A couple months ago, it had been a particularly crappy day, and my favorite fella, R, came by to check on me. Sitting on my couch with our legs side by side, he watched as I tried to tame my wildly curly hair, fresh out of the shower that was supposed to calm me but didn't, and listened as I fumbled through tears about why I was having such a hard time.
"What's your love language?" he asked, out of the blue.
"My what now?"
"Your love language."
I'd heard about the five love languages from that book (of course) on the charts recently, written by Gary Chapman. But I hadn't considered mine too much.
Love languages are the idea that every person gives and takes love in five groups of ways (languages). By learning your spouse/significant other's, your friends' or even your child's love language, you're able to express yourself in a way they understand so there are less misunderstandings and better transformations ahead for your relationship. You can also recognize which love languages you appreciate most when you receive them...because sometimes you give and take very differently.
The five love languages are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, and acts of service. There's slightly more depth to them than meets the eye--receiving gifts, for example, doesn't convey materialism. It can mean something like receiving a compliment, a thought or something rewarding from an interaction.
So...R and I looked up an extensive quiz and started asking each other questions. Sitting and listening to a back-and-forth question session is a wonderful way to learn what someone hopes out of their communications and what methods make the most impact for them. Thirty questions later, we had the answer to precisely what our love languages are.
My two love languages (both giving and receiving):
1) Quality time. This doesn't mean proximity--it means togetherness in any form. This is no surprise...I have a job, a book club, a blog, a podcast, and a writing career...and my friends, family or boyfriend have their own lives. Those minutes of connection are precious to me. It can be in person, on the phone or even a text conversation, but knowing it's our time is special. Knowing someone has taken a little time out of their day to have a moment with me is such a privilege.
2) Words of affirmation. I'm such a communicator. Probably too much :) I have a tendency to ask too often if things are okay. But hearing a simple sentence like, "I'm thinking of you," is a calming influence for me. I love the power of words, and that a friend, family member or boyfriend can use them to tell me what's happening in their lives.
(On a side note, it's funny--I dated a guy for seven years when I was younger and he wasn't exactly the verbal type. In a group, I talked and he was so quiet people wondered if he had anything to say. But because I'm talkative and expressive with words, he broke out of his comfort zone and wrote me a love note for our first Valentine's Day.
It's been fourteen years since I received that letter. Seven years since we broke up. And I still have those words, written in pencil on lined notebook paper, tucked away in a box full of old journals. I've found it from time to time when digging through my closet, and I still smile every time. Words are magical.)
I've been thinking about that night a lot since it happened. Why? Because R's love language involves acts of service. He's the first to help with anything I need--to offer a hug or jump in when I'm cooking. I appreciate that he does that (I also know who to call when I need my couch moved...ahem), and I know what to expect from him when I am down. Likewise, I know what he needs when he's in need and what his receiving language is.
Learning "love languages" is applicable to coworkers and everyone else in life as well. I've been paying more attention to the language people use so I can make an effort to reciprocate in the way they appreciate most. It's strengthened my relationships with people and connections have become more solid because of the effort. I also make sure to thank people more often who give differently than I do--because that's their expression of caring even if it isn't my top way of receiving...and noting that can be a positive point in the give-and-take.
Fostering relationships, at home and at the workplace is critical, and appreciation goes a long way. Treating people with kindness and recognizing their methods of communication is critical...While learning about these love languages came from an awful day, the application of what R taught me has had some long-term effects and for that, I am thankful.