The 5 Love Languages And Our Weaknesses With Them
How To Deal With Them
Picture the most peaceful summer sunset. Sitting on the edge of a river with the golden sky to your right.
You look to your left and your absolute best friend is with you, laughing at all the stupid things you've done together over the years.
It's the most tranquil you've felt in a long time.
Don't keep reading until you do.
Think about laughing with your absolute best friend. One of the most warm-hearted people you've ever met, and you pride yourself in calling them a close friend.
Then out of no where, they hesitantly bring up how sad and depressed they've been.
You don't know what to say.
A while ago, I met up with an old friend from university, and we got to talking about relationships. We used to talk about finding our perfect girl while eating our BigMacs at 2am in the McDonald's nearby (which has since ended). But it was really interesting to see how divergent our paths have been since we were both in school.
He's a few years younger than me, so it was almost like looking back in time to being on the mission for the one.
And the point in our conversation I want to bring up was our chat about, more or less, being picky. He wasn't on short supply of knowing girls or talking to girls or hanging out with girls. He's a very lovable dude by all. But the conflict was that he thought it was his fault he couldn't connect with them.
Asking things like:
"Do I just not know how to be in a relationship anymore?"
"Am I noncommittal?"
"Do I not connect with people?"
And my answer was a hard "You know you'd make a good boyfriend, man"
This problem comes up with a lot of people, regardless of stage in life. Whether you're in school, rocking the 9-5, working a summer co-op position. We lose touch with how much we're able to love and how to love.
We're all capable of showing affection, and little else in life promises us such high happiness. The idea of loving and being loved. That's what we, as a social animal, crave. And it's important to understand the ways in which we spread our tenderness.
And to do this, let's draw on the works of Dr. Gary Chapman, world renowned couple specialist and anthropologist. He argues for the understanding and practicing of the 5 love languages.
THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Much like we personify one of the 9 archetypal lovers, we all poses the ability to show and receive love through these 5 ways of communication. We may show a preference for multiple, but depending on our stage of life and past experiences, we all tend towards one language of love.
The more we're able to 'speak' another's language, the greater our perceived ability to love becomes, and the greater connection there is. For example, if our date's love language is Receiving Gifts, we'd jump up a 10 if we gave them a book we knew they would enjoy -- as opposed to showering them in hugs and kisses (through the language of Physical Touch), in which case we would rank less than a 10. If there is the speaking of different love languages, there's bound to be a misalignment in communication and unwillingness to show sincere affection.
We need to speak the same love language.
But there are also weaknesses to having a love language.
We’re all prone to a high sensitivity for one language, which means we feel the most love through one form of communication but also feel the most hurt from that same method of communication. Loving Quality Time opens the ability for hurtful Quality Time. For example, being sensitive to positive Words of Affirmation makes us extra susceptible to hurtful words. I’ll talk about each downside in each section as well, aiming to help us arm ourselves from any hurtful others that play with our love language.
Before getting in to each, keep in mind that the dynamic we have with our partners is typically different than we perceive it to be. So if we think we give our partners a good Quality Time, to them we may actually show exceptional Acts Of Service. It all depends on frame of reference. Which also means that the way we like to receive love may be different than the way we give love. This stems from the way we've been raised and what our ideals may be. In essence, always communicate with your partner what you like and dislike.
1. Words Of Affirmation
Words that affirm our love and affection for them. This is probably the most noticeable and easily gifted form of showing love (though does not make it the least valuable). Being able to verbally communicate words of kindness and encouragement.
If most identified with Words of Affirmation as our love language, we tend to be the most sensitive to people's words about us and our opinions and our actions. If we create an amazing wedding video, we blush hard whenever someone compliments us on our work and encourages us to do more of what we love. We smile hard when someone speaks highly of us. We gush inside when we hear that someone spread a good word of our reputation. But when we're hit with more critical words, we're just as sensitive and can become very brought aback and miserable by it. Another's strong words will lead to forms of extreme emotion.
Showing Love Through Words Of Affirmation:
In order to speak this language in the most affectionate way, we need to always always always be mindful of what we say. They are the most impactful means of communication.
Keep a general tally of how you're aiming to encourage your significant other with kind and sympathetic words. We mustn't talk based on our experiences, but on their experiences. We must be able to relate to them to best speak to them. Listen hard to their words, bring relatable and meaningful thought to the conversation, and verbally convey your admiration and compassion for them.
Send text messages or voicemails, and remember that what you say in front of people can be doubly as impactful.
"You've been so hardworking lately and I just want to say how proud I am of you"
"You look absolutely stunning in your outfit"
"Just wanted to remind you that I love you"
Shielding Ourselves From Hurtful Words Of Affirmation:
Just as important, we must also learn to cope with hurtful Words of Affirmation. Especially when it's a loving partner or family member that surprises us with stabbing verbiage. First, we must accept people for who they are, which means we can never truly change someone based on our own actions. We can't force them to comply to our personal opinions of morality, they must choose to change themselves. And in order to help change the way people treat us - in order to best deal with someone with hurtful words - we must arm ourselves with the acceptance of childishness.
Yes, understand that everyone is a child at heart.
Think of the last child you saw and they probably said things that any sane adult would keep to themselves. "Mommy, why did he get to see the doctor before us!?" "Daddy, I need to pee so bad and I don't have my diapers anymore" "I want Batman now!" "Give me all the chicken nuggets"
Actually, after reading those examples, you could probably think of any millennial or Gen Z vlogger saying those things. You know why? Because we're all children at heart and sometimes our childish mouths come out.
We need to understand that others are just as trapped in "adulthood" as us, and get urges to both hear and speak of our primal, childish words. The words "I want to love you" and "You're a dodo brain" equally cross our childish minds (though maybe in other forms). It's on us to understand and accept when these things may happen, that they actually trust us enough to let out their inner child, and that it's their primal human brain coming out needing forgiveness. Because one day we'll need the forgiveness of another for being equally hurtful.
2. Quality Time
Spending time with a loved one. When puppy dog lovers think of what a relationship consists of, they easily come up with "doing things together" -- which is definitely required. But not everyone will feel the same amount of intimacy as those who identify with Quality Time as their love language.
When we act with Quality Time as our love language, we strive for focused attention from our partners / family / friends / online social circle. We don't just want them to be in the same room as us, we need them to give us their ears and eyes with full attentiveness. This also draws on the previous love language of words, though with Quality Time we emphasize the need for others to hear us (not just compliment us).
Showing Love Through Quality Time:
To show affection to another through Quality Time, always be mindful of how deep and how long you can share activities and moments and ideas with them. You may be around them physically, but you must actively schedule out when and how long you can give them your full attention, either through:
Shared activities (e.g. - hiking, swimming, playing a sport)
Shared conversation (e.g. - stopping ourselves from doing something else while speaking), or
Shared emotions (e.g. - diving deep into their feelings and bringing it out for both of you to share).
The point is to be able to share a moment in time. Quality time.
Shielding Ourselves From Hurtful Quality Time:
This one isn't as apparent as hurtful words, but can be just as heartbreaking. The contrast of loving quality time is stonewalling. The act of complete indifference with another as they are near us. I've talked about this before, so I won't delve too deep into it, so in a nutshell, to arm ourselves from stonewalling we must always keep an open line of communication.
When we feel as though our partner is completely ignoring us, paying no attention to what we do or say, there are devastating emotional impacts and repercussions. The majority of affairs happen not because they fell out of love, but because they weren't getting enough quality time or feelings of love. Showing indifference makes a bigger impact than most people assume. So we must actively fight for that engagement and communication.
This means straight up telling them how you feel. It's on you to tell them how you feel. You can't expect them to read your mind, and you can't assume they have the same perspective of the world as you. It's your responsibility to say things like:
"I'm feeling a little unloved, can we plan a getaway weekend soon?"
"I don't feel your affection as strong as I used to, can we have a loving conversation of our day?"
"It's unfair for me to expect you to read my mind, so I'm telling you right now that we need to spend some quality time together riding a bike / watching a movie / doing a puzzle / fixing the laundry machine / shopping for furniture in order for me to feel emotionally safe and satisfied with our relationships."
"I love you. Let's do something together so I can securely feel you love me too."
3. Receiving Gifts
Receiving gifts or physical things. Some may say this is superficial, like "I don't need a big fancy ring" or "it is so shallow to ask for that expensive dress", but this might not necessarily be superficial. When it comes to speaking the language of Receiving Gifts, it's not the idea of spending money on another but the idea of symbolizing your affection in physical form.
If our main love language were Receiving Gifts, we'd be heart-warmed by physical gifts that have meaning. That symbolize our relationship. The most universal example of this is the wedding ring. To others it may just be a piece of expensive rock, but to us it's a symbol of our infinite, endless, and eternal love that sits on a finger directly leading to our hearts. It could also be a bag of chips that we shared on our first date, a printed photograph of our dream vacation destination, or a book that we've always wanted to read together. Receiving Gifts is how we're physically reminded of our relationship.
Showing Love Through Receiving Gifts:
Not surprisingly, in order to show affection to someone who best identifies with Receiving Gifts, we must put effort into giving gifts that visually represent our love. This could range from a baseball cap of their favourite team, creating a personalized mug or frame, or even some hickory sticks. The trick is to be able to know what they'd find most loving -- and this requires your attention.
I'd advise even keeping a cellphone note page dedicated to small things they shyly mention. This takes off the pressure of trying to find out what they like last minute. What's nice is that our text message conversations are saved, so it's easier now than ever to keep a tab (literally) of all the cheesy memes they send you. Listen to what they want. You may not be able to get it for them (e.g. - a beachside villa in San Diego or Miami), but you can muster up something that lets them know you understand how much that would mean to them (e.g. - planning a trip to go to California or Florida).
Shielding Ourselves From Hurtful Receiving Gifts:
I'm not sure there is a direct opposition to this love language (I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments), but one of the most common counterparts to Receiving Gifts in a loving way is not being able to comfortably say we'd like gifts in the first place. This stems from our society's association of gifts with shallow love. Society thinks that wanting gifts is a superficial form of love. However, this is not the case with the actual Receiving Gifts love language. What society frowns upon is the active search for a bottomless vault of gold -- what this love language promotes is the ability to visually symbolize a relationship into a physical object to hold. This does not require money.
In order to combat this societal frowning, we must confront this mindset of "superficiality" and let ourselves be open to, at first, being rejected by the norms of our culture. We can't let ourselves be afraid of rejection. The one we're with is the one who undoubtedly sees us in all our glory, for better or for worse. And it would be a disservice to ourselves and them if we couldn't muster up the courage to ask for things. And besides, you're not asking for a mansion on Lake Como, we're simply stating that we'd like being reminded of our love through physical reminders to hold on to.
4. Acts of Service
Acts of Service is exactly that -- acting in service of another. This could range from washing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the garage, picking up the groceries, shovelling the snow off the driveway. This is not to be confused with wanting a doormat who does all the dirty work and chores without reciprocated love. Acts of Service calls one to support us in a very motherly/fatherly way, taking care of the things we cannot do ourselves.
What I'm noticing in the creative industry is that most social media-adept creatives (e.g. - vloggers and content creators), typically feel the most love from another who clearly shows Act of Service (this is also matched with “Words of Affirmation”). This may stem from their creative stirrings and chaotic schedules, leaving the day-to-day chores open for the taking (leading to feelings of affections for anyone who can take it on).
Acts of Service individuals have the biggest soft spots for people who aid in their daily tasks. For people who can get things done. For people who can, out of nowhere, make them a coffee in the morning while we’re busy answering emails / iron our shirts as we look for a restaurant date spot / plan a weekend getaway as we spend a late night in the office. The ones who actively try to accomplish things, not just for us, but with us.
Showing Love Through Acts of Service:
In order to show love through Acts of Service, be mindful of how they identify your role in your relationship. Often times, we may be misaligned with the tasks we'd like to delegate on one another. Who picks up the kids? When do you mow the lawn? How often do I cook dinner? Establishing a plan for the things that they would like to get done is something they're very fond of and can deepen their trust in you. Literally ask what needs to get done.
Other things could be surprising them with things you know they'd like you to do. Like a surprise carwash or a surprise visit to the laundromat. Or give them the ability to do something they enjoy while you take care of other errands.
There are so many other ways to show Acts of Service, but it all depends on who you're trying to show affection. It could be playing the piano for them as they cook, it could be cleaning the dishes while they cook, it could be organizing their receipts, it could be sweeping the floor, it could be stocking up on their favourite tea, it could even be answering emails. The trick is to know them well enough to know what actions mean the most to them.
Shielding Ourselves From Hurtful Acts of Service:
The opposite of loving Acts of Service is something I touched upon in the beginning of this section. Being treated like a doormat. This is not a way to treat anyone, let alone our loved ones. Being walked on, treated without sympathy or emotion, and being forced or guilted into doing things. But assuming our loved one actually loves us -- and we're not delusional about their affection for us -- we must (like the previous love language) break down societal norms about love and it's sense of eternal passion, instinctual loyalty and acceptance, and romanticized unions. Real relationships aren't puppies and rainbows and princes and princesses. They require day-to-day domestic practicalities.
In order to best negate the feelings of being a doormat, we must be open to the idea of negotiated love (instead of Romantic love). Treat our longings for folded blankets or dusted cabinets like job training. Show them exactly how / when / what needs to be done. We can’t assume they’ll always pick up behind us or complete us. We need to actively communicate what we need to do on a business-like level. We may feel like this is treason against "real" love, but in fact this is the way to make love work.
5. Physical Touch
And then there's Physical Touch. Holding hands, giving hugs, locking arms, kissing, playing with hair, rubbing shoulders. When we have a strong sensitivity for Physical Touch, we long for affection through the way people physically come in contact with us. We can attribute this to our infancy, where a healthy and physically stimulating upbringing (e.g. - being held and kissed) leads to a healthy and emotionally secure attachment to people in adulthood (more on secure attachment soon). We all longed for physical appreciation as babies, but as we grew up, only some of us held on to the deepest love we felt from Physical Touch.
On the surface level, we come to think that Physical Touch is the build up to more sexual interaction and touching, but this is not the entire case. When searching for Physical Touch, this could mean needing a physical shoulder to lean on and cry on. Or a soft touch on the arm as you make your morning coffee before a busy day. Or the squeezing of hands as you hear the news of your best friend in the hospital. Touching can mean many different things to different people / families / societies / countries. And when we're most aligned with this love language, we must actively convey how important it us for us to be reassured of love through touch.
Showing Love Through Physical Touch:
When conveying our affection for another through this language, keep in mind how they frequently try to touch you. This is probably how they'd like to be treated as well. Do they squeeze you hard when they hug? Do that. Do they give you surprise kisses? Do that. Do they cling to your arm as you walk through the Loblaws aisles looking for ice cream? Do that. They want to be loved through your physical intimacy.
Rub their backs as you squeeze them tight.
Take them in your arms as you walk down the street.
Reach for their hands while driving.
If separated by distance for a significant amount of time, give them a personal item of clothing -- this stimulates feelings of you being there as they wear your shirt / hoodie / hat / pants.
People of masculine energy traits tend to exaggeratively show how comfortably touchy they'd like to be (ultimately leading to deeper sexual actions), and if their partner best identifies with Physical Touch, they'd grow a strong bond of affection. However, this active touchiness often dies down as comfort starts to set in in the relationship. This leads to misalignment in expectations. You need to fix this. You need to actively communicate and see how often, and of what variety, they like to be touched.
Shielding Ourselves From Hurtful Physical Touch:
Physical Touch puts an emphasis on the need for positive physical contact with another, and much like the negatives of being sensitive to Quality Time, the opposite extreme of positive physical touch is not being physical at all. Being distant and almost cold. Actively feeling ignored and not adequate enough to be held. The difference with the negative side of needing Quality Time is that when we lack Physical Touch, our partners may be near and having meaningful conversation and shared activities with us, but they just don't seem to want to hold us.
This is highly in part to our upbringing. We weren't all raised with handsy families, and don't always take touch the same way. Some can even find it annoying (i.e. - public display of affection). But if you yourself speak the language of Physical Touch, you require this form of affection. To do this, I believe we must approach it in the same way that one would request more affection through Receiving Gifts: we must actively breakdown the norms around touch. Not necessarily society's norms, but our partners mindset around being touchy. They may even call it clingy. But to you, you require that form of affection. So tell them.
Communicate this to them. Go out of your way to politely ask for a tender kiss every once in a while. Tell them how much it means to you to hold their hand. Show them how normal it is for couples to show love in this way. The movies may be an exaggeration of relationship-reality, but even the rom-com can accept how Physical Touch is an impactful way to show devotion and fondness for another.
It's our responsibility not to just take care of our partner, but ourselves and what we need on a spiritual level.
We all need love and affection. The purpose of life is to experience it in its most raw and present state. And we communicate and feel this love through the 5 love languages
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
And this doesn't stop at with our romantic partners, but with anyone in our lives. Our parents, our siblings, our classmates, our neighbours, our teachers. We all experience and best communicate our respect for one another through each of the love languages.
After thinking about your partner's needs, what do you think your parents would like from you?
What would your siblings or teachers appreciate based on their tendencies to speak one of the languages the loudest?
Do they get extra excited when you bring them a gift? When you clean for them? When you wrap your arm around their shoulder? When you schedule a trip together? Or when you give the biggest compliment on their newest piece of artwork?
And then think back to your best friend sitting with you on the riverside with the sun setting behind you, telling you how unloved they’ve felt.
What would be the best way to cheer them up and show your love?
P.S. - If you’d like more info on each love language, click here! There’s also a detailed test for you to take to find out
P.P.S. - Once you best relate to one of these languages, how do you best cope with the negative sides of being so sensitive to that form of communication??