That’s a pic of me enjoying some quality time with my brother a few days ago.
I went up to Cincinnati last week to help take care of him after his heart surgery.
(In my ezine last week, I talked about how Randy, my older brother – who is a 48 year-old super fit, vegan Buddhist physician – who never smoked a cigarette in his whole life! – went to the hospital with severe shortness of breath on Monday and ended up having triple bypass surgery on Tuesday!)
My mom worried that the 6+ hour drive there and back, taking time off from work, being away from my family and taking care of him would be too hard, but I told her it would be harder not to.
You see, I’m an “Acts of Service” girl, and when it comes to expressing love and caring, I feel compelled to take action.
Surely one of the reasons we’re on this planet is to feel loved and give love that others can receive in return – and I’ve found that The Five Love Languages is an awesome tool for doing just that.
I’ll never forget hearing about Love Languages for the first time. My best friend Anna told me about them, saying that knowing her daughter’s Love Language was a revelation.
You see, my friend’s Love Language is Acts of Service (just like mine!), but her daughter’s is Words of Affirmation. So basically, my friend was speaking French to her daughter, but her daughter was speaking German, and they were wondering why each was struggling to feel heard and understood (or rather, loved and valued).
Okay, let me back up: The Five Languages is a concept developed by couples’ therapist Gary Chapman. He’s written a book by the same name, but I think you can get what you need to know simply by taking a simple online quiz – and asking that everyone you care about to take it too. You can find the quiz here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
Here’s a brief description of each of the 5 languages:
- Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through affectionate language, or by offering praise or appreciation.
- Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love.
- Receiving Gifts: Giving and receiving objects as tokens of love and affection.
- Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention.
- Physical Touch: With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical contact.
When you know the Love Language of the people you care about, it’s a real game changer. For example, my husband’s Love Language is Physical Touch, but mine is Acts of Service.
It’s a pretty classic pairing – and before we knew our languages, it led to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I felt most interested in being intimate after Doug did something thoughtful for me. Of course, he was more interested in doing things for me after we had been intimate.
When I realized that “Acts of Service” wasn’t his Love Language, I suddenly understood why I sometimes didn’t feel loved and appreciated. I also realized that I could learn to receive his physical touch overtures as his way of expressing love for me.
Knowing that he would feel more loved and appreciated, I focused more on giving him physical affection than acts of service. And, of course, Doug has done the same with me and upped his game when it comes to acts of service.
The thing to remember is that it’s the little things that count. When I say I want Doug to perform “acts of service,” I don’t mean that I only feel loved if he brings me breakfast in bed. I mean that I feel loved and appreciated if he’ll do small, even routine things, like fold the laundry, or bring me tea when I’m on the phone with a client, or pick up the dry cleaning.
By the same token, it’s not like Doug needs for us to hop into bed on a moment’s notice. Hugs make him feel loved. A quick kiss as he or I are leaving the house will also work. As with all communication within a relationship, it’s better not to save everything up for one intense confession. Rather, it’s something to work on in small ways on a daily basis.
My son’s Love Language is Quality Time, and he’s learned to ask for it to good effect. Recently I was working at my computer and Griffin asked me to do something with him. I rather distractedly said, “Just a minute…” to which he replied, “Mommy, you know Quality Time is one of my top Love Languages and it would really help me feel loved if you would spend time with me now.” I don’t think I’ve ever closed my computer as quickly as I did in that moment! And there’s no need to guess what your child’s love language is – there’s a special online quiz just for kids too (just follow the same link above).
There a bonus here, too: as good as it is for you as a parent to know how your kids are best able to receive your love for them, it’s good for the kids to know that they have a preference. Even if that preference changes, the knowledge will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.
So learn your Love Language and the Love Languages of the people you care about and use them as a tool for creating more understanding and appreciation and love in your lives.