In college I was introduced to the concept of the 5 love languages and the personality quiz you can take to find out which of the five is your primary love language. I was thinking about the quiz recently and decided to read the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman to better understand what the love languages are and how to more effectively use that knowledge in my life. The book explains that every person receives love differently and Dr. Chapman created 5 categories to summaries some common ways people give and receive love. The categories are: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and gifts. The chapters of the book break down this concept showing examples of how understanding this has helped couples improve romantic relationships, while also explaining that this theory can help you understand how your friends, family, and other loved ones best receive love and how you, knowing this information, can fill up their “love tank”. I took away many things from this book, but I wanted to make a few call outs of things that I thought were important and somethings that don’t necessarily come naturally to everyone (myself included).
- How you love is a language
People receive, and in turn, give love in different ways. The ways people receive love can be so drastically different that a good way to explain the difference is to compare this to two people speaking different languages. At first glance, that sounds a bit crazy. It’s just love… how hard can it be to understand? Then I tried applying it to myself. Some actions are more important to me than others. My primary love languages are quality time and words of affirmation. This means that I feel more loved or feel like my “love tank” is full when someone takes time out of their day to have a conversation with me than if that same person were to give me a hug. The difference of importance to me may (and most likely will) be different than what is important to people I care about.
- It’s important to understand how you receive and give love
Understanding how you give and receive love can be huge in how you go about making relationships with other people. For one, if you understand how you receive love, you now know how to ask for it. You will also notice that you try and give others love in the same way that you prefer to receive it. It makes sense. If I feel loved when someone tells me they love me, then others must feel loved when I express to them that I love them, right? A big part of this is looking at yourself and your actions and understanding how the actions of your loved ones make you feel.
- The people you care about may receive love differently than you
In the same way that it is important to understand how you receive love, it’s equally important to understand how the people you care for receive love. Knowing that I enjoy quality time can be confusing if I am trying to love someone who’s primary love language is physical touch. I may be expressing all of my love and spending all of my energy on intimate conversations, but the person I care for will not feel loved, even when I am trying my hardest. Their “love tank” will be empty even when I am exerting all of my effort trying to fill it.
- Love is a state and an action
The concept of love can be difficult to understand, but breaking down the state and the action helped me understand how to continue to give and receive it. Being “in-love” is a state of being. Think the beginning of a new relationship when you are still in the “honeymoon” phase. Or think of the beginning of a new friendship, when you think that person is amazing and can do no wrong. This state is wonderful and your “love tank” feels constantly full. According to Dr.Chapman, that phase can only last a maximum of two years. That’s it. Nothing more. So how do couples stay in love and how do friends stay close? This is when we need to understand love as an action. The act of love is the physical effort of acting on a primary love language. For example, I love my friend who lives far away and I know her primary love language is quality time, I know her “love tank” gets full when we have conversations on the phone, so I call her. That is an act of love. If a person’s love language is acts of service, an act of love can be vacuuming the house. When the “honeymoon” phase has ended, these actions are what keep the tanks full and the relationship alive.
- Love is a choice
Knowing all of the information is well and good, but the most important point to drive home is that love is a choice. Those actions of love are choices being made by one person to keep their loved one’s tank full. You cannot force someone to love you, they need to make that decision on their own. Be it a romantic partner, a friend, or a family member. They have the choice to act in love toward you. You can help them understand your love language, and you can ask them to help you learn their language, but at the end of the day, they need to make the decision that the love you share is a priority to them and they are willing to act on it.
I highly recommend reading “The 5 Love Languages” or even just taking the quiz to better understand how you give and receive love and try and notice when your “love tank” is more full or more empty. Noticing the difference and learning to ask for what makes you feel loved is empowering. Knowing yourself better can only help you.