According to Gary Chapman, who originated the concept, there are five love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time, and gift giving. Chapman applied these only to romantic love, but in the nearly thirty years since his book was written, the attention of many people has turned to giving equal value to the love that we share with family and friends, and they have realized that the concept of love languages works equally well in these relationships.
My love language is words. When I want someone to know how much they mean to me, I tell them. It means everything to me when someone tells me sincerely that they love me. On the flip side, words that aren’t sincere confuse me, and it crushes me when I realize that someone didn’t mean what they said.
A classmate of mine, on the other hand, doesn’t trust words. If they aren’t backed up by action, to her, they are empty. My classmate’s love language is acts. When someone does something for her, she understands that they are saying “I love you”, and when she does something for someone, she is saying “I love you” to them.
One of my best friends’ love language is touch. She lets me know that she loves me by hugging me or holding my hand. That said, she is also good at saying “I love you” while she does it, and so when I hug her back and say “I love you too”, both our languages are being spoken.
Another best friend’s love language is time, so when they text me, “Hey, want to get dinner?” that is them saying “I love you”. And when I text back, “Yes!” they hear me saying “I love you” back. This friend, too, has also learned my love language, and yesterday, when I was having a hard day, they made a point of telling me in words how much they care about me, which brought me almost to tears of gratitude to have such a good person in my life.
When I was talking this over with my father last night, he pointed out that there might be added pressure put on people to learn each other’s love languages, which might make things worse instead of better. I replied that for me, it is helpful to know my friends’ love languages because then I can speak to them in a way that they will hear more clearly and understand them better.
Perhaps most importantly, though, knowing my own love language is a good reminder to me that other people may often be saying “I love you” to me, and I may be missing it. At moments when I am not hearing it in words, that is a good time to practice listening in other ways. Has someone gone out of their way to do me a favor, to give me a hug or a thoughtful gift, or simply to be in a room with me? Whatever our love languages, it seems like a safe bet that people are saying “I love you” to us in far more ways than we are hearing it.