Learning the Love Languages

By: Sandra L. Churchill

In the month of snowy days, groundhogs, and valentines, I thought it would be fitting to share some “love wisdom” from Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages book series. The book breaks down the way we perceive and show love into five general categories: quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, and gifts. While most people enjoy expressions of love across all five categories, Chapman argues that each of us has one or two “primary” love languages. This means that while one person feels appreciated and loved when given a present, somebody else feels special when receiving praise or simply hugged.

Why do we care? All of us need to feel loved—spouses, children, friends, siblings, neighbors, and acquaintances. We are complicated people sometimes. What if my husband brings me flowers (gifts) but what I really need is for him to unload the dishwasher (acts of service), say something nice about the dinner I made (words of affirmation), or enjoy a sit-down conversation to share our day (quality time)?

Chapman argues that we often show love to our family and friends in the language we most value from others. So—the gift-giver often is the one who feels most validated with gifts, the hugger likes to be the “huggee” and the praiser often enjoys the same sort of verbal recognition.

Once you become familiar with the five basic love languages, it’s fun to figure out who’s who in your relationship circle. My mom is a gift lover while my dad prefers words of affirmation. Several of my friends are huggers, while others share my passion for quality time together.

At our house, we have different personality styles that truly cherish different styles of affection.

loveMy husband is acts of service all the way. This means that instead of a gift or a compliment, he feels most appreciated if I run some errands for him, make a fabulous dinner, or bring his car in for service so he doesn’t have to spend valuable time doing this on a Saturday. So if I need a meaningful conversation over a cup of coffee, sometimes his gesture of making me coffee or scraping the ice off my car is his way of showing love.

Sometimes frustration stems from misunderstanding each other’s communication styles. Instead of feeling ignored, we can re-think these feelings when we recognize that all these wonderful demonstrations of love are being expressed, just under the radar. Like cupid’s arrows, love signals are being sent all over the place among family and friends, but we might just fail to recognize them as such.

This can be helpful in marriage and friendships, but is also invaluable with your children. My oldest daughter loves acts of service like her dad, my middle one is a hugger, and my youngest child is all about quality time, like me. This means that our efforts are more personal to the one being loved, and not simply random gestures. When my oldest is having a tough day, picking up supplies for a school project or making her favorite dinner can make all the difference in lifting her spirits. When my middle one is down, she needs hugs, hugs, and more hugs. Not coincidentally, she is the best back-rubber in the house! My littlest prefers reading a story together or playing a game as the way he feels most loved.

At our house, this doesn’t mean gifts, words of praise, and hugs aren’t special. They are always appreciated. But when spirits are low and anybody feels ignored or taken for granted, we all recognize who needs what to cheer up and fill that love bank!


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