I like flowers. I like small gestures that say “I saw these and thought of you”… I much prefer a small bunch of sweetpeas that cost next to nothing than a huge bunch of red roses. I can count the times my husband has brought me flowers on my fingers. I can count the times he has brought me flowers on a whim (not because it’s Valentine’s day) on one finger… does this mean he doesn’t love me?? Well it’s taken me a while to realise this, but no… of course it doesn’t. It’s just that his love language is different…
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, we communicate our love in 5 different ways: words of affirmation (“I love you”, “You’re doing great”), acts of service (taking the rubbish out, fixing that leaking tap), quality time, receiving gifts and physical touch. For all of us, one or two of these are a priority – and so we need to understand that our partners or family members may express their love in different ways and they need us to express our love in ways they understand so that they feel properly safe and comforted.
If we don’t know how our loved ones demonstrate their love, we may well feel deeply unappreciated even though their partners, family and friends were doing their best in their own way. Someone who needs gifts and words of affirmation may not appreciate the partner who makes them cups of tea or runs a bath for them when they walk through the door.
There’s a quiz you can take at www.5lovelanguages.com for partners and for children. I decided to run a little experiment. I thought about my husband and my children and what their love languages might be… and then I sat and did the quiz with them.
And I was really taken aback by the answers. My 2 girls are very different. Both tell me they love me often but one is always giving hugs and is hyper-sensitive about other people’s feelings. The other is very cheeky and tomboyish and an advertisers’ dream – always asking for things as they come on the tv. I had thought the first would be about physical touch, words of affirmation and quality time – oh no… turns out she really likes gifts. It turns out the other one was desperate for quality time.
I haven’t been upping the gifts, but when the little one was struggling recently, my husband and I upped the quality time just with her – and the results were remarkable. We just needed to translate our ever-present love into a form that really resonated with her. The angry outbursts stopped, the tears and tummy-aches subsided. Such a simple change prompted an enormous improvement in her emotional well-being.
And my husband?? Well, turns out he’s pretty hot on words of affirmation.. but truth be told, I’m also trying not to read too much into the fact that he really likes gifts too…