Thursday, November 29, 2012

Five Love Languages

To the best of my knowledge the concept of Five Love Languages was defined by Dr. Gary Chapman, an "internationally respected marriage and family life expert." I first learned of these love languages over a decade ago, in the middle of a personal crisis. What I learned shocked me; I could love someone with all I had in me and they might not understand. How could this be? We were speaking different love languages. In my case the situation went on so long that love faded into the obscurity of the fog-bound recesses of our minds.
Thornton Wilder, in The Ides of March says it splendidly:
“You swore you loved me, and laughed and warned me that you would not love me forever. I did not hear you. You were speaking in a language I did not understand. Never, never, I can conceive of a love which is able to foresee its own termination. Love is its own eternity. Love is in every moment of its being: all time. It is the only glimpse we are permitted of what eternity is. So I did not hear you. The words were nonsense.”
Sometimes you can shout "I love you" with your entire being, yet not be heard.
Now I know why.
Dr. Chapman says there are five different love languages. We are possibly born with a predisposition to speak one of them, or we might learn it as we grow up. That part is immaterial at this point; nature or nurture doesn’t matter. What you need to understand is that you have a primary love language that you speak, and you have a primary love language that you hear. Usually they are the same language (yet I've known people who hear a different love language than they speak). You can certainly have a facility for the other love languages, but most of the time you will need to work to develop them.
Let's go over the Five Love Languages.
Words of Affirmation: You know this one. It's the pat on the back, the "good job" said at the right time, the "you look nice" comment as you step into vision. Words can be used to build up or tear down (Eph 4:29). Since we're talking about love languages, obviously we are talking about the ones used to build up. Everyone likes to hear a compliment, but it is critical if this is the love language you hear. If this is your love language and you don't get enough words of affirmation, love eventually becomes silent.
Acts of Service: You know this one too. It's the time your Dad helped you put up that basketball net. It's the nice dinner you cooked for your wife. We all like it when someone does something nice for us. It doesn't even have to be a big thing. Opening a door is an act of service. If this is your love language and your spouse doesn't do little things for you, love exits out the back door.
Receiving Gifts: Who doesn't love to get gifts? This is the puppy your parents gave you or that first Valentine from the girl you liked. This doesn't need to be expensive or fancy; a pretty poem (NOT a limerick!) written on nice paper will make your wife feel special. Give it to her with a dinner you cooked and you actually manage to do the first three love languages in one package! If this is your love language and you don't get some special little gifts occasionally, love will eventually be out of stock.
Quality Time: I know a lot of people with this as their primary love language. What they want is to sit with me. I don't even have to talk, but that's a bonus. Just being in the same room at the same time makes them happy, and I don't even need to be sitting next to them. It's enhanced, of course, if you're doing some activity together, maybe something that is meaningful to the two of you. You can even just sit with someone as they run a garage sale. If this is your love language and you don't get quality time, love will run down like an old clock.
Physical Touch: People love this one, but it doesn't necessarily mean sex (though it could). Just a light touch as you pass in the hallway works wonders. It is said that people need six hugs a day minimum; I think it is more than that if this is your love language. If this is your love language and you don't get enough physical touch, love will lose touch with you.

I don't know if I did a good job explaining the five love languages, but I know they are valid. Most of us feel some love from each of these, but problems arise if the primary love languages of two people in love differ. It takes a little work to learn another love language. Being aware of these will certainly help.
Here is a web site where you can test yourself to find your love language.
I wrote a post on how to keep your love alive, and that might help also.  
None of this matters if you're "falling in love." The emotional high of being in love lasts about two years, according to most studies. Falling in love is just about the same as being insane. Your emotions filter your entire world and your thinking is clouded by the bedazzlement with another person. We all crave that feeling, for it lifts us from this earthly realm into a fantasy place where our spirit soars. We truly feel happy. Whether it is "true" happiness or not doesn't really matter. Perception is our internal reality.
Again, Thornton Wilder, in Our Town helps us remember falling in love:
“I want you to try and remember what it was like to have been very young. And particularly the days when you were first in love; when you were like a person sleepwalking, and you didn’t quite see the street you were in, and didn’t quite hear everything that was said to you. You’re just a little bit crazy. Will you remember that, please?”

For the rest of us, try to remember there are more love languages than the one we each primarily speak. Look for the language that your loved one has, and work to speak that language to them.
Then when you love someone with all you have in you, they hear and understand.

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