learnt from the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  Chapman’s book is one of the best books I have ever read.  I read it over 15 years ago.  I’m pretty sure that I only read it once.  But how often do you read a book so long ago that you can remember the whole outline of it, and it makes a difference in your day to day life?

Here’s the big idea of the book: different people appreciate different things.  Different people feel love in different ways.  What makes one person feel loved won’t make another person feel loved.  To love someone well you have to express your love for them in a language that they understand and can therefore appreciate.

The five love languages are:

Touch.  Some people appreciate physical contact.  For them holding hands, cuddling on the couch and quick hugs and kisses when coming and going from the house are very valuable.

Words of Affirmation.  Others like to hear their loved ones say the right thing about them.  An unsolicited complement is like gold.

Acts of Service.  For others hearing the words, “Is there anything I can do for you?” make all the difference.  Doing a chore for this person will make them feel fantastic.

Gifts.  Others value the thought and effort involved in buying them a gift.  It’s nothing to do with greed or materialism – they value the thoughtfulness and care.

Quality Time.  Others simply want to have time with their loved ones.  Hours = love.  Lack of hours = I don’t feel loved.

For Catherine, her number one love language is gifts.  When you give me a gift I say, “Cool – thanks.”  When you give Catherine the right gift she feels a million dollars.  It makes her day, week, month and year.

Catherine has a friend who one day, when fairly newly married, was sitting inside the house, getting more and more upset about the fact that her husband was spending the whole afternoon washing, cleaning and fawning over her car.  What was going on was that her love language is quality time.  She wanted her husband’s full and undivided attention.  She was thinking they should go out for a coffee.  That would have been brilliant for her.  She didn’t get it, so she was upset.  Meanwhile her husband’s love language was acts of service.  He was full of love for his wife, and decided to show it by cleaning her car.  To him, that’s what you do when you love someone – you do stuff for them.  But that’s not how she receives love.  Two people who loved each other deeply managed to get mad at each other when both trying to do the right thing.

If you know what your partner’s love language is then you can then takes steps to give them what they want, rather than what you naturally would do.  I am constantly saying nice things to Catherine, but it doesn’t do a great deal for her.  The flowers the other day were perfect.

Knowing your partner’s love language and making an effort to show them that you love them makes the world of difference.  These insights have been profoundly helpful to our marriage.  Even if you are not married they are still useful in relating to the people who are closest to you.

So this week take the effort to show love in a way that your partner will understand and receive it.  Don’t do what comes naturally to you – think about what your partner actually needs.  And if you don’t know which of the 5 your primary love language is, then check out Gary Chapman’s website here.


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