It is never surprising when a client or friend describes that they are “not feeling loved” by someone important in their life. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 languages of Love shares that when this feeling emerges regularly with someone who is within our close intimate circle, it is usually an indication that the manner of showing love between the two participants is vastly different; thus, they are not effectively communicating with one another.
Every one of us has one or two default or “go-to” strategies, which may not be a match for the other person. So the challenge is to recognize how we express love, and to practice all the other ways of showing love so that our messages can get across with no interference.
And for the ones who are on the receiving end of loving messages, we may not have realized how consistent a member of our inner circle has been, because we don’t recognize their particular language or method of expression. The whole world opens up when we become observing of the many styles that others show creatively around expressing Love.
Words is the first method. Do you recognize those people who send you notes, cards or emails, which are uplifting and considerate? These are people who find ways to elevate you, shower compliments and remind you of what you are good at. They tend to be very good listeners and are able to share insights that are thought provoking and caring in regard to what you just shared. Their gift is to shine their observant light upon you while using words of precision to describe your very unique magnificence. Often these individuals partner this method with the Quality time method shared later. They seem to be able to find time and the perfect words for you when you most need them. Chapman descibes that “this language uses words to affirm other people”.
Acts of Service is the second method. These are individuals who show their love and affection by “doing things” which are helpful. I find this language can be under-rated and can often go un-noticed. Acts of service can include doing the mundane things that are essential to a smooth household, workplace or event. Are we aware of our loved ones who drive us around, do errands for us, make our environments more orderly, make sure we have something to eat or make sure your car is well maintained? Often these individuals find the first method “expression through words”, a real challenge. They are less comfortable with words and are often shy or less nimble with any kind of verbal expression. Even so, they are willing to allow their many deeds to express how important you are to them; how much they care fore you. Their belief around showing love is “Actions speak louder than words.”
Giving Gifts is the third method. Have you ever been angry with someone, and then with astonishment find a gift on your bed from them which seems completely random? When we show intensity of emotion within the vicinity of this loved one (emotions such as sadness, disappointment, anger or loss), this individual feels overwhelmed with how to respond effectively, so will express their love through a gift of some kind which they think will help you to feel better. I have been on both sides of this equation. Receiving a gift feels perplexing in the face of such intensity of emotion. Further to that, I have also found myself feeling utterly helpless in the face of tragedy or unfathomable loss and instead of owning my helplessness; I might default into an Act of Service, or a Gift-giving mode. This mode of showing love is what the giver believes “will make the other person feel most loved” by this gesture of gifting.
Quality Time is the forth language of love. In a busy world where we travel, use technology and find ourselves immersed in work or school assignments, it is easy to take our loved ones for granted, and put the quality time we should be spending with another on the back burner. The interesting thing about this method is that having lengthy durations of quality time are not really necessary. Rather, it’s the regular and committed times with another, that counts; where technology is shut off, and intimacy becomes the primary focus. This sends a clear and unmistakable message of “I love you” to another. This is key especially for career driven parents, as your children will only remember your intimate experiences together, and not the extra money you brought in by working overtime. Intimacy between two people can evaporate with so many distractions in this world. So making a point to schedule time together regularly will not only preserve the relationship, but also send the message to the loved one that “you really matter to me”. This message is all about “giving the other person your undivided attention”.
Physical Touch and intimate proximity is the fifth expression of love. I recall a client who sadly shared that their parents never held their hand, but instead placed their hand behind the child’s neck or upper back in order to push them along. Spouses who have been together for many years, and are raising children as a team often forget to touch one another with tenderness during their every day activities. Our bodies are made to respond pleasurably to touch and also to yearn for touch. However touch has become something which many have become cautious about. Even so, there are times when nothing except being held or cuddled will allow us to feel comforted. Notice what happens when you extend your touch to a loved one. Perhaps you haven’t had the nerve or the thought to be touch-conscious until now. Stroke a cheek… or brush a hand along someone’s hair as you pass by. Maybe pat someone’s hand or offer your arm to walk with another across the street. This may seem to be a stretch for some, but becoming more comfortable with touch allows us to really feel the unity connection with others. There is a reason why our pets have become so important to some. No one analyzes our need to touch, snuggle and stroke them. Consider this realization for our human loved ones also. “Nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch”.
Chapman extends his concepts of 5 languages or methods of expression to a subsequent book called “The language of Apologies”, which is also very interesting and informative. Apologies are another topic that as humans, we find challenging.