Do you remember that special moment? You know, the time you put down the artificial midge-fly you were tying so that you could spend time with your husband, and you rubbed the back of his neck while telling him how special he was? Meanwhile, he was giving you the pair of mittens he knitted for you, after he heard you say your arthritis was kicking up. Well, congratulations, because you two were speaking all five languages of love at once.
This harmonious convergence of events speaks to all the communication tools that noted relationship expert and author, Dr. Gary Chapman, extols in his series, The 5 Love Languages. Dr. Chapman, also a Baptist minister, has achieved world-renown as a Biblical scholar in the field of personal relationships. His best-selling series concentrates on ways that people can convey their true feelings to others in ways that are easily accessible to all parties. In the condensed form above were elements of what Dr. Chapman teaches. A few notes about these “languages” appear below. These techniques apply not only to spouses, but to all interpersonal relationships:
1. Words of Affirmation — Find something nice to say to somebody. It really isn’t difficult; it just takes a little bit of effort. Show that you notice something positive about another, whether it’s an endearment, or “seeing” a new hair-do or a hobby achievement. Some people call it giving “strokes” because it is a verbal “petting”. To understand it better, turn the tables and imagine the feeling you get when somebody sincerely says something nice to you. That’s what we’re talking about.
2. Quality Time — Quality time doesn’t mean giving anything up. It does mean creating time together. What you do or don’t do isn’t important. What isimportant is that you are together.
3. Gifts — It isn’t the size of a package or the gleam of a gemstone that matters in gift-giving and gift-receiving. The important thing is that it lets people express positive emotion in a tangible way. Those who prefer to communicate in the ‘gift’ love language, put a lot of thought into the gifts they give.
4. Acts of Service — When you oiled the hinges on the screen-door that was driving your mate crazy you were “speaking” a language of love. When you finally notice that you haven’t tripped over a pair of shoes on the stairway in quite some time, it’s because someone else was “speaking” to you in a language of love.
5. Physical Touch — Unless you are both professional alligator-wrestlers, physical touch probably doesn’t need to be more than an unexpected touch or small caress to speak loudly in one of the least-developed “languages” of love.
One of the aspects of Dr. Chapman’s teachings that has been most helpful for couples is learning how to identify one another’s preferred love language. We often try to show love to others in ways that we appreciate, instead of in their own ‘love language’ and then are baffled by their lack of appreciation. When one person’s primary love language is ‘gifts’ and the other’s is ‘words of affirmation’, they are each speaking a foreign ‘love language’ to their partner. Understanding this can be very helpful in any relationship, but especially in the ongoing relationship of marriage.
Dr. Chapman isn’t exploring deep mysteries. His observations and teachings involve everyday people, living everyday lives. What people do within that context is what ultimately decides how many “languages” you are fluent in.