You may have heard of Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages theory, if not I summarize it briefly. Firsts of all what does a love language mean? According to Gary Chapman we have 5 fundamental ways to give and receive love.
Words of affirmation - verbal compliments, words of appreciation, expressing our loving feelings towards our loved ones with words - 'I love you' 'You can always make me laugh' 'Well done for doing so well in that test' 'I love the way your hair looks today'
Quality time - giving someone your undivided attention - not watching television next to each other, not having dinner while being glued to your phone but looking at each other and talking, sharing ideas, plans, thoughts without any distractions
Acts of service - expressing love by doing something for somebody that they would appreciate - cooking a meal, setting the table, taking the car to service, doing the school run, washing those smelly football boots, keeping the house tidy to name a few
Receiving gifts - the visible symbol of love, something that you can hold in your hands or look at and say 'He/She remembered me, thought about me', the gift itself is the symbol of that thought
Physical Touch - in Yoga Philosophy the element of air is related to the Heart Chakra (stay tuned for future blog posts on the Chakras) and it's relating sense is the sense of touch. Touch being directly connected to the heart has a healing effect on us - a gentle massage, sitting close to each other touching, holding hands, kissing, embracing, intercourse are all a way to express love through touch
Why is this important to us? We need to have a little bit of each of the 5 languages in our lives but we primarily have 2 that we focus on. If we do not receive love in our two primary love languages we may not feel loved at all! Now, we generally express our love in OUR primary love languages to others, as that would make US feel loved. The problem comes when these languages are not matching, and we all speak a different language, not understanding each other.
Imagine the successful father whose primary love languages are Gifts and Words of affirmation. He is busy all the time and works hard to buy expensive gifts to his son and praises him regularly, but the son feels unloved, and may even seem unappreciative to the father? Imagine if that boy's primary love languages are Quality Time and Physical Touch? Although he is getting plenty of love from his father in a way the father knows how to give, he is not getting his primary love language needs met - thus feels unloved.
How do I find out what my primary languages are? You can sit down and contemplate on it or fill out the test on http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
How do I find out what my loved one's/children's primary languages are? There are two ways for that too. Either observe them, how do they express their love, they are probably expressing through their primary languages, or talk to them. Ask them: What makes you feel loved? When I hold your hand? When I drive you to school? When I praise you? When I say I love you? When I hug you? When I buy you flowers? When we go for a long walk together and chat?
Just to complicate things, our primary love languages may change in certain periods of our lives. A mother who is constantly touched by her toddlers may not wish to have more touch from the husband in the evening and although her primary language may have been Physical Touch before it may take a back seat now for a while to Service. Knowledge is power! If you do not feel loved, or feel that someone you love does not feel loved even though you are doing the best you can, just observe and you may receive the answers, and can change the way you express love for you to be able to speak the same language.
As a personal note, I used to hate the driving around Budapest, up and down the hill to collect the children. I was thinking about enlisting some help from my parents, getting a driver (I wish!) or who knows what. When we did the love language tests and realized that they ALL shared Act of Service as their love language despite having a different 2nd language (like one had Touch, the other Praise and the third Quality time :)) I accepted that my driving around is a way to express my love towards them and just that thought changed my attitude towards the long school runs. The same way be very mindful not to hurt your child/loved one in their love language (well, it is best not to hurt them completely, but we have learned to accept our imperfections by now I hope). My child whose love language is touch would go crazy from a pat on the bum yet would not even bat an eyelash being called lazy. The one appreciating praise? You could spend a weekend without spending time with her and she will be fine, but one word of criticism would crush her little spirit.
Love them how they would like to be loved. Love yourself how you would like to be loved. Show the way to people how you want to be loved!
If you would like to learn more on the subject I would recommend Gary Chapman's website or his various books.