Some books you read and never think about ever again. Some books you remember. Gary Chapman's classic book about relationships, "The Five Love Languages", is the second type. Chapman's book was published years ago now, but it has a simple but elegant idea which I still draw from when I'm coaching clients about improving and strengthening their relationships.
With couples, it is so important to understand the differences between the two of you and to grow to appreciate and work with them. Often people assume that their partner thinks, feels, or needs what they do. Surprise! They probably don't. You need to ask. This is a simple but incredibly important concept, that you need to love people you love in the way they can best receive it, not in the way that you like to give or receive it.
The concept of love languages is useful not just in couples relationships, but also in parent-child relationships, and other close family and friend relationships. It's an easy and fun conversation to start with someone you care about. How do you like to be shown that I love and care about you? Here's what I prefer from you.
Here are the five love languages:
1.Words of affirmation- verbal or written feedback about your significance to the other person. This could include encouragement, praise, compliments, and kind words that build the other person up. The words say, "I see you. I care about you. I appreciate you I value you. I cherish you".
2.Quality time spent together- this should be time spent giving that person your complete and undivided attention. Minimize all distractions. The attention should be individualized, perhaps doing something together you both enjoy. Make eye contact. Put away your cell phone, ipad, computer, or book. Focus on being completely present. Do active listening, where you ask questions to understand more deeply.
3.Gifts-they don't have to be expensive. It's more the idea that you thought about the other person. It could be as small as leaving your partner a pack of gum or chocolate they love, or bringing them a flower. For people who have this as their love language, anniversary and birthday gifts hold great meaning, and unexpected gifts on regular days really makes them melt.
4.Acts of service- some people like to be shown that their partner loves them by having them do a loving action. It could be filling your car with gas, or cleaning the house, or pruning the roses, or doing something kind for your aging parent. These are thoughtful acts that put love into action.
4.Physical touch- For optimal emotional and physical health and well-being, each of us need to be touched and hugged in a loving way multiple times per day. Your children need it, and the adults that are close to you usually want it. To some people it is the most important way to be close and make them feel loved and needed.
Which language is your preferred way to receive love? This might be a fun conversation to have this week with someone you love. Whether it's your partner, your child, your parent, or a dear friend that you cherish, it always feels good to have someone take the time to find out what your currency is. Chapman's book gives lots of examples from relationships and is a fast and useful read.