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Communicating Love: What Are The Love Languages?

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In 1992, a doctor, Gary Chapman, wrote a book called ‘The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate’, in which he first outlines the way in which partners express or communicate love differently. His work focuses on romantic partners, but love comes in many different forms. The Greeks, in fact had eight forms of love:

  • Eros (erotic love)
  • Philos (friendship)
  • Storge (familial)
  • Ludus (playful or ‘puppy love’)
  • Mania (obsessive)
  • Pragma (enduring)
  • Philautia (self-love)
  • Agape (brotherhood – love for all)

There are lots of ways that we, as humans, love each other; from the romantic to the platonic, and each one (except obsessive, I think we can say), is valuable and important.

The ways in which we communicate our love varies.

From our experiences, our personality types, astrological signs, the way we were brought up and the way our loved ones communicate to us, the ways in which humans perceive and express feelings of love vary subjectively.

Chapman’s love languages:
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Giving Gifts
  • Physical Touch

In his studies, he theorised that people give love in the way they prefer to receive it; so, in order to understand what someone’s love language is, you have to watch how they give love and focus on what they seem to ask from others. Not knowing what a person’s love language is can lead to difficulties in relationships. One person’s act of service might not be perceived as love language by someone who prefers physical touch, or vice versa.

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” – Seneca

These languages vary in everyone. From those in relationships, singles, to how you communicate love with children, and knowing your own love language is the first step into building better relationships. If you know what you need from others to feel loved, tell them, otherwise they might assume you know, and you might walk around feeling a bit despondent. Which you shouldn’t, just for the record, you ARE loved.

How do you know your love language?

Luckily, courtesy of Dr Chapman himself, there is a quiz you do. Here! And you can pick the one that tailors to you; couple, single, teen, even military.

Now odds are, you don’t have one love language, rather you just favour one more than other. We all like being told someone loves us, getting hugged or being given a random, lovely gift. But one of these things will resonate more with us than others, will mean more, if you like. Usually, depending on your needs or experiences.

For the sake of research, and because I wanted to, I took the quiz – singles edition.

At 30%, my main love language is words of affirmation. Followed by acts of service at 27%, receiving gifts at 20%, quality time at 17% and physical touch at 7% (unsurprising, I’m not a big touch person).

Chapman’s main goal in his book was not about teaching you about your own love langue, so much as identifying others. To figure out what they need and change your ways accordingly. It’s called a language for a reason; it’s all about communication.

Where do our love languages come from?

Psychologically speaking, people express or receive love in particular ways from a variety of reasons.

As children, we learn about physical touch very early on as a means of communication. It’s important to our development and children who don’t receive physical affectionate touch are more likely to have emotional or behavioural issues as adults.

“Touch has a memory.” – John Keats

Displaying affection, respect or offering comfort and companionship, touch has benefits our physical and mental health. A good hug can work wonders.

We already know the power of affirmations. So, it’s not surprising that hearing positive words of encouragement, respect or admiration can mean the world to people. It’s also, according to data from the quiz, one the most common of the love languages. From compliments on work or appearance, to speeches of pride and appreciations, using actual language to express love works for just about everyone.

“Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.” – Charles Dickens

Spending time together is of course essential in any relationship, and Chapman emphasises that this means ‘undivided attention’. Specifying a chunk of time where you are together without any distractions can be exactly what someone needs to feel loved.

Actions speak louder than words

Indeed, they do. Doing something for someone, usually without being asked, shows kindness, attentiveness or an awareness of their needs. Whether it’s doing jobs around the house or looking after a loved one when they’re sick, acts of service express love in often more subtle ways, so be sure to be aware every time a loved one does you a favour, they might be saying a lot more than just ‘here, let me help.’

The best gifts are the ones that are thoughtful. Someone has listened to you, or randomly thought of you. Whether it’s the necklace that reminds you of your childhood, a bunch of flowers or your favourite drink on the way home ‘just because’, gift giving displays a thoughtfulness and attentiveness.

Spread the love, Darlings.

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